With the recently concluded rookie mini-camp, fans were introduced to some potential names that could make the 2016 roster. It's fun to speculate who may be a dark-horse candidate to sneak onto the final 53, and often, these are players who can make a difference in the long-term. Guys like Ryan Schraeder and Paul Worrilow were un-drafted free agents who were able to make the team in recent years.
But who are the locks to make the roster in 2016? Let's be honest, there are some players that - short of committing a felony - are going to be on the 53-man roster come September. Here's our stab at who these roster locks are.
The two most obvious names are Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Both are stars on the team, and their spot on the roster isn't even debatable. On the offensive line, Jake Matthews, Alex Mack and Ryan Schraeder are locks for the roster as well. Given the lack of options at the position, Jacob Tamme should be considered a guarantee for the 2016 season - his last year on his 2-year deal with the team. At wide receiver, Mohamed Sanu is guaranteed a roster spot given the size of his contract. Considering the lack of depth at the receiver position, second year player Justin Hardy will make the 2016 53-man roster as well. It's highly unlikely the team will move on from him this early in his career, especially after the progress he showed in 2015. Finally, both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will be the 1-2 punch coming out of the backfield. Freeman's Pro-Bowl season in 2015 and Coleman's status as just a second year player (taken in the third round) make their positions on the team secure.
Starting in the trenches, it's highly doubtful the team would move on from Derrick Shelby after just signing him. You can expect his roster position to be secure. Likewise, Grady Jarrett figures to be a very important figure on the DL rotation this year as well. Considering his newly signed contract, it's doubtful that Adrian Clayborn plays anywhere else but in Atlanta this year while the lack of depth at defensive tackle means Ra'Shede Hageman will get one more year to prove himself to the team.
At linebacker, second year player Vic Beasley figures to be a key component of the pass rush - his spot is safe. Despite being on a one-year deal, the lack of depth at linebacker assures that Paul Worrilow will be a Falcon for at least one more year.
In the secondary, you can rest assured that Desmond Trufant will not be going anywhere this year - or likely for a long-time to come. His partner on the other side, Robert Alford, should also be considered a near guarantee for the 53-man roster. Despite his four game suspension, don't expect the team to move-on from 2015 second rounder Jalen Collins just yet. Barring a complete melt-down, he'll be on the roster in 2016.
Though it has happened before, it's hard to imagine the team not giving their first round pick Keanu Neal a guaranteed roster spot. In fact, it's hard to imagine that Neal won't start this season. Second rounder Deion Jones is also a lock for the 53-man roster, especially considering the lack of depth at the position. The same can be said for third round pick Austin Hooper, who will enter camp at a position with a severe lack of talent. Though it may not seem it, it would be highly shocking if fourth round pick De'Vondre Campbell doesn't make the team. Even if just for special teams, his upside and developmental potential warrants at least one year on the 53-man roster.
Though you would never think of a punter as a key player on the team, Matt Bosher has been consistently good for this team and it's incredibly unlikely they'll try to find a replacement for him this year. Likewise, Josh Harris has been consistent and solid as our long snapper, so don't expect any changes there as well. At this point, though, these two men appear to be the only true roster "locks" from our special teams unit.
What are your thoughts on these locks to make the 2016 roster? Are there any names you would remove/include?