When talking about the Falcons’ defense, a question is often posed: which position group is the strongest? There are certainly arguments to be made for several, but in my mind the answer is pretty clear: the CB corps.
Dan Quinn has assembled a diverse and talented secondary in only a few years. The starting three are among the best in the NFL, and the depth is stacked with potential contributors and special teams aces. Despite that, the Falcons added another interesting piece to the mix in the 2017 NFL Draft, and several other intriguing UDFAs.
Let’s take a look at how the depth chart stands heading into OTAs.
2016 Stats: 31 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 PD, 1 INT, 2 FF
Atlanta’s star CB and perhaps the most talented player on the entire defense, Trufant is a borderline-elite player. QBs fear throwing to his side of the field because of his reputation and ability. He’s a tremendous player in coverage and a sure tackler—the only knock on him might be his merely average hands. Trufant will man the CB1 position at a high level in 2017 after returning from injury.
2016 Stats: 61 tackles, 19 PD, 2 INT, 1 TD
After Trufant’s injury last season, Alford stepped up in a big way. He manned the CB1 position admirably throughout the end of the season and the playoffs. Alford is a terrific athlete and ballhawk with the versatility to man the outside and the slot. He’ll be the CB2 in Atlanta in 2017, playing outside in base packages and kicking inside in the nickel.
2016 Stats: 31 tackles, 10 PD, 2 INT
Collins has been a divisive player throughout his brief career. He spent most of his second season on the inactive list before taking the field after Trufant’s injury. Once there, Collins play was up-and-down, but he showed flashes of being a solid option—particularly against bigger receivers. He’ll be Atlanta’s primary nickel CB, playing opposite Trufant on the outside while Alford kicks into the slot.
2016 Stats: 59 tackles, 1 sack, 10 PD, 1 INT
An UDFA with little to his name, Poole came in and immediately seized the nickel role after an impressive training camp. His play was equally impressive, as Poole was a competent starter in the slot. Poole is much better in zone coverage, and his play suffered when the Falcons switched to more man coverage at the end of the season. Still, Poole figures to be the primary back-up at CB, and is also being cross-trained at safety.
2016 Stats: Rookie
Kazee, the Falcons’ fifth-round selection this year, is a tremendous ballhawk (7 INTs in 2016 at San Diego State) and physical hitter in the secondary. He’s a bit on the small side, so he is likely limited to a role in the slot in the NFL. Atlanta plans to convert him to safety, but he’ll likely figure into the CB rotation as a back-up if necessary.
2016 Stats: 17 tackles, 2 PD
Goodwin was a 6’4, 220 WR in the Falcons’ 2016 training camp that agreed to convert to CB because of Atlanta’s stacked WR corps. Well, Goodwin succeeded, and blew away all expectations. He’s a perfect player to match-up against the bigger, stronger WRs in the NFC South, and the knowledge from his days on offense actually seems to have helped him transition. Goodwin is a valuable reserve that has shown he isn’t a liability in coverage, and is also a tremendous special teams player.
2016 Stats: 4 tackles, 3 PD
Olatoye spent most of the last season on the Falcons’ practice squad before being called up to the active roster after Trufant landed on IR. He performed reasonably well in limited action and on special teams, and is a favorite to make the roster if the Falcons elect to keep 6 CBs. If not, he should once again find himself on the practice squad.
2016 Stats: None
King was a seventh-round draft pick of the Falcons in 2015, and has done just enough during his time with Atlanta to remain on the practice squad and the fringes of the roster. This is likely his last shot to stick around, and with his size and skillset, that means he’d need to beat out C.J. Goodwin or Jalen Collins. He’s a capable special teams player, but he doesn’t seem to offer as much in coverage as either of the two CBs ahead of him.
2016 Stats: None
Wreh-Wilson spent some time as the last CB on the depth chart in 2016, only being activated for one game during the season. He’s a depth player with starting experience, but simply doesn’t offer much potential for a Falcons team looking to load up on athleticism and upside. Wreh-Wilson isn’t likely to make it out of training camp.
2016 Stats: Rookie
Reynolds is an intriguing UDFA from James Madison who apparently looked pretty good in rookie minicamp. At 6’0, 195, he’s got decent size and could be a player to keep an eye on throughout the offseason. The Falcons’ CB corps is pretty stacked at the moment, but there’s a chance that Reynolds could earn himself a practice squad slot if he plays well.
2016 Stats: Rookie
Jones was a 6’3, 209 LB from Iowa State that joined the Falcons as an UDFA. Atlanta apparently plans to convert him to CB—and with his size, he certainly fits the “Dan Quinn” mold of a bigger, stronger player. It’s a tough transition to make, but Quinn did work similar magic with C.J. Goodwin last offseason. Jones is—realistically—fighting for a chance to land on the practice squad.
Wow, there are a lot of CBs on the current roster. Atlanta seems to have amassed a bounty of secondary players in a pretty short time, and I think that’s awesome. Just look at teams like the Panthers and Saints, who can’t seem to field a competent secondary for more than a few weeks at a time.
Quinn seems to find players from all over and turn them into contributors—recent examples like Brian Poole (who became a starter) and C.J. Goodwin (a converted WR) have made tangible impacts for Atlanta. Quite frankly, I’m excited to see what Quinn can do with this year’s crop.
What do you think about Atlanta’s CB corps? Is it still the most talented position group on the defense? Any chance that one of this year’s UDFAs sneaks onto the roster? Any player you find particularly intriguing?