The Atlanta Falcons have one of the best rosters in football. We’ve spent so much time analyzing every corner of this team that it’s sometimes useful to step back and remember that essential truth.
Now that we know what the final roster looks like, though, it’s a good time to take a closer look at its strengths and weaknesses. Let us know if you agree with the list below.
Starter: Devonta Freeman
Reserves: Tevin Coleman, Terron Ward, Brian Hill
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are the best running back duo in the NFL, Terron Ward is a well-rounded reserve with terrific special teams value, and Hill could be good sooner rather than later. I don’t love that the team kept four backs, necessarily, but you can’t deny this is a strong group.
Starters: Jake Matthews, Ryan Schraeder
Reserves: Ty Sambrailo, Austin Pasztor, Daniel Brunskill (Practice Squad)
Compared to where the Falcons were a week ago, this is an astonishing improvement. Matthews is an above average starter who could become more, and Schraeder is genuinely one of the best right tackles in football. Sambrailo and Pasztor are both stretched as starters, but as reserves, they’re young, cheap, and talented enough to maintain some hope if injury strikes.
Starters: Deion Jones, Duke Riley, De’Vondre Campbell
Reserves: LaRoy Reynolds, Kemal Ishmael, Jermaine Grace
This is one of the strongest Falcons linebacker groups of my entire lifetime, and they’ve had some good ones since I was born way back in 1984. Jones is already one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL, Riley has considerable promise, and Campbell is a dangerous physical player who should be better in his second year. Behind them, they have a strong tackler and valuable special teamer in Reynolds, a super physical ex-safety in Ishmael, and athletic rookie Grace.
If you can find me a more well-rounded, speedy group of linebackers anywhere in the league, I’ll give you kudos. This is a huge strength.
Starters: Vic Beasley, Takkarist McKinley (?)
Reserves: Brooks Reed, Derrick Shelby, Adrian Clayborn, Courtney Upshaw, Jack Crawford, J’Terius Jones (Practice Squad)
This isn’t exactly the murderer’s row in Seattle, but it’s a deep, strong group with a lot of talent and versatility. Beasley and McKinley could be one of the NFL’s most dynamic pass rushing duos, Reed and Clayborn can bring some heat off the edge, and Shelby, Upshaw and Crawford all bring run-stopping prowess (and some pass rushing upside) to the table. Jones is an intriguing long-term project, and if nothing else, the Falcons have a ton of guys to rotate through.
Starters: Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal
Reserves: Sharrod Neasman, Damontae Kazee, Marcelis Branch (Practice Squad)
This is projecting a bit, but I really like the safety group. Neal is already one of the better strong safeties in the NFL, Allen is remarkably solid, and Kazee and Neasman have a lot of upside as young, ballhawking safeties. Branch wasn’t that great in preseason, but could be a factor down the line with his athleticism.
Starters: Andy Levitre, Ben Garland/Wes Schweitzer
Reserves: Ben Garland/Wes Schweitzer, Sean Harlow
Levitre was good a year ago, but has been largely uneven in recent years, so I don’t know if we can count on him being great again in 2017. Garland and Schweitzer both looked excellent in preseason, but we’re not even 100% sure which one is going to start just yet, and both are relatively unproven. Harlow has upside as an athletic guard, but didn’t look terrific in preseason action, which is nothing worrying from a fourth round rookie.
Guard could prove to be a strength, but right now it looks like one of the more uncertain/weak positions on the roster.
Starters: Dontari Poe, Grady Jarrett
Reserves: Joe Vellano (Practice Squad), Taniela Tupou (Practice Squad)
This is only a weakness because the Falcons become perilously thin the moment an injury strikes. They have enough linemen who can play inside that they’re in great shape to rotate in behind two top-shelf, durable tackles, but losing Jarrett or Poe would mean they’d need a full-time player, and there isn’t currently one on the roster.