After waiting an absurdly long time to see the final cuts (type faster, Falcons staff), we eventually got our first look at what the 2017 Atlanta Falcons 53-man roster would look like. Truthfully, there weren’t any big shockers, but there were still some interesting decisions made in the construction of the team.
The Falcons didn’t make any waiver claims over the weekend, so it appears this roster is somewhat set for now. I’d expect them to look at adding a veteran option at DT (Ahtyba Rubin, perhaps), but as a whole the roster appears to be in very good shape. Here are some of my thoughts on the state of the Falcons heading into the 2017 season.
There were no big surprises
For once, the Falcons didn’t have any truly surprising cuts. The team was in pretty good shape after 2016, with only minor tinkering needed to improve some of the weaker areas on the roster. The presence of so many young starters certainly helps with continuity, and the good news is that many of these players will be around for years to come.
Only one UDFA made it this year—LB Jermaine Grace
With a mostly-settled roster comes less opportunities for impressive UDFAs to vault themselves onto the final 53. That was the case this year, with only LB Jermaine Grace making the cut. Grace absolutely deserved it—he played well on both defense and special teams, and is a natural backup to Quinn’s athletic LBs—but some of the other standout guys did not survive. Luckily, WR Marvin Hall and EDGE J’Terius Jones wound up on the practice squad, and EDGE Chris Odom was signed onto the Packers roster.
Nick Williams won the WR6 battle, for better or worse
Somewhat surprisingly, the team handed the WR6 spot to veteran Nick Williams. This was one of the most interesting camp battles throughout the preseason, with Marvin Hall and Reggie Davis also heavily involved. I think it could be argued that Williams was the least impressive of all three options. Hall outplayed him on special teams, and Davis outplayed him on offense. It’s a questionable move—in my opinion—but if my biggest quibble with the roster is WR6, then we’re in pretty good shape.
The DL is stacked, even with Hageman gone
Hageman’s exodus from the team was a tiny bit surprising, but only because this was the first anyone had heard about his suspension in almost a year. Regardless, the depth on the DL is still really strong. The Falcons have nine players in the rotation that could probably start somewhere in the league.
Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe form a fantastic interior combo, we know what we have in Beasley, and the early returns on Takk are promising. Upshaw and Crawford will likely play primarily on the inside now, but have looked strong there. That doesn’t even take into account Clayborn and Shelby, who were both having strong seasons until their respective injuries, and Brooks Reed. Like I said, this group is stacked.
The rookies all made it, including Hill and Saubert
The Falcons’ entire 2017 rookie class made the roster this year, which is a good thing. I know many fans were ready to move on from Hill and Saubert after a few disappointing preseason performances, but the team drafted both with an eye on the future. Neither will be depended on to play meaningful snaps early, which should give them time to develop.
The rest of the class has looked encouraging thus far: Takk McKinley has worked his way into the starting nickel package, Duke Riley appears to have locked up the starting WLB spot, and Kazee appears to be the favorite to play in 3-safety sets. Sean Harlow has improved in each game, but is probably going to get the “Schweitzer treatment” of being inactive every week this season.
The OL depth is improved with the additions of Pasztor and Sambrailo
The biggest problem area of the preseason was almost certainly the offensive line depth. Atlanta’s starters are all pretty good, but the reserve lines were just god-awful at times. Luckily, the team went out and took steps to correct this problem by bringing in an experienced veteran in Pasztor, and a young, athletic player with upside in Sambrailo. We all remember Beasley abusing Sambrailo last season, but he was clearly thrown into the fire before he was ready. Hopefully, some time to develop will help unlock his potential—Quinn and Dimitroff were high on him during the 2015 draft process.
This may be one of the strongest rosters the Falcons have ever assembled. If some of these high-potential players can make meaningful impacts later in the season (McKinley, Riley, Kazee, Saubert), this team could go from very good to scary good. Let’s hope that’s the case.
What are your thoughts on the roster? Any surprises during cut-downs for you? Players you would’ve placed differently?