As we gradually turn the pages to the 2018 season, we at the Falcoholic will review each position for the Atlanta Falcons and how their season played out. For the Falcons, they fielded one of of the best one-two punches in all of football, although production as a whole dropped off for the entire wide receiver corps. Let's get started.
Stats: 88 receptions, 1,444 yards, 16.4 ypc, three touchdowns
Many amongst the Falcons faithful have dubbed Julio Jones as the best wide receiver in the entire league. The 6'4 specimen paints a very convincing case, although his 2017 season was considered slightly underwhelming compared to his previous seasons. While he topped his catch total (83, 2016; 88, 2017) and yardage (1,409; 1,444) but he did decline slightly in yards per catch (17.0; 16.4), touchdowns (6; 3), and receiving yards per game (100.6; 90.3). Part of that decline in stats is based on the obvious issue that was the inconsistency in play calling. Despite that, Jones became the only active receiver with three 250+ receiving yard performances during the season. He also became the record-holder for the most catches and yards in a player's first 90 games of their career.
During the playoffs, Jones was a force with 18 catches and 195 yards in the Falcons two postseason games. Ultimately, Jones once again showed why he can be in the conversation as the league's best with his fourth straight Pro Bowl season.
67 receptions, 703 yards, 10.5 ypc, five touchdowns
The six-year veteran will probably never reach a Pro Bowl nor lead the league in receiving yards, but it does not take anything away from Sanu's importance in the Falcons and why he's considered among the better #2 receivers in the entire league. Sanu set a career-high in receptions this season and also tied a career-high in touchdown receptions. Sanu proved his value on third downs this season with 16 first down receptions on the money down along with three touchdowns. Sanu also showed off an impressive arm as he connected with Jones on a 51-yard touchdown toss-and-catch in week 10 against Tampa Bay.
Sanu is not necessarily blessed with incredible speed but in this scheme, with the players around him, he has proven that he does not have to be. Thanks to his sticky hands and his polished route running, Sanu provides the ideal complement to the unworldly Julio Jones.
33 receptions, 378 yards, 11.5 ypc, one touchdown
The one receiver that was under the microscope a considerable amount was the fourth-year receiver out of Abilene Christian. After an exciting 2016 season for Gabriel, his 2017 chapter was a forgettable one for the most part. Gabriel almost matched his reception total from 2016 but his season-long reception was just 40 yards and that occurred during the third game of the season. Now Gabriel is facing an offseason where he is an unrestricted free agent and it is not a guarantee that Gabriel is a Falcon for the 2018 season. The Falcons were missing Gabriel's big play ability during the season and his game-breaking speed was a key element for the Falcons during their 2016 Super Bowl run.
20 receptions, 221 yards, 11.1 ypc, three touchdown
Hardy has three full seasons under his belt with the Falcons some looked at the 2017 season as one where Hardy may have had a breakout season. That did not come to fruition due to a number of factors but Hardy did post a career-high in yards per reception and posted his highest catch rate of his career so far (69%). Hardy could see a spike in production and usage next season if the team opts to part with Gabriel and elevate Hardy to the WR3 role.
Six receptions, 102 yards, 17.3 ypc, one touchdown
The combination of Williams, Hall and Roberts (great name for a law firm by the way) saw little production on offense this season, greatly in part to the wide receiver corps being relatively healthy for majority of the entire season. Decisions will be made for the three as to whether or not any of them will be a part of the roster in 2018 and beyond.
The upcoming offseason will probably see the wide receiver corps come under some fresh construction work. Things are pretty safe at the top with the tag team of Julio and Sanu, after that, it remains to be seen. The 2018 NFL Draft could be the source for potential prospects to fill a possible void left by Gabriel in free agency. A few names to be mindful of in the draft are Anthony Miller of Memphis, Christian Kirk of Texas A&M, DaeSean Hamilton of Penn State, DJ Chark of LSU, and DJ Moore of Maryland.
The Falcons took a step back on offense this season and the team saw considerable decline at the wide receiving corps. However, the team is still in great shape for the next few seasons based on the dynamic combination of Julio and Sanu, and the likelihood that the team will improve the corps as a whole this offseason.