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Will any 2017 Falcons practice squad players step into roles in 2018?

There are four names in particular worth watching.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The other day on Twitter, a reader asked if I thought practice squad members from 2017 might have an impact in 2018, with Reggie Davis being the name he had identified as a player to watch. I thought that was a great question, albeit a very difficult one to answer before we see where the Falcons go in the draft (and heck, with their UDFA class).

Still, there are some players who spent most or all of the year on the practice squad in 2017 that may have a leg up on a 2018 roster spot, assuming the Falcons don’t drastically overhaul said positions.

Here are four 2017 practice squad players who appear to have a real shot at a roster spot, albeit in April. They’re ranked in rough order of how likely I think they are to get a spot.

WR Reggie Davis

Dan Quinn has already come out and said that Davis will compete for a receiver job and one of the returner gigs, so that’s about as clear a message as you can get. The explosive young Georgia receiver showed out in preseason a year ago and has the skill set to be a useful situational deep threat at worst, and he has an outside shot at winning the #3 receiver gig outright if the Falcons don’t add anyone in the draft. I’d say he has a very solid chance of beating out Marvin Hall for a roster spot, at the very least.

DE J’Terius Jones

One of the more obvious candidates for a roster spot on this particular list. Jones was one of the team’s better young defensive linemen in training camp and preseason a year ago, and he managed to last the entire year on the practice squad in 2017. He’s a relentless pass rusher with a good motor who put up 22 sacks in three seasons at Miami (Ohio), and he showcased his ability to get into the backfield against backups and third-stringers last summer. With a year of seasoning and the team having taken an axe to its defensive line depth, it would not be at all shocking to see Jones make the team as a the fifth defensive end.

S Marcelis Branch

The young safety was notable for some coverage mishaps in preseason, but the team elected to keep him around, likely due to his physicality and quality athleticism. With the fourth safety job wide open at the moment—though that may change after the draft—Branch and former Georgia safety Quincy Mauger are names to watch heading into 2018. I think Branch may have the leg up, here, as Mauger is coming off a season-ending injury.

TE Alex Gray

Gray’s the least likely man on the list, but he’s still got an outside shot. The Falcons carried the former rugby player as their 11th practice squadder in 2017, letting him acclimate to the NFL. If he’s made real progress, he may be able to crack the team as a fourth tight end, especially with Logan Paulsen on a one year deal and Eric Saubert having plenty to prove heading into 2018. A draft pick at the position would obviously blow this notion up, but for now, he’s worth watching.