The Atlanta Falcons are a team with some historically great cornerbacks, from Rolland Lawrence to Deion Sanders to Brent Grimes. I don’t know if you can make a serious argument that they’ve ever been more talented at the position than they are today, however.
Atlanta invested a second round selection at cornerback, and while it’ll be tough to keep their top four cornerbacks together over the long haul, they have perhaps the best depth chart in the NFL this season from #1 to #4. Let’s take a closer look at a position for strength for our favorite football team heading into the year.
From the moment he was drafted until now, few players on the roster have endured more doubt. It almost seems like people are waiting for Trufant to fail, at times.
While Trufant’s post-injury 2017 did feature some poor stretches of play, he was still a quality starter, and he clocked in second on the team in interceptions, managed 12 pass deflections, got a sack, and even scored a defensive touchdown. When he’s at the top of his game, he’s one of the league’s savviest cover corners and a man who makes life exceedingly difficult for #1 receivers. With Atlanta’s addition of Isaiah Oliver in the second round, it’s possible that we may see Trufant move around to shadow receivers instead of (mostly) playing his side, and I expect he’ll have another quality season.
Alford was arguably even better than Trufant a year ago. Penalties will always be a frustrating part of his game, but Alford’s a sure tackler, an aggressive and talented option in coverage, and a guy you can count on to get his hands on the ball. He only had one pick a year ago after managing at least two in every preceding season, but Alford also collected a career-high 20 pass deflections and was, in a word, excellent. With Isaiah Oliver joining up, he may get more time in the slot this year, but he’ll be great no matter where he lines up. Just expect a couple of penalties and some bellyaching.
The rookie is an unknown, but a danged promising one. Oliver has the length Dan Quinn covets, displayed fine ball skills and coverage ability during his career at Colorado, and figures to be ready to step into a major role right away. He’ll be the team’s nominal #3 cornerback, likely lining up outside opposite Desmond Trufant (or maybe Alford) when the team is in a nickel formation and otherwise ceding to the team’s top two cornerbacks. He has legitimate upside and should be the team’s long-term #2, but at the very least he’ll be a coverage upgrade over Brian Poole this year.
Speaking of which...
Poole is an absurdly good #4 cornerback. He’s one of the league’s premier blitzing cornerbacks and an excellent tackler, with the kind of physicality that suggests he may someday have a bright future at safety. For the moment, though, Poole will move from #3 to #4, meaning he’ll be the team’s top reserve much of the time. Given his ability as a blitzer and in run support, he’ll likely get plenty of playing time.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson hasn’t been great throughout his entire career, but he was very good when he got on the field for Atlanta a year ago, and he figures to have an inside track for a job if the Falcons keep six cornerbacks. Justin Bethel isn’t great in coverage, but is absurdly fast and has starting experience, and he’ll be a core special teamer. That makes him an obvious favorite for the fifth cornerback job, and if the team only keeps five, Wreh-Wilson is likely headed elsewhere.
The rest of the options here are chiefly UDFAs and Leon McFadden, and I can’t see any of them doing more than latching on to a practice squad spot given the team’s absurd depth at corner. We’re lucky to have this group.