The Atlanta Falcons absolutely have one of the best group of position players in the NFL on offense. I know that you, you know that, the aliens living on the dark side of the moon are even aware of that. The only question is where they rank, and this being the offseason, rankings are forthcoming.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell took a look at every arsenal in the NFL and came to the conclusion that the Falcons belong third on the list. The two teams ahead of them are not necessarily who you would suspect, but the Falcons rank as the #2 team in the NFC and #1 in the NFC South per Barnwell, for the following reasons.
Atlanta is another team in the discussion for the best running back duo in football with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, but Freeman was less efficient across the board last season while fumbling four times on 232 touches. The anticipated Austin Hooper breakout didn’t really arrive, either, as the tight end turned a blown coverage into an 88-yard touchdown against the Bears in the opener but generated only 398 yards and two scores over the ensuing 15 games. We saw how devastating the Falcons can be when everything clicks, as was the case in 2016, but they’re just one small step behind the top two attacks in football. It would help if they get to run more drives -- the Falcons had just 157 meaningful offensive possessions in 2017, lowest in the league and a whopping 38 possessions behind the league-leading Cardinals.
All of this is fair. We need to wait and see what Calvin Ridley does in his rookie season, what Hooper can offer this year, and whether fringe contributors like Justin Hardy, Eric Saubert and rookie Ito Smith can boost the productivity of the group. It’s still an insanely imposing collection of weapons, with Julio Jones, the RBs, and Mohamed Sanu leading the way. They need better luck, better execution, more drives and more from Steve Sarkisian to turn all that weaponry back into an elite offense.
So that brings us to the two teams ahead of Atlanta, and they’re both legitimately interesting choices. The first is New York, which has a (maybe) generational running back prospect in Saquon Barkley, one of the league’s best young receivers in Odell Beckham, and promising young contributors like Sterling Shepherd and Evan Engram to add to the mix. They’re going to be limited—perhaps severely—by Eli Manning’s decreasing ability, but it could legitimately be one of the best groups in football.
Ditto #1, the Chiefs. Sammy Watkins, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and the rest are phenomenal players who should equip Patrick Mahomes to succeed, and I think you can make a fair case for putting them ahead of the Falcons, even if I might not.
What do you think of Barnwell’s rankings?