We weighed in with a guess at the 2018 Atlanta Falcons 53 man roster earlier today, and now it’s time to think about who might wind up on the practice squad. Obviously, this projection is a lot more fraught than the roster, but we plow ahead because it’s still fun.
In building this practice squad, I tried to draw on prior year trends and not let my positional bias color things too much, but some of it probably bled over regardless. Here’s my selections, plus my rationale.
2018 practice squad candidates
QB Kurt Benkert
RB Justin Crawford
WR Devin Gray
T Matt Gono
C J.C. Hassenauer
DE Mackendy Cheridor
DT Jon Cunningham
LB Emmanuel Ellerbee
S Chris Lammons
K David Marvin
TE Alex Gray (international spot)
So, why these guys? Let’s take a deep breath and run through.
Benkert because he’s a promising quarterback prospect with flashes of brilliance in his collegiate career. A year as a practice squad member might get him onto the roster in 2019 if he can show improvement, because the arm is legitimate.
Crawford because he’s been impressive early, he has the speed and wiggle the Falcons like, and he has some special teams value. The team loves to have a fourth back in reserve, and Crawford feels the choice early.
Gray because he’s been the standout receiver early on and he has the talent to endure. Again, the Falcons might carry six receivers, but they can’t resist having one in reserve on the practice squad, and Gray seems worth developing.
Gono because he’s an intriguing, athletic tackle prospect, and the Falcons are going to be fresh out of swing tackle options after the year if they let Ty Sambrailo and Austin Pasztor walk. The team needs young linemen to nurture, particularly at tackle.
Hassenauer because he’s a semi-interesting center prospect and the team needs to develop young options at that position, too. I’m probably less sold on this selection than just about any other option, but I’d putting him here ahead of the likes of Daniel Brunskill because I think the team will hold on to four guard options.
Cheridor because he has interesting skill set, with the size to be a Malliciah Goodman-esque inside/outside defensive lineman, but with a better history and better makeup to offer something as a pass rusher down the line.
Cunningham because he’s shown aptitude as a penetrator in the middle of the defensive line, posting 10 tackles for loss a year ago for Kent State and possessing the athleticism and hand usage to suggest that might translate. He could be in the running for a roster spot in a year if he shows growth.
Ellerbee because he’s been showing well at camp thus far, but the battle for linebacker spots is going to be fierce and I can see him being left out. He’s an aggressive, athletic linebacker who showed an ability to make tackles and jar the ball loose in college, and there’s enough there to think he could be a capable reserve for the Falcons down the line.
Lammons because he’s faring well in camp, as expected, and he’s a physical, delightfully hard-nosed player who would be an ideal fourth safety for the Falcons if they weren’t already spoiled with riches at the position. He’ll marinate for a year and try to take over for Ron Parker in 2019.
Marvin as an insurance policy. I’m not sure he’s the strongest kicker the Falcons have had in camp these last few years, but he has a good leg and Atlanta’s probably going to want an insurance policy for Matt Bryant either on the squad or a phone call away.
Gray because the Falcons can once again use a practice squad spot on him without actually using a practice squad spot on him, thanks to the international player program. With two years under his belt for Atlanta, Gray could be an interesting choice to come in and replace Logan Paulsen a year from now as a block-first option with obvious athleticism.
So those are my picks. Who are you looking at?