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Checking on the Falcons roster ahead of the NFL Draft

The Falcons have made a number of minor signings of late. What has changed with the roster?

Wild Card Round - Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In late March, we checked in on the status of the Falcons roster, which was still riddled with holes both major and minor. Fast forward a couple of weeks and the Falcons have signed key depth at a handful of positions and added two starting-caliber players to the defense, perhaps signaling that they’re ready to break out of the needs-based draft mold they’ve spent most of the Thomas Dimtiroff era existing in.

Let’s take a closer look.

Current Falcons roster

QB Matt Ryan

QB Matt Schaub

QB Kurt Benkert

I’ll repeat what I said last time: This is likely final, with the only real question being whether Benkert sticks around or not.

RB Devonta Freeman

RB Ito Smith

RB Kenjon Barner

RB Brian Hill

Hill is behind Barner because the latter would appear to have more special teams value as the presumptive returner, though Hill should get a fair shot to stay as a more reliable and physical runner. The Falcons may keep four backs when the dust settles, and that’s if they don’t draft one.

FB Ricky Ortiz

Ortiz is likely battling with Luke Stocker for this gig, and Stocker also plays tight end and is a special teams contributor. He’s a longshot to make the roster right now.

WR Julio Jones

WR Mohamed Sanu

WR Calvin Ridley

WR Justin Hardy

WR Russell Gage

WR Christian Blake

WR Devin Gray

The Falcons may use one of their nine picks to add a speedy option to the receiving corps, but otherwise this group is probably close to final for 2019. Your top three is one of the better groups in football, Hardy offers blocking, red zone and third down acumen, and Gage is a promising (if sure to be lightly used) option with his speed.

TE Austin Hooper

TE Luke Stocker

TE Eric Saubert

TE Logan Paulsen

TE Alex Gray

TE Jaeden Graham

The Falcons may well keep four tight ends, with Stocker offering some ability as a fullback as well. The only proven pass catcher in the mix is Austin Hooper, so don’t be shocked if the Falcons draft someone, especially if they’ve reviewed Saubert’s 2018 tape and come away less than whelmed.

T Jake Matthews

T Ty Sambrailo

T Matt Gono

T John Wetzel

As the Falcons continue to add depth to other positions, it’s become clear that tackle is going to be a piece of the draft puzzle, likely in the first couple of rounds. The team simply doesn’t have the depth to survive an injury at the moment, and Sambrailo is probably no better than an average starter (and likely worse) at right tackle in the first place. It’d be a stunner if the Falcons didn’t draft a long-term option here, even with the addition of versatile veteran Wetzel earlier this week.

G James Carpenter

G Jamon Brown

G Wes Schweitzer

G Brandon Fusco

G Sean Harlow

Are the Falcons done at guard? Nah, they love to tinker. Do they have their two starters for 2019? Yes. The big questions going forward concern whether the Falcons will keep Fusco, who will head into the season as an underdog for a starting spot, and whether Schweitzer becomes the swing guard in that scenario or the Falcons go get someone else.

C Alex Mack

G/C Adam Gettis

Gettis can play center, supposedly, so here he is for the moment. That signing isn’t going to stop the Falcons from getting a young center to develop if they want one, and we’re at the point where they probably should want one.

DE Takkarist McKinley

DE Vic Beasley

DE Adrian Clayborn

DE Steven Means

DE/DT Chris Odom

An early pick still makes a ton of sense here—Takk’s the only guy under contract next season—but the re-addition of Clayborn adds stability and balance to a rotation that needed it. The Falcons may choose to go with an interesting project later on rather than sinking a first or second rounder into DE, as frustrated as I’d be with that.

DT Grady Jarrett

DT Jack Crawford

DT Deadrin Senat

DT Tyeler Davison

DT Ra’Shede Hageman

DT Mike Bennett

DT Justin Zimmer

DT Jacob Tuioti-Mariner

The Falcons are stacked here, both by the numbers and in terms of talent. Many of you will rightly point out that there is no elite second option to go with Jarrett, which is fair, but they have a quality pass rusher in Crawford, a three year above average starter in new signing Tyeler Davison, and a promising run stopper in Senat, plus a veteran depth option in Bennett, a promising young pass rusher in Zimmer, and a practice squad stash in Tuitoi-Mariner. They could still swing for the fences with a potentially elite player like Ed Oliver, Quinnen Williams, or Christian Wilkins, but they could also roll into the season with 4-5 of these guys on the roster and one on the practice squad and probably feel pretty good about their options.

LB Deion Jones

LB De’Vondre Campbell

LB Foye Oluokun

LB Bruce Carter

LB Kemal Ishmael

LB Duke Riley

LB Jermaine Grace

This group can navigate 2019 just fine. If the Falcons don’t anticipate re-signing De’Vondre Campbell they may want to invest in a future starting option, and they could elect to replace Riley, Ishmael or Carter with young depth. Otherwise, good group.

CB Desmond Trufant

CB Isaiah Oliver

CB/S Damontae Kazee

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson

CB Taveze Calhoun

There’s still a need here, and the Falcons are reportedly keen to fill it. Even if recently signed Chris Cooper can play nickel and back up Kazee effectively, the Falcons have a long-term need and would certainly like to add more talented depth in case Isaiah Oliver falters.

S Keanu Neal

S Ricardo Allen

S Sharrod Neasman

S/CB Chris Cooper

S Afolabi Laguda

The Falcons will probably add a late round option here, but their recent focus on adding interesting depth makes it less of a priority. Cooper’s a bit of an unknown but has some versatility and Laguda has all the physical tools to be a quality safety, and if even one of those guys works out and the starters are healthy, this position group is solid.

K Giorgio Tavecchio

P Matt Bosher

LS Josh Harris

Aside from some mild intrigue around Bosher with the Falcons sniffing around a couple of draft-eligible punters, this group looks set.

We now have a broad outline of the Falcons’ draft plans, even if the particulars will likely elude us until the draft itself. They’ve left themselves with exactly zero positions without a likely starter, and with only two where I am very nervous about (Ty Sambrailo at right tackle and the possibility that Beasley/McKinley won’t take steps forward at defensive end). That means they can go in many different directions, or swap up to pursue a truly elite player in the top ten if they’re interested.

Signings like Cooper, Laguda, Gettis, and especially Clayborn and Davison before the draft reflect a desire to avoid being forced to pursue a need, with the team being linked to DT (where they’re relatively deep now) to right tackle (where, again, they are not). When we check back on this in early May, we’ll have a lot more clarity about where those recent signings fit in. For the moment, though, the Falcons seem to be gearing up to prioritize talent rather than position in the 2019 NFL Draft.