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Breaking down the Falcons roster after the 2019 NFL Draft

The Falcons addressed a couple of key positions in force, but tweaks to the roster may remain.

Atlanta Falcons Practice Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

It’s a logical time to check on the Falcons roster, isn’t it?

The team wound up making seven selections after entering the draft with nine picks, and they focused their energy on a handful of position groupings, most notably the offensive line, cornerback, and running back (?). Without factoring in the undrafted free agents—we’ll do that in a few days when they’re all confirmed by the team—here’s who Atlanta has of today.

Current Falcons roster

QB Matt Ryan

QB Matt Schaub

QB Kurt Benkert

You may see a UDFA type or two here, but this feels established. The question is whether Benkert can push his way on the roster this year.

RB Devonta Freeman

RB Ito Smith

RB Kenjon Barner

RB Brian Hill

Rookie RB Qadree Ollison

Rookie RB/WR Marcus Green

The team’s decision to draft two rookie backs is easily the most surprising subplot of the weekend, and this weekend did not lack them. Ollison is a deceptively quick runner for his size but has the power to be a short yardage battering ram, and that means he’s probably going to push Hill off the roster, barring a late charge from the veteran for the fullback job. He could get the #2 back with a new offensive coordinator in town, but I’d pencil in Ito, who showed us a lot last year.

Green is a gadget player who had a very productive career as a receiver in college and is a logical choice to be the team’s returner given his blazing speed, which means he’ll probably push Barner right off the roster. Green has a chance to contribute as the de facto sixth receiver given his quality hands, making him more than just another RB.

FB Ricky Ortiz

Ortiz is likely battling with Luke Stocker and maybe Brian Hill for this gig, and Stocker also plays tight end and is a special teams contributor. He remains an extremely longshot to make the roster.

WR Julio Jones

WR Mohamed Sanu

WR Calvin Ridley

WR Justin Hardy

WR Russell Gage

WR Christian Blake

WR Devin Gray

With no picks here, the Falcons are keeping things mostly the same. Green can contribute as the sixth guy, as I noted, and there are a couple of interesting UDFAs who have been linked to the team here in the early going. But they have one of the better top threes in teh NFL and have two guys with versatility and talent behind them in Hardy and Gage, making this a good group for 2019.

TE Austin Hooper

TE Luke Stocker

TE Eric Saubert

TE Logan Paulsen

TE Alex Gray

TE Jaeden Graham

The team didn’t invest in the position, which saw other teams invest significantly in a reputedly deep class. But that just increases the chances that the Falcons roll with their current group, which features one of the league’s quietly most productive starters in Hooper, a blocker with experience and versatility in Stocker, and a third-year guy with remaining upside in Saubert. Paulsen, Gray, and Graham will compete to stick around, but the team may or may not keep four guys with four backs on the roster.

T Jake Matthews

Rookie T Kaleb McGary

T Ty Sambrailo

T Matt Gono

T John Wetzel

McGary will be penciled in as the Week 1 starter opposite Jake Matthews after the Falcons traded back into the first round to get him. McGary offers athleticism and power in spades, but there are questions regarding how he’ll handle speed of the edge, something Sambrailo did a surprisingly solid job of late in 2018. Chances are good the rookie wins out, giving the Falcons a strong swing tackle in Sambrailo and a potential fourth tackle/versatile reserve in Wetzel. Gono may stick on the practice squad if he’s retained eligibility.

G James Carpenter

G Jamon Brown

Rookie G Chris Lindstrom

G Wes Schweitzer

G Brandon Fusco

G Sean Harlow

The selection of Lindstrom at #14 transformed this group and our evaluation of it. One of Jamon Brown and James Carpenter will start with Lindstrom taking the other spot, but we don’t know yet where Lindstrom is going to slot in. The loser of the competition will prove to be an expensive but valuable reserve for the Falcons, which they’ve indicated they’re comfortable with.

Fusco is probably gone, given the savings the Falcons can realize by designating him as a post-June 1 cut, while Schweitzer’s starting experience and affordability (and potential utility at center) should keep him around. I don’t know if Harlow can stick, even on the practice squad.

C Alex Mack

G/C Adam Gettis

Gettis ability to play center gives him an early leg up as the team’s last lineman. Whether he can stick likely depends on whether Schweitzer or Harlow (or another veteran addition) proves capable of playing the position.

DE Takkarist McKinley

DE Vic Beasley

DE Adrian Clayborn

DE Steven Means

Rookie DE/DT John Cominsky

DE/DT Chris Odom

The Falcons surprisingly only invested a single pick into the defensive line, and Cominsky is expected to primarily play inside down the line once he bulks up. If that’s the case, this is the group where I have the most questions coming into the year, and that will remain that way without a veteran addition or two. Clayborn is stone solid and versatile, Means is a valuable reserve and Odom has some upside, but the success of the defensive end position will depend on whether Takk takes a step forward (he can) and Beasley does too (he can, but I’m more doubtful he will).

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

With the addition of Cominsky, this group needs no infusion of talent the rest of the way. It’s just a numbers game now, with some combination of the bottom four players on this list not making the final roster. With Jarrett in the fold and even a mild step forward from Senat, this will be one of the strengths of the defense in 2019, which is a cheery thought.

LB Deion Jones

LB De’Vondre Campbell

LB Foye Oluokun

LB Bruce Carter

LB Kemal Ishmael

LB Duke Riley

LB Jermaine Grace

The team didn’t wind up trading up for a linebacker, though they reportedly tried to do so in the third round, and thus this group will remain the same. Oluokun will be counted upon to be a significant contributor in 2019, which is a genuine vote for confidence for his abilities, while Ishmael, Carter, Riley, and Grace duke it out for reserve roles and special teams spots.

CB Desmond Trufant

CB Isaiah Oliver

CB/S Damontae Kazee

Rookie CB Kendall Sheffield

Rookie CB Jordan Miller

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson

CB Taveze Calhoun

The Falcons invested not one but two picks in cornerback, which was again a surprise. Dan Quinn has talked up their ability to make immediate contributions, but it is not at all clear how they might do so given that the team has three solid starting options today. I’d expect Miller to be a top reserve as he develops in 2019, but Sheffield has an outside shot of starting Week 1, especially if the Falcons decide to keep Kazee at safety with these additions. This group is stronger and more athletic than it was a week ago, but they’ve added players who are more likely to be major contributors in 2020 than 2019, in my opinion.

S Keanu Neal

S Ricardo Allen

S J.J. Wilcox

S Sharrod Neasman

S/CB Chris Cooper

S Afolabi Laguda

The addition of Wilcox gives the Falcons a physical, veteran presence in case Neal isn’t ready to go Week 1, while they still have multiple young reserve options to compete for the remaining 1-2 safety spots. If Allen and Neal are healthy this is a position of strength, and if the selections at corner mean Kazee’s going to remain at safety, it’s even stronger.

K Giorgio Tavecchio

P Matt Bosher

LS Josh Harris

This is a good group, though we still have to see how Tavecchio fares this year as the slam dunk kicker.

The Falcons infused their team with youth and athleticism, as you’d expect from an Atlanta draft class, and their offensive line ought to be demonstrably better in 2019. There are larger questions about the faith the Falcons are putting in what they have currently at defensive end and whether adding multiple running backs was a smart move, but it’s difficult to quibble with the idea that the Falcons added multiple players who should be key contributors in 2019 or 2020.

Now to see what the UDFA haul brings.