The Falcons made their three big moves last week. The addition of Hayden Hurst gave them a potential Austin Hooper replacement, the signing of Todd Gurley a jersey seller and potentially terrific back if healthy, and the big deal for Dante Fowler a high-upside pass rusher who could help transform the defense if all goes well. I wouldn’t bet on all those moves working out—Hurst is relatively unproven, Fowler had one big year, and Gurley’s knee concerns have only grown over the last year—but they were all interesting and all carry real upside.
The Falcons have already moved on to depth, and they’ve mostly prioritized the same kind of upside with their additions as they continue to swing for the fences with a 2020 revival in mind. Let’s recap last night’s moves.
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson
My favorite move of the bunch because of what Wreh-Wilson has done since he came to Atlanta. He was largely a bust in Tennessee, but since joining the Falcons he’s played in 26 games over 4 seasons and has consistently shown impressive coverage chops when called upon. For a team that is heading into 2020 with two relatively inexperienced pros atop the depth chart and a rookie likely on the way, quality veteran depth is going to matter a great deal.
Wreh-Wilson gives them exactly that. It would be tremendous if the Falcons could move forward with a rookie, Kendall Sheffield, Isaiah Oliver and Jordan Miller as their top four options, but for now Wreh-Wilson figures to slot in as the fourth cornerback and be available if the worst happens. He’s a stellar, likely affordable re-signing.
WR Laquon Treadwell
As a former Laquon Treadwell drafter in fantasy football, I’m well aware of his disappointing history in the NFL. The former first rounder was supposed to make up for his lack of wheels in the NFL with good hands, physicality, and strong route running, but through four seasons he has just 65 catches for 701 yards and 2 touchdowns on 107 targets, and was one of the few receiving options in the offense not to get a bump from the addition of Kirk Cousins.
Why would the Falcons be interested in a relatively slow, unproductive receiver? Chances are good they believe in their own ability to coax more out of a 25-year-old who was often in his previous head coach’s doghouse, for starters, and Treadwell offers a different look than Russell Gage as a potential possession option. Remember, Christian Blake did not impress last year and the rest of the options behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley (Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Brandon Powell) all have games heavily predicated on speed.
The Falcons will bank on Treadwell being a chain mover as the 3rd or 4th guy in the offense—I hope 4th—and will count on his vaunted blocking ability as a receiver helping out the ground game and on screen plays. He is a bit of a gamble given his underwhelming career to this point, but chances are he won’t be a costly one. The bigger question is whether the acquisition will stop the Falcons from drafting a receiver in what’s widely considered to be a loaded class.
OL Justin McCray
McCray is another interesting player who fills a need but probably isn’t guaranteed anything. A year ago, he started four games at guard for the Browns, grading out as a solid run blocker but a well below average pass protector. He’s played tackle and guard in the past and will likely slot in as the de facto swing tackle/emergency guard option, should he make the roster.
Atlanta’s still got to figure out who their backup center option is, but McCray could be the kind of cheap replacement for Sambrailo more than one fan has asked for. The addition of Gurley points to the need for more capable run blockers, as well, and McCray does fit the bill in that regard.