With the 2020 NFL Draft coming up quickly, it’s time to take one final look at the roster before the rookies arrive. The Falcons were fairly active in free agency, addressing some of their most pressing needs and creating some new ones. Over the next week or so, I’ll be taking a look at several of the positions on the roster to determine if the Falcons need to invest resources there in the draft. If you missed any previous entries in the series, you can find them below:
Today, we examine the WR corps. Everyone knows Atlanta’s tremendous duo at the top—Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley—but what about the rest of the depth chart? Could the Falcons use an infusion of young talent in a stacked WR class after the trade of Mohamed Sanu? Let’s take a closer look.
Current Depth Chart
The Falcons possess one of the best starting duos in the league with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Despite Julio entering his age 31 season, the dynamic wideout has shown no signs of slowing down and is still among the top WRs in the NFL. Calvin Ridley has been a tremendous weapon at WR2 for the Falcons over his first two seasons, showcasing speed, YAC ability, and smooth route running. The current favorite for WR3 duties is third-year player Russell Gage, who came on strong after Mohamed Sanu was traded late last season.
Behind the starting three, the Falcons have a lot of quality rotational and depth options. Recent free agent addition Laquon Treadwell has first-round pedigree, but never reached his potential in four seasons with the Vikings. He’s got good size (6’2, 215) and could offer a bigger target for Ryan, which the group lacks outside of Julio. Former UDFA Olamide Zaccheaus returns in 2020 after posting a 93-yard TD catch in 2019—he’s got the most intriguing upside of the bunch. Christian Blake, another former UDFA, is also returning to try and carve out a roster spot once more after a relatively lackluster 2019.
Brandon Powell was signed as a UDFA by the Detroit Lions in 2018 and joined Atlanta’s practice squad in 2019 before being promoted to the active roster in November. Allegedly, Powell is currently slated to be the Falcons’ kick/punt returner. We’ll see if he can take control of the role during camp. The last name on the list is another former UDFA, Devin Gray, who has been impressive in camp/preseason but has also dealt with some very unlucky injuries. Perhaps 2020 will be the year it all comes together for Gray.
Is is a draft need?
The Falcons have strength at the top and plenty of depth and rotational players behind the starting 3. If you were to point to a weakness, it would probably be WR3, where Russell Gage has the potential but hasn’t necessarily proved himself yet. Atlanta is also in a precarious position where an injury to Julio or Ridley would force someone like Laquon Treadwell or Olamide Zaccheaus into the starting lineup. Maybe that would be OK, but it could also be a disaster.
WR isn’t near the top of the list when it comes to draft needs for Atlanta. The depth is solid, if untested. The team can probably weather a temporary injury to a starter without the offense falling apart. But in one of the most stacked WR classes in recent memory, there could be tremendous value at the position on Day 3. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Falcons took a look at adding an impact WR3 candidate with one of their two fourth round picks, or added a high-end depth/developmental piece with their seventh-rounder.
How highly do you view the need at WR heading into the 2020 NFL Draft? When would you address the position for Atlanta? Any prospects you’d love to see wind up in a Falcons uniform?