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Rookie Chris Rowland will join Olamide Zaccheaus, Brandon Powell in competing for returner gigs

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We’d give Rowland and Zaccheaus the best shot at winning one or both gigs.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Jackson State v Tennessee State Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We have months to go before the Falcons have decided on a kick returner and punt returner, whether that ends up being a single guy or more than one. Jason Butt at The Athletic shares that we now have confirmation from special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica that there are three candidates for those gigs currently.

The first name is Brandon Powell, the former Lions wide receiver who joined the team last year and was the sole confirmed in-house candidate heading into the draft. We speculated recently that UDFA Chris Rowland and incumbent speedster Olamide Zaccheaus would also be logical candidates, and Kotwica said as much today.

As is the case every year, this battle may evolve to the point where the Falcons are adding outside options, but I like this group. All three players have lethal speed and history returning both kicks and punts, with Rowland having the most impressive and robust resume coming out of Tennessee State with 25 yards per kick return and 11.9 yards per punt return in 2019. Given that Zaccheaus was a contributor on offense last year—famously, he caught the longest pass of Matt Ryan’s entire career—and that Rowland has the skillset to do the same, I’d expect one or both of those players to win one or both of the gigs when all is said and done. There’s a very much good chance Zaccheaus and Rowland go into the year as the #5 and #6 receivers, if so, behind the likes of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, and free agent signing Laquon Treadwell.

All of that is ahead of us, but I look forward to the team trying to give a returner gig to a young player with upside who could potentially lock it down for years to come. May the best man win.