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Falcons post-draft roster review: Quarterback

The Falcons still have a star at the top in Matt Ryan, but there is likely to be a significant competition for QB2 between Matt Schaub, Kurt Benkert, and Danny Etling.

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

As the dust clears around free agency, the 2020 NFL Draft, and the smattering of UDFA signings, it’s time to take a closer look at the Falcons’ roster. Today we kick things off with quarterback, where Atlanta conspicuously made no additions at all over the course of the offseason—signaling a level of comfort with the group they already have. Let’s examine the depth chart and see for ourselves how the QB room looks heading into training camp.

Current Depth Chart

Matt Ryan
Matt Schaub
Kurt Benkert
Danny Etling

There’s no question that Matt Ryan will be the Falcons’ starter heading into Week 1. While Ryan is starting to join the ranks of the older QBs in the NFC, he’s still just 34 years old and has shown no signs of slowing down. With a strong supporting cast around him and a hopefully improved offensive line, Ryan should once again helm one of the NFL’s best offenses. The big question mark is Dirk Koetter—can he address his shortcomings and adapt to the modern NFL?

The primary backup ever since Kyle Shanahan came to Atlanta, Matt Schaub has done an admirable job whenever called upon. He even nearly beat the Seattle Seahawks last year with an otherworldly performance. Still, Schaub will be 39 by the time training camp arrives, and it’s fair to wonder just how much he has left. That coupled with his $2.2M cap hit could make him expendable.

Arguably the most exciting depth option on the roster, third-year QB Kurt Benkert had an extremely impressive performance in the 2019 preseason before suffering a season-ending injury. Benkert has exciting physical traits and a rocket arm, and could now have a chance to take control of the backup job after two years learning the offense. If he can stay healthy and build on his solid play from last year, Atlanta will have a hard time keeping him off the roster.

A former seventh-round pick of the Patriots, Danny Etling joined the Falcons late in the preseason after Benkert’s injury. He had an up-and-down showing, but evidently impressed the coaching staff enough to stick around on the practice squad. Etling is an ideal practice squad QB, as he’s got the athleticism to mimic dual-threat QBs like Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson. I don’t think he’s got much of a chance to take over the backup role from Benkert or Schaub, but he could be a long-term practice squad fixture and 3rd QB.

Overall, the Falcons have a strong QB room with several depth options. Matt Schaub clearly still had the ability to play in 2019, Benkert is young and promising, and Etling is an ideal 3rd QB and practice squad player. Whether the team goes with Schaub or Benkert as QB2, they’ll be doing about as well as they can in this regard. My hope is for Benkert to win the job and continue to develop in Atlanta, where he may one day get a chance to take the reins himself.

What do you think about the state of Atlanta’s QB depth chart? Would you have liked to see the team make an addition in the 2020 draft, or a UDFA?