We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
After taking a look at the projected starters, we now turn our attention to the depth on the Falcons’ roster. Today, I’ll be discussing WR Chris Rowland—a UDFA out of Tennessee State who had tremendous production as a receiver, runner, and returner during the 2019 season.
WR Chris Rowland
Age: 22 (23 during 2020 season)
Contract: $616K cap hit in 2020, under contract through 2022 ($766K APY)
Career Production: 41 games played | 55 carries for 319 yards (5.8 YPC) and 1 TD | 194 receptions for 2,578 yards (13.3 YPR) and 14 TDs | 46 punt returns for 543 yards (11.8 YPR) and 1 TD | 74 kick returns for 1,689 yards (22.8 YPR) and 1 TD
2019 Production: 19 carries for 132 yards (6.9 YPC) and 1 TD | 104 receptions for 1,437 yards (13.8 YPR) and 8 TD | 14 punt returns for 166 yards (11.9 YPR) and 1 TD | 15 kick returns for 375 yards (25.0 YPR) and 1 TD
Previous Teams: UDFA signed by the Atlanta Falcons (2020)
Measurables: 5’8, 170 | 4.44 40-yard
The Falcons had a strong return game in 2019 with Kenjon Barner at the helm, but elected to move on from him in 2020. While Barner played well and wasn’t likely to cost much to re-sign, having a RB as the returner was simply not ideal from a roster-construction standpoint. Atlanta has long preferred to have a WR do the job—and since teams generally keep 6 WRs, it’s much easier to fit in a return specialist at the position. 2019 sixth-round pick, WR Marcus Green, was supposed to take control of the job last year but failed due to injuries derailing his season in training camp.
In 2020, the Falcons have brought in another intriguing small-school prospect in Tennessee State’s Chris Rowland. Rowland had an excellent college career and is most famous for breaking Jerry Rice’s FCS HBCU receptions record with 104 catches in 2019 (Rice had 103). Rowland was a versatile weapon for the Tigers throughout his career, taking snaps at RB, WR, and also playing a major role as both the punt and kick returner. He was effective everywhere, and by his senior season had become the workhorse of the entire offense.
Rowland was an All-Conference selection at both WR and return specialist in 2019 and was the only player in the NCAA to record a TD on a run, reception, punt return, and kickoff return. What Rowland lacks in ideal size—he’s just 5’6, 170—he makes up for with speed, agility, and exceptional vision and instincts as a ballcarrier. He’s going to be a limited player in terms of what kind of touches he can be successful on at the NFL level, but Rowland has all the makings of a high-end return specialist for the Falcons.
Rowland has already started to generate some hype early in Atlanta’s training camp. Here’s a video the team sent out on Twitter showcasing his skills:
Okay, Rook! We you!@crowland30 pic.twitter.com/3QNtFMXmQt— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 9, 2020
Projection: Chris Rowland likely needs a specific role to be successful in the NFL, but he’s got the athleticism, instincts, and savvy to make it work. Rowland should be the current favorite to win the return specialist role for the Falcons, and could carve out a niche as a Taylor Gabriel-esque receiver and gadget player in certain situations.