We are less than two weeks from the start of the 2020 NFL season, and teams are in camp doing their best to prepare during such an abnormal offseason and preseason. The preseason games are typically used to get an on-field perspective of how younger players perform but have been canceled, and now players find that their primary way of displaying their value will come only through camp practices. Those are pretty much wrapped up now, and cuts are nearly here.
Earlier this month I covered how difficult the path to making the roster would be for these undrafted players, who in normal years are lucky just to land on a team’s practice squad. As we inch closer to the September 5th deadline for teams to cut-down their roster to 55 players, let’s look at which Falcons undrafted rookies have a realistic chance to make the opening day roster.
WR Chris Rowland
One of the fan favorites this preseason is wide receiver Chris Rowland. Rowland has a successful collegiate career at Tennessee State, where he was widely known for breaking Jerry Rice’s FSC HBCU receptions record with 104 catches in 2019.
He’s incredibly versatile and took snaps at both wide receiver and running back for the Tigers. In 2019, he was the only players in NCAA to record a touchdown on a run, reception, kickoff and punt return. With that being said, what is helping Rowland’s case for making the roster is his punt and kick returning abilities. The Falcons have moved on from 2019 Pro Bowl alternate running back Kenjon Barner, and the favorites entering camp for the return specialist duties were reportedly Olamide Zaccheaus, Chris Rowland and Brandon Powell. Since then, the battle is now down to Rowland and Powell according to head coach Dan Quinn, with special teams whiz Greg Dortch also working out for the team recently.
OT Evin Ksiezarczyk
At this time, the Falcons haven’t made a lot of additions at offensive tackle. They recently brought back Scottie Dill, who the team signed as an UDFA, only to waive him again a few days later. They also signed Ka’John Armstrong, a former UDFA looking for a spot.
That’s where the 6’6, 310 lb Evin Ksiezarczyk comes in. He was an All-MAC Second Team selection as a Junior and was a All-MAC First Team selection the following year as a Senior at Buffalo. In 2019, the Bulls’ offensive line allowed an all-time program-low of only 8 sacks. Ksiezarczyk is currently competing for the swing tackle job with John Wetzel, Matt Gono and the newly signed Armstrong. Gono was once an undrafted rookie, who signed with the Falcons in 2018 and is not only battling for the swing tackle job but the left guard position as well.
The Falcons know what they have in Wetzel, and I think with Ksiezarczyk they see someone who can continue to grow at the position. It wouldn’t be the first time the Falcons found talent at offensive tackle through an undrafted rookie — see Ryan Schraeder.
DE Austin Edwards
I’m a big fan of Edwards and really think the Falcons want him to stick around. He has a long list of accolades at the Division II level, including the 2019 Gene Upshaw Award which is given to the best offensive or defensive lineman in NCAA Division II football. What’s going to impact Edwards’ chances of making the roster is how much depth the team already has along the defensive line.
I think having in-game reps in preseason games would’ve benefited Edwards greatly, but at worst, he should find a spot on the team’s practice squad.
RB Mikey Daniel
Like Edwards, Mikey Daniel is very talented and on a team with less competition at running back, I think he’d be a shoe-in for a roster spot. Problem is, the Falcons signed Todd Gurley this offseason and currently have experienced backs in Brian Hill, Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison, not to mention Keith Smith at fullback, a position Daniel has a lot of experience in. Daniel brings position flexibility to the backfield, as he told The Falcoholic that the Falcons’ staff views him as “A guy with good “position flexibility” I will be used in a number of ways – running back, fullback, special teams etc.” I made the prediction that Daniel would make the roster earlier this offseason, and I still think he could, it would just take a surprise cut at the position.
There’s other unmentioned UDFAs currently battling for roster spots, such as defensive tackles Hinwa Allieu and Sailosi Latu, and with Deadrin Senat failing to impress it’s worth keeping an eye on both as well.
This offseason has been one unlike any other we’ve witnessed. It’s been the toughest path for undrafted rookies to make a name for themselves and hopefully those who don’t land on the roster get to learn on the 16-man practice squad and make another attempt in 2021. As we inch closer to the September 5th date to cut-down team rosters to 55 players, it’ll be interesting to see if there are any unexpected cuts made, and if any of these UDFAs do make the final roster.