The Falcons’ first regular season game is only 12 days away. 12 days. Between now and September 13th, the Falcons will finalize their roster and finish tweaking their depth chart. They’ve had a surprisingly productive offseason, adding a lot of young talent to a football team that desperately needs it.
Today I’m hoping to address a pressing question that is surely on everyone’s mind: How many rookies will the Falcons have to start in 2020? So without further ado, let’s try to answer that question.
Let’s start with the easy ones. Cornerback A.J. Terrell, Sterling Hofrichter, and Chris Rowland are the only locks to be starters in Week 1, in my estimation. That’s not an indictment of this rookie class; just my best, educated guess. Take it for what it’s worth.
Terrell has had a phenomenal camp, exceeding expectations and hanging with the Falcons’ best receivers. He’ll need to prove himself during the regular season, of course, but the Falcons haven’t hid their willingness to make him a starter Day 1. Starter. Write it down. In pen.
The Falcons’ effectively made Hofrichter the starter when they cut Ryan Allen shortly after training camp kicked off. There was at least one report from last week’s “mock game” detailing lackluster hang time from the Hof, but it wasn’t a real game and his resume speaks for itself. This is Hofrichter’s job until it isn’t.
Rowland is the favorite to win the Falcons’ returner gig, notwithstanding his UDFA status. At 5’7, 170 pounds, Rowland isn’t the biggest guy on the field, but he may be one of the most dynamic. The Falcons’ handed Rowland their biggest UDFA bonus ($80k) following the draft, so they’re obviously enamored by his skillset.
Starter at some point
Davidson is a player that could work his way into a starter role during the back half of the 2020 season. Because he’s been trying to navigate a knee strain for a while now, we’re not even sure that he’ll be active in Week 1. That said, as the season progresses (assuming Davidson’s health cooperates), don’t be shocked if he earns an expanded role.
Hennessy may actually have the starting left guard gig locked down already, but he too is struggling to stay healthy, so it’s possible that he isn’t rolled out as the Week 1 starter. I’m slotting him in this category for now, but I won’t be surprised to see him take on a starter role quickly. The Falcons drafted Hennessy intending to make him a starter at some point, probably at center, but they need someone to play left guard this season, and Hennessy appears to be up for the job.
Walker’s ability to play all 3 linebacker positions will get him on the field early and often. He may even end up taking some of Foyesade Oluokun’s snaps if he can prove to be a better defender against TEs. I’m not slotting him in as a starter just yet, but truth be told, he doesn’t need to be. There’s reason to be excited about Walker can do in a Falcons uniform, and the Falcons are going to lean on him as a rotational player right away.
Outside looking in
There are starters and then there are reserve or role players. The Falcons were focused on adding starters at several positions after a disappointing 2019 campaign, but they also prioritized the addition of depth. I put Jaylinn Hawkins as well as any other UDFA that makes the team in this category. Hawkins’ versatility will get him playing time, especially if the Falcons’ decide to deploy him at both free and strong safety. There aren’t any UDFAs aside from Rowland that are in the running for starter roles, and that’s not a bad thing. (Sorry, Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow.)
So what say you, Falcoholics? Do you agree with this list? How many rookies do you see starting for the Falcons this season?