Atlanta will be bringing 20 undrafted free agents to camp this year, and given that much of the roster is in flux and the Falcons couldn’t rub two nickels together and start a fire in a kiln, they’ll likely end up with several of those players making the roster and practice squad. The good news for Atlanta is that they also seem to have chosen their talent wisely.
That’s at least the good word from Thor Nystrom, a college football and NFL Draft analyst with SportsEdge, which you may known better as the former RotoWorld. Nystrom actually ranks Atlanta’s UDFA haul as the best in the entire NFL for 2021,
I’m going to keep my overall UDFA rankings a secret until Wednesday, with one exception: The Falcons had the NFL’s No. 1 UDFA class this year. The only team that was even remotely close is listed below (okay, two exceptions). Atlanta not only finished No. 1 in my metrics for most overall UDFA talent acquired, but the Falcons’ haul boasted unmatched quality at the top*. The fact that Atlanta directly addressed post-draft positional needs with draftable-grade UDFAs who can make the 2021 roster makes this crop all the more alluring.
The biggest names in this haul were Javian Hawkins (a 5th rounder per Nystrom’s rankings), as well as Erroll Thompson and Feleipe Franks (7th rounders), though he had 13 ranked prospects out of the list of 20. But it’s the fact that this is a class filled with interesting talent, as Nystrom says, that makes it intriguing.
It’s worth remembering for Hawkins in particular that teams have been finding plenty of success recently with undrafted backs, with James Robinson, Phillip Lindsay, and Austin Ekeler meriting mention from Nystrom over the past few years. This team has generally found a spot on the roster for at least 1-2 undrafted players, with former UDFAs like Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Matt Gono and Olamide Zaccheaus potentially set for real roles 2021. Players like Thompson, Franks (especially Franks), intriguing guard Bryce Hargrove safety Marcus Murphy likely won’t be impact players right away, but they’re landing with a team that has immediate depth concerns almost everywhere and a long-term need for talent they can develop. It would not be at all surprising if this group wound up yielding 3-5 legitimate contributors, with Hawkins seemingly having the best chance to get something approaching starter’s snaps in the near future if he can live up to his potential.
Nystrom will be joining Falcoholic Live tonight to talk about the Falcons draft haul and his undrafted free agent rankings, so tune in for that if you’re interested in learning more or have questions about his rankings.