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4 Falcons listed as top 10 at their respective positions by ESPN

Thanks to this ongoing series of rankings, the Falcons can be said to have elite talent at (at least) four positions.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Falcons have long been reliant on a handful of elite talents to fuel their success, whether or not you agree with the elite label or not. In the past, that was Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Jake Matthews, Grady Jarrett, and briefly players like Deion Jones and Devonta Freeman. In the here and now, the team is trying to build a deeper and more robust squad, but they’re still hoping to stock the roster with that kind of game-changing talent.

Per the rest of the league, they’ve done a pretty good job at a handful of positions, at the very least. In an ongoing series of rankings (all paywalled behind Insider) at ESPN, coaches, scouts, and league executives have weighed in on the top ten players at several positions, and the Falcons have three guys among the top ten at tight end, interior offensive line, cornerback, and safety.

A.J. Terrell: No. 10 cornerback

This is the second straight year Terrell made the list at this very spot, and it feels a lot more fair than it did a year ago.

In 2021, Terrell was simply a shutdown cornerback and one of the better players in the league at his position, so No. 10 felt a bit low for a rising young corner making a huge mark on the league. This year, after he had a quieter season marred by injury, it’s a surprise to see him hold on to that spot.

It’s a testament to his evident talent that he did. Terrell remains a playmaker and stellar asset in coverage for this Falcons defense in the final year of his rookie contract—fifth year option incoming—and should get the chance to prove he belongs in such elite company.

Chris Lindstrom: No. 7 interior offensive lineman

You can make a good case to put Lindstrom even higher, given that he was one of the best guards in the NFL last year and is still a young, rising player. But top ten isn’t shabby, and Lindstrom is the best building block along a suddenly potent offensive line that the Falcons have, and a player who is drawing notice for that excellence. He’ll pave the way for what’s likely to be an absurdly great ground game, and if the offense perks up and Lindstrom continues to be great, he could very well be in the top three a year ago.

There’s simply not much more to say about Lindstrom, who has gotten better every year in the league and should be a great bet to do so yet again in 2023.

Kyle Pitts: No. 7 tight end

The reaction to this outside of the Falcons fanbase—hell, from some quarters of the Falcons fanbase—was withering from the small sample of opinions I browsed through. There are those who question whether Pitts has done enough to earn a top ten spot on this list.

I’m not really one of them. After a 1,000 yard rookie season, Pitts was undone last year by injury and one of the worst quarterback-to-receiving-option connections in the entire NFL, leading to a statistically disappointing season. He remains an incredibly young, gifted player at a position where there are only a handful of true top-flight options, and Pitts did his damage in his rookie season despite a dearth of capable receiving options around him. NFL evaluators are counting on that sky-high potential ensuring he looks like one of the ten best tight ends in the league this season, and assuming good health, that seems like a great bet to me.

Jessie Bates: No. 6 safety

The Falcons simply don’t make free agent splashes like they have with Bates all that often. The last one the team signed with the kind of long-term expected impact Bates will bring to the table was the great Alex Mack, and we’ll hope Bates can deliver that kind of impact. That seems like a safe bet.

League personnel have him as the sixth-best safety in football, and as is the case with everyone else on this list, the talent and youth argues for that ranking. Bates should have a transformative presence for a team that needs reliability on defense in the worst way, and given his work in Cincinnati, a top ten ranking seems more than justified.

The Falcons should be better for many reasons in 2023, but the presence of a handful of the better players in the NFL will certainly be one of them. It’s nice to see these players get their due, but more than that, it’s nice to recognize that this kind of talent is on a team that badly needs to use it properly.