The Atlanta Falcons are one of the few teams in the NFL that were able to truly take the best player available in the 2018 NFL draft. They were able to do this because of the depth that Head Coach Dan Quinn and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff have acquired over the years. The Falcons currently possess perhaps one of the deepest and most intriguing rosters across the league.
Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Outlook
Their depth allowed them to take wide receiver Calvin Ridley in the 2018 NFL draft as a pure luxury pick. He might not have been the biggest need for the team, but is surely a promising and intriguing wide receiver prospect for Atlanta.
So how does the addition of Ridley affect the rest of the depth chart at the receiver position?
Of course, the number one receiver for Atlanta is two-time All-Pro Julio Jones, but how does the depth chart stack up after that?
The Falcons currently have 13 receivers on their depth chart going into training camp. Now obviously not all players are expected to make the final 53-man roster, but it does show how crowded it is in the wide receiver room. So, who would be the Falcons’ starters going into the season?
As mentioned above, Jones is clearly the Falcons wide receiver one after being the teams’ leading receiver for the past four years. Of those past four years, Jones has had over 1,400 yards in each of those campaigns.
The Battle for the Second Spot
The battle starts at the wide reviewer two spots for the team. Since joining the Falcons back in 2016, Mohamed Sanu has been the number two receiver for the team. In those past two seasons, he has managed no more than 700 yards for the team.
2018 NFL draft first-round pick Ridley was brought in to add depth to our receiving core and potentially challenge for the number two spot in our offense.
Sanu has been a decent number two for the Falcons and enters training camp as the number two option for the team. On the other hand, Ridley brings another dynamic factor to the offense and is the type of receiver that Matt Ryan needs. He is a skilled route runner who can separate with his crisp route breaks and good speed. This should make him a reliable target for Ryan this upcoming season.
If Ridley can come in right away and produce, the Falcons might have their first pair of 1,000-yard receivers since Roddy White and Jones back in 2012.
Third Wide Receiver
With Ridley and Sanu potentially battling it out for the number two receiver spot in Atlanta’s offense, it makes the less fortunate of that battle the third option. Both players will start for the team and get thrown to, but the number of times they get thrown to will completely depend on their ability to produce and be reliable targets for Ryan throughout the 2018 season.
Who is the Fourth Receiver?
At wide receiver, the fourth spot is where the race is much more open. Justin Hardy has shown some promise here and there but is still away from being anything more than a rotational guy for the team. As of right now, he is the guy leading the race for the fourth overall receiver on the teams’ depth chart. But due to his lack of development, the Falcons could be itching to move on from him and give another guy a chance in the rotation. A player to keep an eye out for isn’t even a receiver: third-year tight end Austin Hooper. Hooper improved a lot from year one to year two and could experience the breakout year everyone has been waiting on.
The biggest need for the Falcons offense isn’t a high yardage, impact player. They need consistency in the red zone and scoring touchdowns through the air. This past season, Ryan’s touchdown rate went from 7.1% in 2016 to 3.8% in 2017. Yes, a lot of that stems from the departure of Kyle Shanahan, but the team was lacking a reliable touchdown machine all last year.
Jones is the clear-cut number one guy in the offense, yet he only had three touchdowns the whole season. Some of the top receivers in the league had three touchdowns in one game. To put that in perspective, Jones was 77th overall in touchdown receptions for the 2017 season.
If someone emerges as a true homerun threat in the offense, then some of that historic 2016 Falcons offense could come to light and, for the first time in franchise history, see the team go the distance.
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