Over the years the Atlanta Falcons have gotten some good play out of their rookies early on. Some players burst onto the scene early while others take time to acclimate to the speed of the game. We didn’t get to see much of the 2017 Falcons rookie class last season. Many of the players were used as rotational pieces but weren’t able to crack the starting lineup weekly. What about this year’s rookie class? Who will we see get some playing time and who will have to wait their turn?
First-round wide receiver Calvin Ridley is an early favorite to start for the team. Going into training camp Ridley is listed as the teams’ third receiver and will primarily play in the slot. Ridley has the chance to lead all rookie receivers in yards, touchdowns, and receptions. He adds another element to the offense and can be that reliable piece the team needs to rejuvenate the offense.
Through the draft process, he was labeled as a top route runner who can separate on all levels of the field. Ridley has the opportunity to see single coverage and get open constantly because of this ability and the attention that fellow teammates Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu demand. I mean after all someone has to go unguarded out of the three, and that might be Ridley more often than not.
The Falcons lucked out when cornerback Isaiah Oliver fell into their laps in the back end of the second round. While corner wasn’t a big need for the team, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a player like Oliver. Oliver most likely won’t start for the team, barring some injury of course, but should be a contributor early on. He currently is slated to be the backup behind Robert Alford this season. Early on Oliver looks to be best suited as a rotational player while he develops and learns to refine parts of his game. We still could see him in certain packages as either a nickel or dime corner but doesn’t look likely to beat out Alford or Desmond Trufant.
Deadrin Senat is another guy who could be used in a rotation this season. Going into the draft, defensive tackle was the teams biggest weakness due to the loss of Dontari Poe. Senat will look to help mask that hole early on. He currently sits behind Grady Jarrett on the depth chart but should push for playing time. At some point this season expect the Falcons to have a three-man rotation between Senat, Jarrett, and Jack Crawford.
While it is looking nothing but up for the Falcons first three picks, their last three might have to wait their turn if they want to see the field at some point.
Out of this bunch, running back Ito Smith is most likely to see the occasional snap. While he is sitting behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the Falcons have been known to use their third string back in certain game scenarios. It might not be many opportunities, but he could see the field albeit in a very limited capacity this season.
Both of the Falcons sixth-round picks, Russell Gage and Foyesade Oluokun, don’t look to see the field this season. Oluokun is currently Deion Jones‘ backup and should fill that role nicely. Gage, on the other hand, is a developmental guy. He could be used heavily on special teams but shouldn’t see a snap outside of that while he continues to develop.