On Friday Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked the rosters of all 32 NFL teams ahead of the 2021 Draft—and also ranked the draft capital for each club. The Atlanta Falcons graded out with the 24th-best roster in the league, but the fifth-most draft capital.
“The list was heavily influenced by the two-year PFF WAR (wins above replacement) of the players who are currently on each roster, but it also had some subjective projection involved for those younger, emerging talents,” explains PFF’s Anthony Treash.
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What’s interesting is how Treash frames the challenge faced by new Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot.
“The current construction of the Falcons’ roster is fascinating,” he writes, with six “high-quality” starters (four on offense, two on defense), but only one player rated “average” (cornerback A.J. Terrell, last year’s first-round pick, who has just one year of playing time on which to be judged) and one rated “above average” (offensive guard Chris Lindstrom).
“Even with one of the 10 highest-graded passers [Matt Ryan] and two of the 15 highest-graded wide receivers [Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley], the Falcons still have a ton of below-average contributors on the current roster. Tight end Kyle Pitts may be alluring with the No. 4 overall pick, but trading down to gain more assets is the smarter move considering how many holes they have on the roster,” advises Treash.
Falcons Have No ‘Elite’ Players, Only Two ‘Poor’ Starters: PFF
As for the rest of Atlanta’s projected starting lineup, PFF also regards left tackle Jake Matthews as “high-quality” (that is, the next level below “elite”), much like it does defensive lineman Grady Jarrett and linebacker Deion Jones. All the rest of the projected starters are classified as “below average” except for J. Tuioti-Mariner and Kendall Sheffield (both rated “poor”), with safety Jaylinn Hawkins and offensive guard Willie Wright classified as unknowns.
Scheme Fits for the Falcons?
As for Atlanta’s biggest needs heading into next week’s draft, Treash likes Richie Grant (Central Florida) as the best early fit at safety, with Ronnie Perkins (Oklahoma) a good fit at edge rusher and Najee Harris (Alabama) the best option for the Falcons at running back.
As for “late fits” to keep in mind: Treash highlights Richard LeCounte (Georgia) at safety; Patrick Johnson (Tulane) at edge rusher; and Jermar Jefferson (Oregon State) at running back, the latter of whom rushed for 2,923 yards at OSU, with 15 100-yard games in just 21 career starts. He was also a two-time Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week in 2020 and named Co-Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press.
Finding a few good “late fits” will be vital this year. The Falcons currently have a total nine draft choices in the 2021 NFL Draft (thanks to the addition of three compensatory picks), including three picks within the Top 70 (No. 4, No. 35, No. 68 overall). The Falcons will also be selecting once in round four (No. 108), three times in round five (No. 148, 182, 183) and twice in round six (No. 187, 219).
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