[Chart last updated: 7/7/14]
• Devin Hester is graded purely for any work he gets as a wide receiver. As a returner he still looks a good player, if not quite the electric one he once was.
• Despite his abysmal year, the Falcons may well still see third-rounder Lamar Holmes ahead of Ryan Schraeder on their depth chart. They are generally loyal to high draft picks regardless of production and don’t be surprised if Holmes gets more opportunities in training camp than the 2013 free agent.
• There are two first-rounders, two seconds a third and a fourth in that defensive line rotation but not one outside Jonathan Babineaux who you can trust to get consistent pressure. It looks like they’ll stop the run with ease but supplement the pass rush from the linebackers/edge rushers? That’s a different story.
• Since being selected 19th overall in 2010, Sean Weatherspoon’s career has been the very definition of “mixed bag”. The poor rookie season he endured is always a risk for draftees but he then followed that with a stellar sophomore year and all looked rosy. Unfortunately, he regressed markedly in 2012 before struggling with injury last year. How do you grade that? I say he’s still a valuable player but completely understand those calling for a lesser mark.
• I initially had Desmond Trufant down as “High Quality” but Khaled rightly talked me down. He had a fine rookie season but its right to see more of him given his grades weren’t totally off the charts before going further.
1. Left Outside Linebacker
This really isn’t an area of strength for Atlanta and thanks to Kroy Biermann’s Week 2 injury, we never really got to see if he could regain any of the promise of his early career. Jonathan Massaquoi got 540 reps although most of those (410) came with his hand down in a four-man front. Maybe the defense doesn’t turn out quite like this and they end up using more of a 4-3 strong-side linebacker type which brings Joplo Bartu into the mix. How the whole thing pans out will certainly be interesting.
2. Left Inside Linebacker
Last year Paul Worrilow got more hype than his actual performances dictated because of his high tackle numbers and a few sacks on blitzes. The truth, however, was that he struggled in both run defense and pass coverage and only a slightly worse performance from Akeem Dent sees the UDFA as the incumbent. There was also much later round draft activity in this area, but whether they become useful additions to the defense or simply special teams fodder remains to be seen.
3. Left Cornerback
For a rookie season, Robert Alford’s was not disastrous but he did have poor days; most notably against Washington in Week 15. It’s probable the Falcons’ front office want him to come through, but in case he doesn’t, they have insurance in the form of both UFA Josh Wilson and this year’s fifth-round draftee, Ricardo Allen. Wilson wasn’t great for the Redskins last year but that was more the exception than the rule. He’s generally been a steady starter without ever recreating his fine 2010 season with the Ravens that got him the high value Redskins deal in the first place.
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