2016 Draft Needs: Falcons Could Target Special Teams Help at Wide Receiver

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY SportsDevin Hester

While the Atlanta Falcons’ primary need at the wide receiver position has seemingly been filled already, it doesn’t mean that they are necessarily done at the position when it comes to the 2016 NFL Draft.

The team was able to add a starter in free agency with the addition of former Cincinnati Bengals wideout Mohamed Sanu, who is tasked with replacing long-time fixture Roddy White in the starting lineup opposite Pro Bowler Julio Jones.

The team also added Aldrick Robinson last month to compete for a roster spot. His experience working with Kyle Shanahan in Washington could easily slot him for the fourth wide receiver position on the depth chart, with 2015 fourth-round pick Justin Hardy expected to fill in as the third option on the depth chart.

Robinson will be competing with the likes of holdovers Nick Williams, Eric Weems and possibly Devin Hester for his roster spot . Hester’s status for the immediate future remains unresolved. The Falcons indicated earlier this offseason that any plans about his future would have to wait until he was fully healthy since he is coming off offseason surgery on an injured toe that kept him out of the first three months of the 2015 season.

The Falcons did this a year ago with offensive tackle Sam Baker and back in 2012 with fullback Ovie Mughelli. In both cases the team drafted players at their respective positions in the preceding drafts, taking offensive tackle Jake Rodgers and fullback Bradie Ewing, respectively. Once Baker and Mughelli were cleared to return to practice after the draft, both were immediately cut.

So Hester’s unresolved roster status will gain some clarity if the Falcons find a way to add another return specialist in the draft, despite their limited number of picks. But if the Falcons pass on drafting a return specialist, it’ll be a very strong indicator that they indeed intend to bring Hester back into the mix to handle those special-teams duties.

Otherwise the Falcons will only look to bolster training-camp competition with a few undrafted free agents that can push players like C.J. Goodwin, Jordan Leslie and the others for practice-squad or reserve spots. The Falcons currently have nine receivers on the roster and last summer brought a grand total of 11 to training camp. So even if they add some rookies after the draft, it’ll likely be a small number.

So the Falcons might draft a wide receiver that doubles as a return specialist, but it’s not a true need given the presence of Hester already on the roster. They will only feel compelled to draft such a player if they have already made plans to move on from him and are just using for his recovery from surgery as a formality.

That remains to be seen and this could be another position that is deemed a luxury selection for the Falcons.

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Aaron Freeman
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