Falcons Undrafted Free Agent Primer
Much of the recent talk has been the discussion of impending veteran free agency, but forgotten is the fact that teams have yet to sign undrafted free agents to fill out their roster. Not counting unrestricted free agents, the Falcons roster count stands at 62. Presumably a new CBA will maintain the roster limit at 80 for this year’s NFL training camps. If the Falcons manage to retain roughly half of their twelve potential unrestricted free agents, that means up to a dozen or so undrafted guys might be added to bolster the roster.
Here is a position-by-position look at some potential candidates that the Falcons could and/or should look at:
Last year, the Falcons brought only 3 quarterbacks to camp. This year they might do the same since it’s unlikely that a fourth quarterback is going to be able to make an impact on the fly. Although with Redman and Wilson both entering contract years, it makes sense for the team to try and have a fourth arm on the practice squad as an insurance policy.
The Falcons took an interest in both Froman and Weber in the lead-up to the draft. Devlin has some nice long-term upside and could have been a middle round pick had he put together a better off-season. None of these guys offer a lot of upside for the Falcons besides being long-term backups.
The Falcons typically bring six backs to camp, and if they can retain either Snelling or Norwood, they will meet their quota. If they bring anybody in, it might be an extra lead blocker, although with Snelling being able to play that spot, his return means that it won’t be necessary.
Good Candidate(s): Henry Hynoski (Pittsburgh)
Hynoski got lost in the shuffle due to the fullback position going by the wayside in most NFL cities, but was arguably one of the Top 3 prospects in this draft. He has size and played in an offense similar to the Falcons at Pitt, making him a good candidate to develop behind Mughelli for a year or two.
Typically the Falcons bring ten wideouts to camp, and currently on the roster are nine. Brian Finneran would make ten, although the Falcons might want to give that roster spot to some promising young guy that could push for a practice squad role.
Good Candidate(s): Vidal Hazelton (Cincinnati), Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (Iowa), Darvin Adams (Auburn), Tori Gurley (South Carolina), Mark Dell (Michigan State), Jeff Maehl (Oregon), Kris Adams (UTEP), Owen Spencer (N.C. State), Dane Sanzenbacher (Ohio State), Lyle Leong (Texas Tech), Jock Sanders (West Virginia)
A lot of talented receivers went undrafted. Hazelton expressed interest in joining the Falcons and had he not been plagued with injuries througohut his college career, he might have been a Day 2 pick. Johnson-Koulianos might be the most talented, but off-field issues sidetracked his stock. Dell and Sanzenbacher are smaller slot-type guys. Sanders and Maehl offer speed and special teams potential. Both Adamses and Spencer offer size and vertical potential on the outside.
The Falcons already have five tight ends on the roster and have brought that same number into the past two camps. Many expected the team to draft a young, promising pass catcher to groom to replace Gonzalez, but they did not. A promising rookie might be able to replace either Marquez Branson or Robbie Agnone on the camp roster.
Pianalto is talented H-back type that was injury prone at UNC. Smith is a big, athletic blocker that could push for depth as a No. 2 guy down the road. Reuland and Graham offer some potential as pass catchers. Gantt is a Peelle-clone that could push Palmer for his job.
The Falcons have brought 13 or 14 blockers to camp the past two years. Currently, not counting their three prominent free agents, they have nine on the roster. Depending on who they bring back, they could potentially add anywhere between two and four blockers to bolster depth and competition.
Hurd and Hix have Dahl-like traits, which means if the team loses him, they would be smart signings. Hall is an undersized tackle that could add a body there. Dominguez is a big run blocker that can help move the pile. Huey is a finesse blocker that can potentially developed into a utility interior blocker.
The Falcons have brought in fourteen defensive linemen the past two years. Assuming they don’t bring back Thomas Johnson, then they will likely add two blockers. One of those players likely will be a defensive tackle
Good Candidate(s): John Graves (Virginia Tech), Pierre Allen (Nebraska), Clay Nurse (Illinois), Ian Williams (Notre Dame), Colby Whitlock (Texas Tech), Corbin Bryant (Northwestern), Mike Blanc (Auburn), Ladi Ajiboye (South Carolina)
If the Falcons wanted to add an end to push for a practice squad spot, Allen and Nurse are nice candidates. Williams probably would have been drafted if not for an MCL sprain, and he and Whitlock are high-motor run stuffers. Graves and Bryant are more disruptive talents, but a bit undersized.
With Nicholas and Peterson as free agents, the Falcons currently have seven linebackers on the roster. They have had nine in camp the past two years. So if they keep one, then they probably add another outside linebacker to replace the other.
Good Candidate(s): Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Adrian Moten (Maryland), Quentin Davie (Northwestern), Spencer Paysinger (Oregon), Mister Alexander (Florida State), Jeremiha Hunter (Iowa), Craig Stevens (Auburn)
Herzlich is the most prominent undrafted candidate and would be a good body in camp at the SAM spot. Davie is an athletic SAM guy. Moten is an undersized cover back. Paysinger is a good fit at WILL having played beside Casey Matthews in Oregon’s 3-4 scheme. Alexander and Hunter can potentially play either spot.
Without re-signing Brian Williams, the Falcons have nine defensive backs on the roster. The past two years they have had fourteen DBs in camp. That will likely be some combination of corners and safeties, likely will at least two additions at both positions.
Good Candidate(s): Jeron Johnson (Boise State), Nate Williams (Washington), Joe Lefeged (Rutgers), Brett Greenwood (Iowa), Zac Etheridge (Auburn), Jasper Simmons (Missouri), Kendric Burney (North Carolina), Kevin Rutland (Missouri), Devon Torrence (Ohio State), James Dockery (Oregon State), Mike Holmes (Syracuse)
Johnson was a prospect that the Falcons showed interest in during the draft process, and he is an undersized guy that is comparable to Erik Coleman. The same could be said about Etheridge, although his struggles in coverage could hurt him. Williams is a really solid run defender, and Greenwood is a very good Cover-2 free safety that lacks size and speed. Simmons and Rutland would continue the strong Missouri pipeline that the Falcons have shown the past few drafts. Lefeged is a mediocre safety prospect, but offers some special teams potential. Burney was a solid playmaker at UNC, but is an undersized corner. Torrence and Dockery offer good size to push for a nickel role, and Holmes is a tough as nails, but undersized corner in the Brent Grimes mold.
Including kickers, punters, and long snappers the team has always had four guys in camp the past two years. And assuming Michael Koenen does not return, and Matt Bryant does, they have already reached their quota. That likely will mean rookie Bosher and journeyman Ken Parrish would compete for the vacant punter job. Although if they don’t keep Bryant, they might bring in another kicker to compete.
Good Candidate(s): Kai Forbath (UCLA)
The team showed interest in Forbath through the draft process, and while untested he could potentially replace Bryant as the kicker if the Falcons are intent on a youth movement on special teams.