To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.
Total Score: 68/100
Last year’s rank: 14
Player Grade: 59/100
Teams he is starter: 23 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 12 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 31 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +2
Positional Bonus: +3
Peters’ ranking is high based on the possibility that he’s fully healthy in 2014, which recent discussions indicate may be the case.
He suffered a torn Achilles tendon at the end of last season, an injury that has been one that took 18 months to recover. While players were able to return in less time, they did not appear to look close to their former selves until after that 18-month deadline.
However recent breakthroughs in medical science have the conventional wisdom all twisted. Falcons linebacker Kroy Biermann suffered the same injury last September and has shown no limitations thus far this offseason. Former Falcon cornerback Brent Grimes suffered the same injury a year prior, and was no worse for wear last season with the Miami Dolphins.
How such an Achilles injury effects a massive body like Peters however could be different. New England’s Vince Wilfork and Dallas’ Tyrone Crawford are defensive linemen that suffered the same injury last season as well. Former New York Jet defensive end Ropati Pitoitua missed all of 2010 with a torn Achilles, but came back in 2011 and picked up where he left off.
So there is certainly reason to be optimistic for Peters in the immediate future. If Peters manages to pick up where he left off, he could be considered the team’s best defensive lineman.
Peters played a one-technique nose tackle spot in the team’s multiple defense the past two years, and really blossomed in 2013 as a run defender that was also to make a number of plays as a pass-rusher. Peters strength really has been defending the run since he doesn’t possess ideal quickness to provide consistent heat on the quarterback.
While Peters had an impressive five sacks last year, second-most on the team, according to Moneyball reviews, he only had seven combined pressures, hits and hurries. Compare that to say Jonathan Babineaux, who had just one sack but 19 combined pressures, hits and hurries.
The ideal role for Peters this season will likely be supplanting nose tackle Paul Soliai in passing situations. While Peters is not a great pass-rusher, he is certainly better than Soliai in that realm. Peters can also play some defensive end when the Falcons want to utilize more 3-4 looks. There, his experience absorbing double teams at the nose should help him occupy blockers and free up linebackers behind him like Paul Worrilow to make plays.
Peters will certainly be motivated this year, as his injury really cost him a good deal of money this past offseason. Peters settled to return to Atlanta on a one-year contract that pays $1.5 million. Considering that Peters’ former backup in Vance Walker got a three-year deal worth $13 million from the Kansas City Chiefs to be a role player this offseason indicates just how much money was left at the negotiating table. Peters only has to look at the $33 million deal signed by teammate Soliai to be even more envious.
But it’s all going to be tied to health. In 2012, Peters struggled due to the fact that he missed the offseason, training camp and the first six regular season games due to a foot injury. It took Peters the better part of the remaining two months of the season to get back into shape and start to play at an acceptable level. The hope is that there will not be repeat of the same this season and Peters hits the ground running.
Peters is one of a few third-round picks made by Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff that could be considered a success story. The Falcons have invested four years into him and it has not always been rosy. It would be a shame if injuries were the thing that prevented the team from really reaping the benefits of that long-term investment especially given how far Peters has come.