I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 39th-ranked player: cornerback Javier Arenas.
To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.
Total Score: 43/100
Last year’s rank: N/A
Player Grade: 48/100
Teams he is starter: 0 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 24 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +3
Positional Bonus: +4
Arenas is another addition made this offseason to help improve the back-end depth of the Falcons roster. However, he can only do that if he manages to make the team.
Arenas will have an opportunity to win the team’s nickel cornerback spot, pushing incumbent Robert McClain while also competing with veteran Josh Wilson. Arenas was primarily the Kansas City Chiefs’ nickel cornerback over his three seasons there, but also earned some reps starting outside in the second half of the 2012 season due to the benching of Stanford Routt. He was capable in both roles, but with the change in coaching staff in 2013, he was miscast in the new Chiefs defense which preferred more physical corners.
Arenas was then traded to the Arizona Cardinals, where he served primarily in dime sub-packages, playing both as a slot corner as well as a free safety in centerfield. That versatility should help Arenas in his bid to the make the Falcons roster in 2014.
Arenas’ chances of sticking are also bolstered by his ability to perform on special teams. While the Falcons have a proven returner in Devin Hester, Arenas gives them a very good insurance policy in the event of an injury. While a very productive returner in college, Arenas has been unable to translate that into great success in the NFL, but he’s at least competent in the kicking game. He’s also shown that’s capable in coverage and likely will get an opportunity to cover kickoffs for the Falcons this season.
But ultimately Arenas’ ability to stick on the Falcons will depend on his abilities in coverage. It’s another area where he’s shown competence, and if McClain and/or Wilson struggle, Arenas is more than capable of filling in for the Falcons.
The biggest knock on Arenas is his lack of size limits his potential. He’s essentially a career backup type, but one that can add value as depth. He’s probably ideally suited to be the Falcons’ fourth cornerback rather than their third, and given his relative youth and special teams ability, it seems likely that he will earn that spot this summer.