Check out the scoring system here. The 31st-ranked Falcon player is wide receiver Harry Douglas.
Total Score: 42
Player Grade: 51 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 3 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 22 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +1
Positional Bonus: +3
Douglas is one of the reasons why I chose not to limit this ranking system to 25 players. The fact that he finished outside the Top 30 was even a surprise to me. His player grade is fairly high, being tied for 21st on the team, but he’s simply hurt by the fact that there are a plethora of equally good or better receivers elsewhere in the league.
And the primary reason for that is that Douglas’ skillset is fairly limited. While he’s very quick and explosive, making him the prototype for the traditional NFL slot receiver, less and less NFL teams are using that types of players in the slot nowadays. And simply put, there just seem to be more receivers out there that are simply better at it than Douglas, e.g. Andrew Hawkins, Tavon Austin, Jacoby Ford, and Doug Baldwin just to name a few. Now it may be the case that several of those players outshine Douglas because they are not surrounded with the cast of receivers that Douglas finds himself with here in Atlanta. It’s probably easier for a player like Hawkins to shine when he’s competing for targets against Mohamed Sanu and Jermaine Gresham rather than Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.
What helps Douglas’ case is the fact that his production has increased over the past two years when Julio Jones has been absent from the lineup and HD has been asked to fill in. The problem is that when not in those circumstances, Douglas is fairly middling. He’ll make his presence known from time to time, with notable big plays late in games (last year’s win over Seattle and the 2011 OT loss to the Saints being prominent examples), but it’s not consistent week in and week out.
Douglas is not a player that is a “man beater” that is going to simply go out there and separate easily from most starting-caliber corners like White and Jones do regularly. He’s a smaller guy and his catch radius is much smaller than those two as well. That makes the windows smaller for Matt Ryan to throw into and it’s one of the reasons why Douglas’ production dips significantly when he’s running routes that go more than 10 yards downfield. And if you’re in Ryan’s shoes, and you have to choose between the relatively large windows presented by White, Jones, and Gonzalez or the smaller one from Douglas, it becomes a very easy choice to steer away from No. 83.
Another deficiency for Douglas is his age. He’s nearly 29 years old, and receivers of his ilk start tend to reach the end of their rope at or before age 32 (see Dennis Northcutt or Nate Burleson). That doesn’t make for a great recipe for success moving forward with him, in that his body is going to start to decline while the Falcons are looking for ways to boost his production.
This means that Douglas needs help from the play caller. With a year under his belt, perhaps 2013 is the year that Dirk Koetter figures out how to use him better. He found ways to make Mike Thomas shine in Jacksonville, who is similarly an undersized player. Douglas is at his best on shorter routes designed to get him open quickly, akin to slot receivers like Wes Welker and Danny Amendola. In the past, I think the Falcons have not used this ability to its greatest potential, especially given their inability to run the ball consistently. Douglas used in this manner could help curb that deficiency, replacing a lot of the 2 and 3-yard runs on first downs with 5 and 6-yard receptions instead.
All in all, Douglas can be described as a solid, but fairly one-note player that plays in an offense that really isn’t suited to accentuated that single note like a player like Welker was in New England. Douglas could go to most NFL teams and offer similar if not greater production off the bench than he does here in Atlanta. But unless he can start to produce at a more consistent level, it’s probably not as many teams as one initially believes. It certainly wasn’t when I started ranking receivers. I just look at a player like Eddie Royal and don’t see much difference between him and HD. And Royal is the sixth most talented receiver on the San Diego Chargers roster behind Malcom Floyd, Danario Alexander, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown, and Robert Meachem. There are just more teams like that where Douglas would likely struggle to distinguish himself from the bunch and thus why he ranks so low on the Falcons.