Roster Talk: Locks and Bubble Players
Back at the start of training camp, I made my projections on who would make the Falcons final roster. And frankly, I feel very good about most of them. I feel like I might be in the single digits with the number of ones where I was off on, which should work out to be only about a sixth of the roster. I’ll take that.
But on the eve of the Falcons final preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, I want to discuss which players on the roster are locks versus those that are likely on the outside looking in. I’ll break down all 75 players and put them into four categories which should determine their status for the impending Falcons final 53.
These players from the start were really in no danger to get released. While they may not have all been 100%, they were in the upper part of the 90th-percentile, and thus were more at risk to be injured than cut by the Falcons.
Among them are a few rookies, who weren’t in danger of getting released one bit such as their top four picks this past April. Their play in training camp and the preseason was to determine how much they’d play when the regular season begins, not whether the Falcons would carry them on the roster.
Quarterback: Matt Ryan
Running Backs: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling
Wide Receivers: Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas
Tight Ends: Tony Gonzalez, Levine Toilolo
Offensive Line: Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Peter Konz, Lamar Holmes, Garrett Reynolds, Joe Hawley
Defensive Ends: Kroy Biermann, Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Massaquoi, Malliciah Goodman
Defensive Tackles: Corey Peters, Jonathan Babineaux, Travian Robertson
Linebackers: Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent
Cornerbacks: Asante Samuel, Robert McClain, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford
Safeties: Thomas DeCoud, William Moore
Special Teams: Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Josh Harris
There’s a few players in this group that I’ve seen in other places being listed as potential cuts. But I disagree with those assessments and feel that they were never really in any danger from the jump.
Do I really have to explain why any of the names appear on this list? If you don’t think Toilolo and Goodman belong on this list, then you don’t know Thomas Dimitroff. The Falcons have traditionally targeted future starters in the fourth round of their drafts under Dimitroff, and aren’t going to cut bait with someone like that after one summer even if they have a disappointing summer (which has arguably been the case with Toilolo).
Players that are probably going to make the team, but aren’t locked in to making it. These players largely had to prove themselves this summer to determine if they made, and nearly all of them have. But for most of these players, namely unestablished former draft picks, the Falcons have a vested interest in keeping these guys. Many of these players opened camp as likely to make it, while others were able to play well enough to prove themselves worthy of this group.
There’s certainly a chance that when the final cuts are made, that one or two names from this group appear on it, but it would be a very big surprise if you ask me if any of these players get cut. For the finale against Jacksonville, most of these players have to mainly concentrate on making it through the game healthy, as they won’t be truly be fighting for their NFL futures.
Quarterbacks: Dominique Davis, Sean Renfree
Running Back: Bradie Ewing
Wide Receiver: Drew Davis
Tight End: Chase Coffman
Offensive Line: Ryan Schraeder
Defensive End: Cliff Matthews
Linebackers: Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu
To be honest, nearly everybody on this list I would say probably has over a 90% chance of sticking on the roster, barring injuries. The only players that I wouldn’t quite qualify in that way is Matthews, but I believe his chances of making the roster is north of 80%, so it’s not a large drop-off. Most notable of this list are undrafted rookies Schraeder, Worrilow, and Bartu who have turned in strong summers to raise their stock from uncertainty in early May to near locks by the end of August.
On the Bubble
These players at this point probably are about 50/50 in terms of their chances of making the roster. If any are cut, it should not shock anybody. A few veteran names appear among this group, as well as a few draft picks. For many, this Jacksonville game is their last hurrah to prove that they are deserving. Each has a legit shot at making the final roster, but either need a strong performance (or a poor one from their peers) to solidify that spot.
Running Backs: Antone Smith, Josh Vaughan, Ronnie Wingo
Wide Receivers: Darius Johnson, Kevin Cone
Offensive Line: Phillipkeith Manley, Harland Gunn, Jacques McClendon, Alec Savoie
Defensive End: Stansly Maponga
Defensive Tackles: Peria Jerry, Adam Replogle
Linebackers: Stephen Nicholas, Robert James
Cornerback: Dominique Franks
Safeties: Charles Mitchell, Shann Schillinger, Zeke Motta, Kemal Ishmael
The biggest names on this list are Stephen Nicholas and Peria Jerry. And while I do believe both are more likely to get kept than cut, I do think their odds are closer to 50% than they are to 90%. Both players, alongside Antone Smith hold the distinction of being significantly overpriced relative to their position groups. Meaning the Falcons could potentially create value due to the drop-off in ability of their potential replacements is dwarfed by the drop-off in price. Rookies like Maponga, Motta, and Ishmael all appear on this list simply because they may be caught in a numbers game and may have to spend at least the early part of their rookie seasons on the practice squad.
Former draft picks like James, Franks, Mitchell, and Schillinger are on the bubble. It could really go either way with all four guys. What might help them is that all four are ineligible for the practice squad, while other players they are competing with are not. That is particularly the case for the safeties Schillinger and Mitchell, thus the Falcons may opt to keep the veteran on the roster and start the season with the young guy on the practice squad.
Several of these players, such as Wingo, Darius Johnson, Replogle, and each offensive linemen are likely front-runners to be on the practice squad if they don’t make the final squad.
Outside Looking In
It seems highly doubtful that any of the following group members will appear on the final roster. Frankly, unless these players have a dynamite performance against Jacksonville and/or get a little help from a player higher on the depth chart going down with an injury, they will likely appear on the Falcons final cut list this weekend.
However many of these players have performed well enough to be brought back on the practice squad, so their NFL futures aren’t over. They just probably won’t be appearing on the 53-man active roster on September 8.
Running Back: Patrick DiMarco
Wide Receivers: Martel Moore, James Rodgers
Offensive Line: Terren Jones, Theo Goins
Defensive Tackle: Neal Huynh
Linebackers: Pat Schiller, Brian Banks
Cornerbacks: Peyton Thompson, Terrence Johnson, Jordan Mabin
Special Teams: Jeremy Shelley
Among this group, Schiller, Banks, and Johnson were three players that I originally predicted to make the team. But barring a stellar performance against Jacksonville tomorrow night, it seems like those predictions will go by the wayside. I still believe the odds favor both Schiller and Banks that they may end up on the practice squad, but that remains to be seen.
Shelley is probably the player that had the best summer, but was always in a no-win situation with the reliable Matt Bryant ahead of him. Basically, his only chance is hoping that Bryant’s back injury puts the veteran in jeopardy to play in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints. But that appears doubtful given the latest reports.