Three summers ago, I made predictions about what the Atlanta Falcons roster might look like in 2015. Recently, I revisited those predictions to discover just how oddly accurate and wildly inaccurate they were in most cases.
But in so doing, it got the creative juices flowing once more to try and do it again, this time predicting what the Falcons roster might look like three years from now in 2018. As I did then, I will break down each position group with the goal of examining a pathway that the Falcons roster could go down.
Desmond Trufant earns a lucrative long-term deal in the summer of 2017, making him one of the league’s highest-paid cornerbacks. He’s certainly earned every penny with his high level of play by the time we reach 2018, coming off his third consecutive Pro Bowl season.
Across from him is former 2015 second-round pick Jalen Collins, who spent two years as the understudy to both Trufant and Robert Alford before taking over for the latter in 2017. Given the investment the team made in Trufant, the Falcons simply can’t justify the expense of paying Alford a market value contract when he becomes a free agent in 2017. Alford eventually winds up being the No. 1 corner for an undisclosed NFC East team.
But Collins’ quality play starting in 2017 prevents the Falcon from regretting Alford’s loss. The inexperienced LSU alum definitely needed the two years working as the nickel cornerback before he was ready for the starting lineup, but makes the most of his newfound starting opportunity with the Falcons leading into 2018.
Collins and Trufant are on the short list of the best pair of starting corners in the league along with the pairs in Cleveland, Minnesota and Houston, among others.
Serving at nickel cornerback has been former 2015 undrafted corner Kevin White, who carves out a nice role over the years playing in the slot. White spent his first two years in Atlanta as the fourth option behind Trufant, Collins and Alford, but upon the latter’s departure in 2017 was promoted to the nickel spot and fared well.
But White will be pushed in 2018 by the second-year corner out of Iowa in Greg Mabin, another oversized guy that should do well in press coverage favored by head coach Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme. Mabin is more of an outside guy taken in the fifth round of the 2017 draft and the team hopes that he’ll show growth in his second season to push White for the third corner spot. If he does win the competition, the Falcons have no problem asking Trufant to man the slot in nickel situations. Trufant has proven over the ensuing years that he’s more than capable of doing so, something that has helped his cause in the frequent Twitter arguments over who is the best corner in the NFL.
Also adding depth is the versatile Antonio Allen, who the Falcons scoop up in free agency in 2016 as a replacement for veteran Phillip Adams. While Allen had a rocky stint with the New York Jets in 2014 and 2015, Quinn like his size, physicality and ball skills to make him into a full-time corner in Atlanta. Allen also adds value due to his ability to play safety in a pinch, making him a valuable depth option. Allen essentially fills the role that the team at one point envisioned for Dezmen Southward and Akeem King, but is simply better. Neither of the latter two players manage to stick on the roster beyond 2016.