Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is not getting any younger. The same can be said about the team’s best offensive player, Julio Jones. Ryan, 35, and Jones, 31, have been together for almost nine years, and in that time have led the team to a Super Bowl 51 appearance as well two NFC championship game appearances. Can the duo get back to the big game before they walk off into the sunset, let’s find out.
3 position battles to watch:
RB2: Ito Smith, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison
Gone is Devonta Freeman, and in his place, the Falcons signed Todd Gurley, who is entrenched in the RB1 spot. Behind Gurley stands a group of mostly untested young backs. Smith has seen the most action of the group, picking up 112 carries the past two seasons, while Hill is right behind him with 109 carries the past three seasons. Whoever wins the battle, the Falcons will need to be able to slot in for Gurley in case he gets injured again.
Left Guard: James Carpenter, Matt Hennessy
Carpenter was the teams starter last season, but for the past two seasons, he’s been plagued by injuries, missing 11 games. Although Hennessy is a rookie, and originally a center, the Falcons might look to use their third-round pick from this years draft at one of their biggest positions of need.
CB 1: Isaiah Oliver, A.J. Terrell, Kendall Sheffield
While Oliver was a second-round draft pick by the Falcons in 2018, Terrell was the team’s first round pick in this years draft. With Desmond Trufant no longer with the team, look for one of these three former draft picks to step up and grab a starting cornerback spot.
Ready to Breakout: Hayden Hurst
Heading into the 2018 NFL draft, Hurst was the top tight end prospect, which is why the Baltimore Ravens selected him 25th overall. At the time of the draft, Hurst was already 24-years-old, a few years older than the average rookie TE. After Austin Hooper departed via free agency, the Falcons traded for Hurst and a fourth-round pick in exchange for a second and fifth-round pick. Slotting into an offense that already has weapons in Jones, Gurley, and Calvin Ridley, defenses will pay little to no attention to Hurst, allowing Ryan to find him wide open, occasionally.
Rookie to Watch: A.J. Terrell
Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is very high on the former first-round pick, Terrell.
“I think A.J.’s attention to detail, his ability to listen and retain information and being able to spit it back out to coaches is what impresses us probably the most already.”
The Falcons hope/need Terrell to make a big impact, early on.
Fantasy Sleeper: Hayden Hurst
The starting tight end job is Hurst’s job to lose. All the weapons around him, he will be able to slip past opposing teams’ radars and score. He’s not going to be a number one tight end on fantasy but give him a look for the second tight end/flex slots.