Each year, the draft is an opportunity for all 32 teams to get better. While most in the organisations and their fans exit the weekend full of optimism over the future, not everyone is happy – those being the veterans already on the roster whose place on the team is now in danger. Here’s a few Falcons players who have been put on notice following their team’s choices:
Tyler Starr, or Sean Weatherspoon, Linebackers
Though he has fantastic physical traits and upside, fourth round pick De’Vondre Campbell from Minnesota is a major project who will likely be used mostly on special teams for his first year with the team. But given the second round investment in their other linebacker selection in the draft, Deion Jones, he surely will be expected to contribute significantly and early. The linebacker group was clearly one of the areas entering this off-season that needed upgrades, in particular with someone who could provide a bit more energy and speed while offering a bigger contribution to coverage in the pass game and playing in space. Jones is small, but those are the areas he excels at, and if he meets expectations will have a big role to play year one. That could have consequences for others. Starr was one of the stars of the Falcons’ turn on Hard Knocks as he battled for a spot on the roster his rookie season. In two years with Atlanta, he’s only managed to register one tackle on defense, and his opportunity to get a third go round with the team appears slim. His chances might be helped though by the fact that he’s a cheap option. Former first round pick Weatherspoon returned to his first home this free agency, but has struggled with injury, something which could result in being the odd man out despite the recent re-signing. He’s on a one-year deal that wouldn’t be a big cost financially if he were to be let go.
Devin Hester, Wide Receiver/Kick Returner
As great as his career has been, Hester is not guaranteed to make this team, and his competition could come in the form of another Devin picked up in the draft. Seventh rounder Devin Fuller from UCLA has to fight hard for his own place on the roster, but offers a younger, healthier and cheaper option with more years ahead of him than the veteran incumbent. Fuller is a fairly slightly built possession receiver when contributing on offense, but probably doesn’t see many snaps there this year. Where he has a chance is in making the most of his impressive quickness and athleticism as a returner where he flashed at times in college including a 194 combined return yards in a game versus BYU this past season. Hester has excited us all down the years as one of the best special teams players of all time, but what’s important to the Falcons’ decision makers is what can he do right now, and he is potentially going to be challenged this pre-season.
Charles Godfrey, Safety
Atlanta has found some talented youngsters at safety recently who have earned not just their spots on the roster but significant roles. Ricardo Allen (5th round pick in 2014) being the standout, but Kemal Ishmael (7th round in 2013) and Robenson Therezie (undrafted in 2015) have impressed too as late round or undrafted finds. Now with the use of their top pick this time around in ex-Florida Gator Keanu Neal, the team could be set at the safety position for a while, and nine-year veteran Charles Godfrey might be a senior player who misses out in the final cuts. In his one-and-a-half seasons since joining from division rivals the Carolina Panthers, he’s only been able to contribute in 13 games, and has been released by the team before, only to be re-signed later. He inked a new deal in March, but it may not be for long.