Trying to project any roster at this point is always going to be tough. Draft picks have yet to make an impact and there are free agency signings still to make. Fortunately at this point the Atlanta Falcons roster is quite slim and the options at some positions are extremely self-explanatory. For example, prior to undrafted free agency the Falcons only have three middle linebackers on their roster. This is by no mean a projection of the final 53-man roster but if the season started tomorrow here is who I think makes it.
Quarterback: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
The Falcons only carried two quarterbacks last season and I do not see that changing in 2018. Currently I do not see either Grayson or Benkert displacing Schaub as the backup to Ryan.
Running Back: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith, Terron Ward
Freeman and Coleman are the obvious pair and Smith is lined up as a possible Coleman replacement. Ward was a restricted free agent this offseason but has not been offered a tender by anyone else. Ward was good enough last season to deserve the fourth spot on the roster. However, Terrence Magee, Malik Williams and Demario Richard could take that spot with a good camp.
Fullback: Derrick Coleman
Nothing significant to say here apart from he is the incumbent. They have two UDFA fullbacks coming to rookie mini-camp who could easily step up and take the place.
Wide Receiver: Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Justin Hardy, Nick Williams, Russell Gage
Hardy will at least start the year as the number four receiver and the return man for the Falcons. Williams was the fifth receiver last year and another RFA who will return. He is another guy who could be replaced on the roster by any of the other guys in camp. Gage may make the roster as a special team’s contributor and could earn himself snaps at receiver.
Tight End: Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen, Eric Saubert
Paulsen was signed to be the number two to Hooper and should be safely on the roster. The question mark is between Saubert and rugby convert Alex Gray. Gray was signed to a full contract this offseason but I think he might start 2018 on the practice squad. If Gray does have a good camp we could see him knock Saubert off the roster.
Tackle: Jake Matthews, Ryan Schraeder, Ty Sambrailo, Austin Pasztor
Matthews and Schraeder look likely to be the starting tackles with Sambrailo and Pasztor the backups once again. Daniel Brunskill is the only other tackle currently on the roster but it is a big ask for him to replace one of these four. Both Sambrailo and Pasztor can also double as cover at the guard positions which will help their case.
Guard: Andy Levitre, Brandon Fusco, Ben Garland, Wes Schweitzer
Levitre and the recently signed Fusco will start. Garland is the primary backup at both guard and centre with Schweitzer in the mix with Sambrailo and Pasztor. Schweitzer is most at risk as he is the only backup who only really covers one position.
Centre: Alex Mack
Mack will be the definite starter with Garland ready to step in if needs be.
Defensive Tackle: Grady Jarrett, Jack Crawford, Deadrin Senat, Joey Ivie
This is a position I most see the Falcons adding veteran competition. However, I think it is odds on that Jarrett, Crawford and Senat make the roster. The only real question is will they go a fourth defensive tackle or a fifth defensive end.
Defensive End: Vic Beasley, Brooks Reed, Takkarist McKinley, Anthony Winbush
The first three are a lock to make the roster but Winbush might have to compete with others that come in. Currently his competition is Jacob Tuioti-Mariner out of UCLA but I would think the Falcons also look elsewhere.
Linebacker: Deion Jones, Duke Riley, De’Vondre Campbell, J.T. Jones, LaRoy Reynolds, Emmanuel Ellerbee
The top three are locks but the next three will likely have to compete with anyone else that comes in. The starting spots are pretty locked up but there is a lot to play for among the backups.
Cornerback: Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Isaiah Oliver, Brian Poole, Justin Bethel, Leon McFadden
This time I would say it is the top four who are locked in. Bethel and McFadden are probably the best of the rest but they are going to have to compete with others in camp. Other names on the roster right now include Bidi Wreh-Wilson, Marcelis Branch and Chris Lammons.
Safety: Keanu Neal, Riccardo Allen, Damontae Kazee, Quincy Mauger, Foyesade Oluokun
I feel confident that the first four are on the opening day roster. The Falcons drafted Oluokun in the sixth round and right now he is my favorite to take the fifth safety spot. Many people think he could play some linebacker if required and that might be enough to make him the 53rd man on the roster.
Kicker: Matt Bryant
Punter: Matt Bosher
Long Snapper: Josh Harris
Not much to see here. Bryant and Bosher would have to crumble to lose their jobs and Harris should be fine. A long snapper can never feel completely safe but Harris has been the man in Atlanta for a while now.
So there we have the early Atlanta Falcons 53-man roster projection. At this stage I feel confident in around 40 of them definitely being on the roster. Probably another five or six are virtually there with the rest having a battle in camp to win those spots. As the season draws closer I will be updating this list and commenting on any significant changes.