The Atlanta Falcons have been busy this offseason after bringing in new head coach Arthur Smith. A new era has begun in Atlanta after the front office traded Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans. After the trade, the Falcons now have enough money to pay their rookies and are in better shape financially.
The roster is still stacked with offensive talent though, as Matt Ryan leads the way with Calvin Ridley and newly acquired tight end Kyle Pitts. Who knows how good this team will be next season, as the front office brought in eight rookies through the NFL Draft and 20 more as undrafted free agents. The roster is young and there will surely be plenty of position battles throughout training camp.
There will be a ton of opportunities for these rookies to shine, but only a handful of them have the potential to become major contributors early on. For Atlanta, two of them are on the offensive side of the ball and could make an impact almost immediately. With that said, here are two hidden gems on the Falcons roster.
Drafted in the sixth round of the NFL Draft, Frank Darby joins the Falcons receiving core with a ton of potential. Darby played four years at Arizona State where he finished with a total of 1,317 yards and 13 touchdowns. Not the most impressive stat line, but he did earn his way into more playing time as the years progressed.
That is exactly what Darby hopes to do in the NFL. He may not start right away, but after the Julio Jones trade, the receiving room has become a tad shaky. It’s unclear whether or not Russell Gage can be a viable second option, while Olamide Zaccheaus is still considered a prospect. The door is open for someone to emerge, and Darby could become that guy.
Pay attention to the Falcons’ coaching staff throughout training camp. If they’re impressed with Darby early on and he remains consistent throughout, he could carve out a role in the Falcons offense.
The Louisville prospect surprisingly went undrafted but finds himself in a favorable situation in Atlanta. He played three years in college, totaling 2,355 yards and 16 touchdowns. His 5.9 yards per carry average is what stands out the most, as he was efficient with his opportunities.
Atlanta has a new running back group and didn’t acquire a rookie with an early pick like they were expected. Mike Davis leads the way as the starting running back after having a decent year filling in for Christian McCaffrey last year. It’s unknown whether or not he can be a workhorse in the NFL and the Falcons are likely to utilize a committee.
That gives Hawkins a real opportunity to see playing time right away, but he’ll have to earn that role through training camp. He’ll have to beat out Qadree Ollison and Cordarrelle Patterson for a contributing roster spot. Hawkins is the most exciting option out of three, as he’s a prospect who has the potential to become a starter one day.