The Atlanta Falcons enter the 2021 NFL season on the precipice of big changes. If the team doesn’t perform this season, then it would make sense for the Falcons to go into full teardown and rebuild mode next year.
A lot of Atlanta’s future rests on their veteran quarterback Matt Ryan and whether he can rediscover his MVP level form at this stage in his career. New head coach Arthur Smith has his work cut out for him in his first year.
After going 4-12 last season, it's a make-or-break for this Falcons roster, and if they can’t challenge for a playoff berth, expect big changes next offseason.
Let’s take a look at the Falcons roster for the 2021 NFL season.
Atlanta Falcons Depth Chart
Quarterback: Matt Ryan, AJ McCarron, Feleipe Franks
Running Back: Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Qadree Ollison, Tony Brooks-James, Javian Hawkins, Caleb Huntley
Fullback: Keith Smith, John Raine
Wide Receiver: Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Christian Blake, Chris Rowland, Greg Dortch, Frank Darby, Juwan Green, Antonio Nunn, Austin Trammell
Tight End: Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, Lee Smith, Jaeden Graham, Ryan Becker, Parker Heese
Offensive Tackle: Jake Matthews, Kaleb McGary, Matt Gono, Jalen Mayfield, Jack Batho, Kion Smith
Offensive Guard: Chris Lindstrom, Willie Beavers, Bryce Hargrove, Joe Sculthorpe, Ryan Neuzil
Center: Matt Hennessy, Willie Wright, Drew Dalman, Sam Jones
Interior Defensive Line: Grady Jarrett, Tyeler Davison, John Cominsky, Marlon Davidson, Deadrin Senat, Chris Slayton, Jonathan Bullard
Edge: Dante Fowler Jr., Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Barkevious Mingo, Alani Pututau, Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Kobe Jones, Steven Means, Zac Dawe, Eli Howard, Ta’Quon Graham
Linebacker: Deion Jones, Foyesade Oluokun, Mykal Walker, Brandon Copeland, Erroll Thompson, Dorian Etheridge
Cornerback: A.J. Terrell, Kendall Sheffield, Fabian Moreau, Isaiah Oliver, Delrick Abrams, Tyler Hall, Chris Williamson, Avery Williams, Darren Hall
Safety: Jaylinn Hawkins, Erik Harris, T.J. Green, JR Pace, Duron Harmon, Richie Grant, Dwayne Johnson Jr., Marcus Murphy
Kicker: Younghoe Koo
Punter: Sterling Hofrichter, Dom Maggio
Long Snapper: Josh Harris
Atlanta Falcons Depth Chart analysis - Offense
Quarterback: Matt Ryan had impressive statistics last season, despite the Atlanta Falcons' poor 4-12 record. Ryan threw for 4,591 yards and 26 touchdowns while setting a career-high for completions.
Because of his massive salary over the upcoming few years, it's unlikely Ryan will be on the Falcons roster next season.
NFL veteran QB AJ McCarron will back up Matty Ice this season. He has barely featured on the gridiron over the past couple of seasons.
Running Back: The Atlanta Falcons said goodbye to Todd Gurley after only one season. They signed former Panthers running back Mike Davis to carry the load for the team this year.
Davis was one of the top free-agent running backs available after he performed well in relief of the injured Christian McCaffrey last season. He ran for 642 yards and six touchdowns in 2020.
He will be backed up by the explosive Ito Smith and the versatile Cordarrelle Patterson. Last year for Chicago, Patterson recorded 232 yards and one TD while adding another 132 yards on 21 receptions.
Wide Receiver: The departure of Julio Jones offers more opportunities for the Atlanta Falcons' wide receiving core. Calvin Ridley had 90 receptions for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns. He is more than capable of taking over Jones’ role as the leader of the Falcons offense.
Russell Gage had his best year yet in the league. Gage registered 786 yards and four touchdowns. He is expected to step up again after Jones was traded away this offseason.
Olamide Zaccheaus will be the third starting WR after recording 274 yards and one touchdown in 2020.
Tight End: The Atlanta Falcons selected Kyle Pitts with the fourth pick overall in this year’s NFL Draft. The rookie is set to have a big debut season. Pitts joins Ridley to create a formidable receiving duo in 2021.
Hayden Hurst will be the backup for Pitts and should see a lot of action this season. Hurst caught 56 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns in 2020.
Offensive Line: Jake Matthews and Kalen McGary will be the starting tackles entering the upcoming season. Matt Hennessy replaces longtime Atlanta Falcons center Alex Mack, while Chris Lindstrom should start at offensive guard.
Also Check Out: 2021 NFL Depth Chart for all 32 teams
Atlanta Falcons Depth Chart analysis - Defense
Interior Defensive Line: DT Grady Jarrett is the anchor of the Atlanta Falcons' interior defense. He’s recorded 300 tackles, 17.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and 53 quarterback hits over the past three seasons.
Jarrett will be backed up by Tyeler Davidson. The interior lineman has registered 91 tackles, 1.5 sacks, four QB hits, and six tackles for a loss.
Edge: Dante Fowler Jr. had a disappointing season in 2020. He registered just 23 tackles, eight QB hits, and only three sacks. The Atlanta Falcons will be hoping for a bounce-back campaign in 2021.
Jacob Tuioti-Mariner will again start opposite Fowler on the defensive line. He produced 31 tackles, five QB hits, three fumble recoveries, and one sack. The team drafted Notre Dame edge rusher Adetokunbo Ogundeji in the fifth round to provide much-needed depth.
Linebacker: Deion Jones will lead the Atlanta Falcons' linebacker core. He finished 2020 second on the team in tackles with 106. Jones recorded a career-high 4.5 in sacks and intercepted 2 passes last season.
Foyesade Oluokun led the team in tackles in 2020. Oluokun had three sacks, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and two interceptions. Second-year linebacker Mykal Walker will provide solid backup.
Cornerback: In his rookie season, A.J. Terrell showed he can be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He had 74 tackles, three forced fumbles, and seven passes defended for the Atlanta Falcons in 2020.
Fellow starting CB Kendall Sheffield struggled last season. He has yet to record an interception in his NFL career and allowed a 73.6% completion percentage when targeted by quarterbacks.
Isaiah Oliver will be the slot corner, he had six passes defensed with 70 tackles and 4 tackles for a loss.
Safety: The Atlanta Falcons enter the upcoming NFL season with a very inexperienced safety group.
Former Raiders safety Erik Harris was acquired in free agency. He recorded 61 tackles, one forced fumble, and five passes defensed.
He will be joined by fellow new signing Duron Harmon. The former Patriots and Lions safety will likely start alongside Harris.
Younghoe Soo returns as the Atlanta Falcons kicker for 2021. He had an impressive field goal percentage of 94.9% last season.