Atlanta Falcons: Leonard Hankerson is the new X-Factor


When the Atlanta Falcons take the field this preseason, all eyes are going to be on the rookies as they try to adapt to the NFL. As alluring as that is, there is another player that should draw everyone’s attention.

Leonard Hankerson will never be mentioned in the same breath as Jerry Rice, Calvin Johnson, or A.J. Green, but the veteran wideout brings a proven career into the fold of the Atlanta offense, and honestly could become one of the greatest signings of Thomas Dimitroff’s career.

As reported last week, Roddy White has already been subject to the poisonous tentacles of age that wrap athletes, like Roddy, in the back half of their career. And as his health continues to become more and more a concern, the “next man up” mentality will be found in the extremely large hands of Hankerson.

Drafted by the Redskins in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Washington found a decent secondary receiver that was attempting to catch balls thrown by a laundry list of quarterbacks who have yet to prove anything on the NFL stage.

Yes, even Robert Griffin is in that group as he attempts to show he wasn’t a waste of another pick from the Dan Snyder era.

Aug 1, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Leonard Hankerson (85) protects the ball from cornerback Ricardo Allen (37) on the field during training camp at the Flowery Branch Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

As questionable and inconsistent as the quarterback play was in Washington, Hankerson still put up semi-decent numbers that should only be replicated or surpassed when you place him within an offense led by a legitimate top 10 quarterback of the NFL.

Running a 4.4 forty will give him enough speed to make the cuts in the flats left open by the defense placing full attention on Julio Jones, even if White is on the field.

Nov 7, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Leonard Hankerson (85) against the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Redskins 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

With Hankerson, he is not the typical slot receiver that is found in the NFL, and he has made his career being on the outside and stretching the field; therefore at first, the growing pains of a new position may present some issues for the Miami product.

But if a player can play, all that needs to be done is putting the ball in his hands, and allowing the athletes instincts and talents to take over.

Hankerson may not be on the field in every three wide receiver set as Justin Hardy is nipping on the heels for playing time, but it is safe to say that he will have the chance to shine during preseason. The battle for the number three receiver spot will go to the wire, but Hankerson’s experience could give him the edge.

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There is concern with injury to any of the playmakers as it could very easily derail the momentum Atlanta may have.

The acquisition of Hankerson will definitely become a band aid if something were to happen to Jones or White, but there is great potential here to be more than just a temporary solution on offense.

Hankerson has the tools to become a valuable commodity whether in the slot or on the outside, and there is much to hope for as another option will be found.

Hankerson is in a perfect opportunity to awaken the world of NFL fans who forgot about him as he was surviving in the cesspool of the Washington Redskins. And now that he is ready to go, this player has the chance to light the world on fire.

As we enter preseason, draw eyes to the remade wide receiving corps, and watch it become a feared force in the NFL.

Next: NFL Power Rankings: Full 32-1 preseason standings