Atlanta Falcons five breakout players of 2015 – #3


Today, we continue the final few additions of “Falcons 50”, continuing with our look at the five potential breakout players for the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. Who’s at three?

You can find the full list of “Falcons 50″ posts here.

The “Falcons 50” countdown has entered it’s final stretch. We are counting down the Atlanta Falcons’ top five potential breakout players for this season, which is fitting as we enter the final few days of the offseason. Who is at No. 3?

No. 3 – Leonard Hankerson

The Atlanta Falcons needed to improve their wide receiver depth over the summer. They didn’t stay complacent and grabbed a player that was making too much sense for the team.

Leonard Hankerson, a four-year veteran from the Washington Redskins, landed in Atlanta during the offseason as a free agent. For whatever reason, he never got the chance to show his talents in the nation’s capital. He should be considered nonetheless as a useful and potentially dangerous weapon.

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Unfortunately, he barely hit the field last year after missing the first nine games due to an ACL tear. He was recovering from the knee injury he suffered during Week 11 of 2013. Hankerson however displayed good receiving abilities before these issues. His best year came during the 2012 season, catching 38 receptions for 543 yards and three touchdowns.

Hankerson needed a change of scenery and Flowery Branch happened to be the best place. The Miami (FL) alumni rejoins with Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, his former offensive coordinator, hired by the Falcons during this offseason. They both know each other pretty well. Good news for Hankerson, Shanahan implemented the same concepts he was using during their time in Washington. He is going to feel like a fish in water in this new offense.

The receiver really impressed the staff and the media during training camp. He consistently stood out during summer practices, making great catches and displaying his prototypical speed. He earned the No. 3 receiver spot behind Julio Jones and Roddy White. With both of them being injury-prone in recent years, Hankerson is in a crucial position if one goes down at some point of the season.

The presence of Jones in the Falcons receiving corps will also help a lot. Hankerson has never had a dominant player worth of the top-5 at the position besides him. Jones is going to free up a lot of space for his teammates by dragging defensive backs with him. Hankerson is going to take advantage of it.

Finally, there is a huge difference that will likely pay (big) dividends for the veteran receiver. Matt Ryan is now his quarterback. He is considered as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He is also a clear upgrade over Washington’s quarterbacks Hankerson played with – Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins or Rex Grossman.

All these upgrades, in comparison to Washington, provide a favorable situation for Leonard Hankerson to succeed. The 2015 season could definitely be his year due to the improvement around him. If he is able to stay healthy, the former Redskin could surprise a lot of fans.

Next: Ten things Falcons need to do to beat Eagles