Atlanta Falcons: Is Wide Receiver a Priority This Offseason?

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Wide receiver Dante Pettis (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Wide receiver Dante Pettis (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

With three receivers set to hit free agency and Atlanta leading the league in drops, should the Atlanta Falcons be targeting a receiver this offseason?

A year ago, the Atlanta Falcon’s receiving core was arguably their best position unit.

However, after the 2017 season there are plenty of reasons to question Atlanta’s current wide receivers.

First, and the most obvious, the Atlanta Falcons led the league in dropped passes with 30. Surprisingly, the great Julio Jones had the second most drops in the NFL with seven. Mohamed Sanu wasn’t far behind with six, ranking ninth in the NFL.

More from Blogging Dirty

The two combined for just four drops in 2016.

Overall, Atlanta tripled their drops from 2016 (10), going from third-fewest in the league to the most. This is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed in the offseason.

Also, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel is hitting free agency this offseason. The speedster showed he can be a valuable piece in 2016 with 16.5 yards/reception and seven touchdowns, but took a step back this year.

Atlanta offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s screens for Gabriel were routinely blown up, and he struggled to find his place in the offense.

This season, Gabriel regressed in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns.

Although Gabriel has elite speed, he might not be worth bringing back next year depending on how much money he wants. If Atlanta decides to let him walk, expect the front office to make a move, either in free agency or in the draft.

Along with Gabriel, receivers Nick Williams and Andre Roberts are also set to be free agents this offseason. Atlanta will more than likely bring in a veteran to fill the bottom of the depth chart if they choose not to resign Roberts or Williams.

Finally, the overall regression of the offense calls for considering an upgrade or two on that side of the ball.

Sarkisian has taken most of the blame for the offense falling from first to 15th in scoring, but it doesn’t all fall on him. Transitioning from offensive coordinators almost certainly contributed to this, along with Wes Schweitzer getting thrust into a starting role. But, thirty dropped passes doesn’t help, either.

With several young, emerging pieces on the improving defense, Atlanta can afford to focus on improving talent on the offense this offseason if they want.

Defensive tackle and a third cornerback are also needs, but the Falcons could choose to upgrade their receiving core.

Free Agency

If Atlanta chooses to upgrade through free agency, there is a lot of talent on the market.

Jarvis Landry is an intriguing option, as he’s just 25 and could be an immediate improvement as a slot receiver. However, the price tag on Landry might be too high.

John Brown, Allen Robinson, Jordan Matthews all display talent, but have been slowed by injuries.

Josh Gordon is another flashy free agent, but has serious off the field concerns. Signing a receiver like this carries high risk/reward, a route that I don’t expect the front office to go.

Don’t expect a big free agent splash signing, as I anticipate the front office to target a receiver in the draft. They could bring in a veteran if they don’t resign either Williams or Roberts to fill the depth chart, though.

The Draft

The 2018 NFL Draft has plenty of receiver talent if Atlanta chooses to go that route. Don’t expect the front office to use a first round pick on a receiver, but selecting one in rounds 3-4 is a real possibility.

Dante Pettis is currently projected to go in the middle rounds and could fill a couple roles for Atlanta.

Not only could he play the slot, but Pettis could also fill the void of a dynamic kick returner that the Falcons have been missing. Pettis returned a Pac-12 record 9 punts for touchdowns, and could be Andre Roberts’ replacement.

If Thomas Dimitroff is looking for a big, red zone target then Allen Lazard is a guy to keep your eyes on. At 6’5”, 222 pounds, Lazard could help cure Atlanta’s red zone woes and take some attention off of Julio Jones.

Lazard caught 26 touchdowns in his four years at Iowa State, including 17 in the past two years. High-pointing the football is something Lazard accels at, as seen here at this Senior Bowl practice:

James Washington, Anthony Miller, and Keke Coutee are a few other names to keep your eyes on.

Next: Atlanta Falcons: Should they kick the tires on Aqib Talib?

Whichever route the front office decides to go, upgrading at receiver is something that needs to be considered. If Taylor Gabriel signs elsewhere, expect Atlanta to target a number three receiver in the offseason.