Who will the 53rd man be?
The Falcons cut down to the league maximum for their active roster and then some this past Saturday. They now have 52 players on their active roster. They can have 53, but have yet to fill that final spot.
One rumor is they’re waiting until after their Week One tilt with the Philadelphia Eagles to see what veteran players might still get let go as the rest of the league settles on their final rosters and practice squads. Another rumor is that current practice squad member Jeff Overbaugh will be promoted to the active roster due to a hip injury to normal long snapper Josh Harris.
Even if the second rumor is true, that’s only a short-term fix. Once Harris is healthy again, Overbaugh will either be demoted back to the practice squad or cut outright, leaving that 53rd spot open again. So, who might the Falcons look to as a long-term answer (or, at least a season-long term)? The following list is pure speculation and/or wish-listing, but let’s look at some options…
Johnathan Hankins defensive tackle – it blows my mind that Hankins is still out there. He’s either asking for too much money and/or decided he didn’t want to go through the rigors of a training camp, which probably turned off a lot of coaches. I would imagine that would turn off Dan Quinn. You either go through what the rest of the Brotherhood goes through with the Brotherhood, or you’re not part of the Brotherhood. Still, he’s talented, young, and bring a size element the Falcon defensive line currently doesn’t have.
Daeshon Hall defensive end – Hall is a nice-sized edge rusher drafted in the third round by Carolina in 2017. He could have gone in the second round and nobody would have raised an eyebrow. The raw talent is there, but he was on injured reserve last year. You could do worse for a developmental prospect as an heir to Brooks Reed unless the injury is worse than I know about.
Hroniss Grasu center – a third-rounder from 2015 with the Bears, he still needs to get bigger and stronger. However, the athleticism and smarts are there for him to be a good fit in a zone-blocking scheme. He could be worth working with to perhaps be Alex Mack’s replacement down the road.
Spencer Drango offensive tackle/offensive guard – Drango was drafted in the fifth round in 2016 by the Browns. He was tried at left tackle at first and it didn’t work out, so he was moved inside, where he was a decent backup. He’s big and strong and has a good work ethic, but he doesn’t have the arm length or athleticism to be a tackle in the pros. With Sean Harlow not panning out for the Falcons and Ben Garland potentially leaving via free agency after this year, Drango could be a good long-term option for guard depth.
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Nate Orchard edge rusher – another former Brown, Orchard was selected in the second round in 2015 (51st overall). He struggled to crack the starting lineup in Cleveland, adjusting to the NFL game as a rookie, missing most of 2016 with an injury, and then being stuck behind No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah last year. He’s not a great pure athlete, but he has long arms and tries hard and offers similar value to Hall above.
Jihad Ward defensive lineman – Ward was chosen in the second round by the Raiders in 2016 and then traded to the Cowboys this past offseason. While he couldn’t make the grade in Dallas, he offers intriguing upside as a Jack Crawford / Derrick Shelby-type player. At 6′ 5″ and 295 pounds he can be a base end on run downs and an interior rusher on passing downs. He’s raw and not terribly instinctive, but he’s young enough to take a chance on if the light comes on.
Aaron Ripkowski fullback – Falcons fans know “Rip” best for the fumble in 2017 NFC Championship game, but the truth is he’s one of the best at his position in the league right now. He’s on the street because most teams don’t value that position very highly. Fullback does not play a large role in Steve Sarkisian’s offense, but if the Falcons could get a player at that position of Ripkowski’s caliber at a price acceptable to them, why not sign him? He’s also a good special teamer.
Jay Prosch fullback – Prosch is basically a poor man’s Ripkowski.
T. J. Green safety – Green was taken by the Colts in the second round of the 2016 draft. He played safety his rookie year, and then Indy tried to make him a cornerback last season, which didn’t work out. He’s only 23 years old and has terrific size (6′ 3″ and 210 pounds). He ran a sub 4.4 40-yard dash at his combine and has a freakish athletic ability. He converted to safety from wide receiver in college and then the Colts messed with him with the cornerback experiment last year. Yes, he’s raw, but there’s an awful lot of potential there.
Hau’oli Kikaha defensive end – another edge rusher like Orchard and Hall above, Kikaha was actually drafted even higher than Orchard. He’d been bitten by the injury bug as a pro, but the talent is there. He’s probably a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker than as a 4-3 end, though.
Davis Webb quarterback – for those who want to see Matt Schaub gone, how about Webb? A surprise cut by the Giants, he’s a former 2017 third round pick who may assume was the heir apparent to Eli Manning. He’s big with a big arm and smart but doesn’t seem to have the swagger and natural leadership that the great ones have.
Landry Jones quarterback – another option for the Schaub-haters, Jones has a much larger body of work than Webb, and generally was a pretty competent backup for Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. Jones got squeezed out of the Steel City by younger options Jos Dobbs and Mason Rudolph, but he’s still under 30 and can play.
So, did I miss anybody? Anybody here who shouldn’t be? Chime in!