It’s long been expected the Atlanta Falcons would need to lean heavily on the undrafted free agent pool this year. With limited cap space to lure big-name veterans, cheap depth to fill in the roster is key. For that reason, the Falcons have already signed 20 UDFAs, the most in the NFL.
While making the roster is hard for UDFAs the Atlanta Falcons have plenty of holes to fill so it should be expected that a few will stick. The Falcons’ have relied on Undrafted players in the past like Brian Pool, Brent Grimes, and Ryan Schraeder to play significant roles.
The current roster has a few UDFAs from previous years expected to contribute in 2021 with Matt Gono, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, and Christian Blake all competing for roster spots. It’s likely a few more names will be added to that list.
The three most likely 2021 UDFAs to contribute for the Atlanta Falcons.
Javian Hawkins, RB, Louisville
Hawkins feels like the layup answer out of this class. Most analysts expected Hawkins to be drafted on day three this weekend.
Hawkins tallied almost 1,000 total yards and eight total touchdowns in just eight games in 2020, showing plenty of potential as a runner and receiver in college and brings a solid skill set to the NFL. He can be a dynamic playmaker when used creatively and has all the tools to excel in a zone-blocking scheme.
The hesitation on Hawkins is his size, at 5’8” 183lbs he does not have the ideal build for the position. Players similar in size to Hawkins like Tarik Cohen (5’6”, 179), and Phillip Lindsey (5’8”, 190) have carved out significant roles in the NFL but are the exception, not the standard.
Joe Marino at the Draft Network compared Hawkins to C.J. Spiller, as far as ceilings go that would be excellent value for an undrafted free agent.
Erroll Thompson, LB, Mississippi State
Thompson was the leader of the Mississippi State defense and is known for being a hard-hitting middle linebacker.
While he doesn’t have the athleticism to be a true three-down player, he can certainly bring value as an early-down middle linebacker. He needs time to develop but his skill set can be used in a limited fashion early in his career. Linebacker is also one of the shallowest positions on the Atlanta Falcons Roster at the moment.
Mike Zenitz of Al.com polled SEC coaches about in-conference players and received this response on Thompson.
"“Old school Mike ‘backer that will be on every special team and would stick his face in a wasp nest if it means the team would win,” a defensive coach said."
A hard-nosed special teamer known as a leader and good locker room guys seems to fit everything that Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot have looked for this off-season.
Eli Howard, DL, Texas Tech
Howard is an interesting prospect, a versatile lineman that can play multiple positions can add plenty of value to a multiple look defense.
As a four-year starter and team captain, Howard brings the mentality and leadership this new staff seems to be looking for. He also accrued 14.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in his time as a Red Raider.
He may spend some time on the practice squad but do not be surprised if he ends up filling holes as the wear and tear of the NFL season takes effect.