Two years ago, Pro Football Focus ranked the Atlanta Falcons’ roster the NFL’s 31st-best. (Or, put another way, the second-worst.) Which goes to show that things can and do change. The same Pro Football Focus now ranks the Falcons’ roster the NFL’s best. (Or, put another way, the 32nd-worst.)
This latest appraisal, offered on ESPN Insider, ranks only two Falcons starters as either “below average” or “poor.” The two: Tight end Austin Hooper and outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell. Three Falcons are graded as “elite.” (How I hate that word, especially as invoked by anyone associated with ESPN, but never mind.) Two you can guess. The third is center Alex Mack.
Now for the audience-participation part of our program. Try naming the player adjudged by PFF as the fourth-best on this newly glittering roster. No, not Devonta Freeman, who fancies himself the real MVP of Super Bowl LI. Not Desmond Trufant, who’s coming off an injury. Not Vic Beasley Jr., now a double-digit sack man. Not Keanu Neal, the new Kam Chancellor.
Give up? It’s right tackle Ryan Schraeder, long a PFF favorite. (PFF’s stock in trade is watching and grading what every single NFL player does on every single NFL snap.)
From the Falcons’ abrupt rise, we can deduce that somebody in Flowery Branch has done a lot of wise acquiring in two years’ time, although it should be noted that Matt Ryan and Julio Jones and Freeman and Trufant and Beasley (then a rookie) and Schraeder were on the roster deemed 31st-best in 2015. We can also surmise that on-field results matter. The better your players play, the more games you win. Who’d have thunk it?
Oh, and since you asked: Who’s PFF’s No. 2? The New England Patriots. I believe the Falcons played them not long ago. Can’t recall how that game turned out.