Each year it seems there's always a player or two at Falcons training camp that unexpectedly shines. These are the players that battle for depth positions on Atlanta's roster and quite often they're among the class of college free agents the franchise signed in the days following the draft.
This year’s class has 24 names and there are 17 additional players trying out during the Falcons rookie minicamp. A few of them will join the ranks of the handful of CFAs that make the roster or the practice squad each season. They come from a variety of backgrounds, some from the major college football conferences and others from the small and smaller schools that don't get much TV time on Saturdays during football season.
Among the Falcons' 25 CFAs are players like Devonte Campbell and Deon Goggins. Both are not just preparing for training camp in August, they're also attempting position switches at the same time. Last season for Maryland, Campbell played tight end and Goggins was on the other side of the ball at linebacker for Syracuse.
The college free agents are easy to root for. Take Southern Methodist's Darius Johnson. In addition to being first-team All-Conference USA in 2012, he was the team's MVP in back-to-back bowl games. He's stepped up in the biggest moments for his team and you know he'll bring that kind of attitude to practice each day.
Each player will have his work cut out for him to make the Falcons' final roster after camp, but there are a few positions that will feature some heavy competition and a few of the CFAs in those groups you may want to keep your eye on.
The three offensive tackles the Falcons signed all stand at 6-foot-7, putting them with current projected starting right guard Garrett Reynolds as the tallest lineman on the team.
Terron Jones was one of the best tackles in the nation in his college division. He was a three-time All-SWAC player and was named an AFCA All-American after the 2012 season. At his Pro Day, his arms were measured at 36 inches each (Pro Day numbers sourced from NFLDraftScout.com).
Alec Savoie from McNeese State was named to the All-Southland Conference team in 2012. In 708 snaps last season, he allowed just 1.5 sacks.
Tackle Ryan Schraeder didn't start playing football until he entered college but he became an All-American at Valdosta State. He helped block for an explosive offensive attack at VSU and one of his line mates, Edmund Kugbila, was drafted by the Panthers in the fourth round of this year's draft. At his Pro Day, Schraeder benched 24 reps of 225 pounds.
Linebacker also offers some great depth battles. After the top three starters, it's anybody's guess who will be on the roster this year. A returning college free agent last season, Pat Schiller, will look to make his move after a year of seasoning on the practice squad. Brian Banks will also be in the mix this year because of his unique blend of athleticism and high-quality character. The linebackers the Falcons signed in the CFA class are also worthy of a shot.
Boston College's Nick Clancy stepped into a starting role in 2012 after Luke Kuechly became the Panther's first-round draft pick. As a starting senior, he ranked fourth in the country with 145 tackles and led the ACC with that figure. He was named to the All-ACC Coaches First Team last season and at his Pro Day he showed his quickness and mobility in small areas when he ran a 6.90 3-cone drill. Had he been invited to the Combine and performed that same time, he would have finished behind Zavior Gooden, the Titans third-round pick, with the fastest times among all linebackers.
Paul Worrilow manned inside linebacker for Delaware and finished his career there as the school's No. 5 all-time tackler. In 2012 he led the team and his conference with 107 tackles and added nine tackles for loss and three sacks. He was a two-time team captain and was named to the All-CAA Coaches First Team squad.
In the final four games of linebacker Joplo Bartu's career at Texas State, he totaled 62 tackles and in a win over New Mexico State, he paced his team with 17 tackles and four sacks. Bartu displayed his athleticism at his Pro Day with a vertical of 39 ½ feet. Among linebackers at the Combine, only Jamie Collins, New England's second-round pick this year, had a vertical higher than Bartu.