FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons have created balanced units on both offense and defense, but they haven't had to sacrifice their top-end talent to do so.
This combination of talent and depth have helped the Falcons become one of the top teams in the NFL, and they've got stars on both sides of the ball. While players like Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Grady Jarrett are just now becoming household names, the Falcons have an offensive trio who have been among the NFL's best for a few years now.
In his recent ranking of the league's best quarterback, running back and wide receiver trios, CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson had the Falcons' trio of Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones right there near the top at No. 4 on his list.
"It all starts with Matt Ryan, who was the league's best quarterback in 2016 and "dropped" all the way to No. 7 last season," Wilson writes. "The 33-year-old shows no signs of slipping, which explains the organization's decision to pay him $150 million over the next five years. Freeman averaged 4.4 yards per carry last season (865 rushing yards) as well as 8.8 yards per catch (317 receiving yards) while scoring eight touchdowns. Julio Jones was absolutely dominant (88 catches, 1,444 yards, 3 scores). Mohamed Sanu was a fantastic No. 2 receiver and oh by the way, the Falcons took Alabama wideout Calvin Ridley in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft."
Ryan, the NFL's MVP in 2016, has been among the league's elite quarterbacks for several years now, while Jones is in a constant battle with Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown for the title of best wide receiver in the NFL. Despite missing time due to injury last season and splitting carries with Tevin Coleman, Freeman was still named the 70th-best player in the NFL by his peers in the NFL Network's Top 100 countdown. Ahead of the Falcons on Wilson's list are the Rams, whose trio of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks earned them the No. 3 spot; the Saints, who are No. 2 thanks to Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas; and the Steelers, who claim the top spot with Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.