With the new league year set to begin in just over two weeks, NFL Network's analytics expert Cynthia Frelund examined each team's situation at the wide receiver position. And in doing so, she revealed some surprising statistics surrounding the Falcons' wide receivers.
One of the biggest strengths on Atlanta's roster is its wide receivers. Between Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, the trio has evolved into one of the best in the NFL.
Here's Frelund's evaluation of the Falcons' wide receiver situation ahead of free agency:
"My computer vision functions kind of like how a telestrator does during a broadcast, mapping the paths receivers take during their routes -- and Ridley's route running could literally go in a wide receiver textbook. Meaning, it's precise; the timing and separation have been the most reliable and the most consistent in the NFL since 2018, when he entered the NFL as a first-round pick. Per NGS, Ridley paced the NFL in both receptions of 10-plus air yards (51) and receiving yards on such catches (1,027). For context, overall reception leader Stefon Diggs had 10 fewer receptions of 10-plus air yards (41).
One more somewhat surprising fact about the Falcons' receivers before we go: No other WR group saw more end-zone targets in 2020 (42), per NGS," Frelund said.
When healthy, Jones is still arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. The seven-time Pro Bowler is coming off a season in which he played in just nine games due to a hamstring injury that sidelined him for more than half of the season. Jones caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns in the 2020 season.
With Jones on the sidelines, Ridley's workload increased. The former first-round pick showed he's more than capable of being a No. 1 wide receiver in the league and his stats back it up. Ridley caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns last season. In three seasons with the Falcons, Ridley has caught 217 passes for 3,061 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Gage evolved into the Falcons' No. 3 wide receiver heading into the season and without Jones on the field, his role became even more vital. Gage, a former sixth-round pick, caught 72 passes for 786 yards and four touchdowns in the 2020 season.