FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes a prediction for which Falcons player could make his first Pro Bowl this season as well as a bold prediction regarding the Cleveland Browns.
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NFL.com: Predicting one future first-time Pro Bowler for NFC teams
The Falcons had a pair of first-time Pro Bowlers last season with Keanu Neal and Deion Jones earning the recognition. Who on the roster has the best chance to earn their first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2018? NFL.com's Gil Brandt believes he has the answer.
Picking one player from each NFC team, Brandt highlighted third-year tight end Austin Hooper as a player who could make his first trip to the Pro Bowl this season.
"While Atlanta's offense took a slight step back in Steve Sarkisian's first year as coordinator, Hooper made a big jump from his rookie campaign, racking up 49 catches for 526 yards and three scores on 65 targets," Brandt writes of Hooper. "He's more of a move tight end than a blocking tight end, but he has big hands and can catch the ball with ease. He should continue to ascend in Year 2 of the Sarkisian era."
Hooper has been hard at work this offseason, spending time with quarterback Matt Ryan and eschewing vacation time in favor of developing his skills.
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CBS Sports: Christian Kirksey predicts Browns will make playoffs in 2018
The season is still months away, but the bold predictions have started. Fresh off an 0-16, Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey has put himself on record saying his team will make the playoffs in 2018.
Kirksey has been with the Browns since 2014, and the club has won just 11 games since he joined the team. The Browns have significantly overhauled their roster this offseason, landing players such as Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry, Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward, but they will need to come close to matching their four-year win total to make a run at the playoffs.