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Early Bird Report: Nate Burleson ranks Julio Jones among the receivers with the very best hands

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes a ranking of the NFL receivers with the best hands by former receiver Nate Burleson.


Falcons fans don't need to be reminded of just how spectacular Julio Jones is on the football field. One of the very best wide receivers in the NFL, Jones posted a league-leading 1,677 yards in 2018.

Jones surely gets national respect for his abilities, but former NFL receiver Nate Burleson thinks he may not get all of the respect he deserves. After ranking Jones as the receiver with the second-best hands in the league, Burleson explained that the Falcons star's quiet nature may have helped make him slightly underrated.

"He is that quiet and humble superhero that doesn't say much," Burleson explained on "Good Morning Football." "Julio could come out every single season and say, 'Why aren't you guys talking about me enough? I put up numbers and you should respect me as the best receiver in the game.' But yet still we don't, though."

The lone receiver Burleson ranked ahead of Jones was Houston's DeAndre Hopkins. To see the rest of Burleson's list, click here.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

Yahoo Sports: Every NFL general manager's defining pick

Every NFL general manager has a defining pick. A draft selection that will ultimately determine his legacy with an NFL team. For some, it's a late-round pick who blossomed into a future Hall of Famer. For others, it could be a top-10 pick who is out of the league in three years.

Quarterbacks are fairly common as a drafter's defining choice, which makes sense given their importance to a frachise. Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm recently combed through the resumes of all 32 NFL general managers to name the pick he believes is the defining one for each of them.

For Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, Edholm believes his first pick has been the defining one thus far.

"Dimitroff has drafted 87 players since taking over the Falcons' front office, including four selections in the top 10," Edholm writes. "None have meant more overall to the health of the franchise than his first selection. Upon taking over in 2008, the Falcons owned the third pick and were in a situation with former franchise savior Michael Vick in prison and the QB spot in serious question. Dimitroff didn't doubt his judgment on Ryan and didn't hesitate handing him the keys to the operation.

"Despite the Falcons not winning a Super Bowl, the move unquestionably was the right one. Ryan hasn't always reached an elite level of play, but he was the league's MVP in 2016, hasn't missed a game since the 2009 season and will be seeking his ninth straight 4,000-yard season in 2019."

To see the other defining picks for each NFL GM, as well as Edholm's case for why Julio Jones may be Dimitroff's defining selection, click here.

The Ringer: The NFL most underrated units

The Falcons addressed no other position this offseason to the level that they addressed their offensive line. Not only did the Falcons use two first-round picks on guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Kaleb McGary, but they also added four offensive linemen in free agency.

That influx should allow the Falcons to find a few guys to fit around left tackle Jake Matthews and center Alex Mack, and the team did sign right tackle Ty Sambrialo to a three-year deal this offseason as well.

Given the unit's struggles in 2018, when they allowed 42 sacks and played a role in the Falcons averaging less than 100 yards on the ground, it might be a surprise that The Ringer's Danny Kelly has Atlanta's offensive line on his list of the seven most underrated units in the league.

"Training camp battles still must play out, but the team's looking at a starting lineup that includes Jake Matthews at left tackle, [James] Carpenter at left guard, Alex Mack at center, and Lindstrom and McGary at right guard and tackle," Kelly writes. "That group still has much to prove—especially on the right side, as Lindstrom and McGary will be under pressure to hit the ground running. But that unit also might have more potential than any starting five we've seen in Atlanta for years."

To see the other six units that Kelly believes is underrated, click here.

ESPN: Barnwell's to-do list for all 16 NFC teams

After addressing many of their primary needs in free agency and the draft, what remains on the Falcons' to-do list for the rest of the offseason? While we don't know exactly what is on the team's list, ESPN's Bill Barnwell has a few items of his own that he believes Atlanta should address.

Barnwell's suggestions aren't off the mark, because they mostly fall in line with things the Falcons have said are priorities. He thinks Atlanta's more important remaining three moves this offseason are negotiating long-term extensions with Grady Jarrett, Julio Jones and Deion Jones.

"Jarrett doesn't have the sort of pass-rushing production we've seen from interior disruptors like Aaron Donald, so he can't expect to get that sort of deal," Barnwell writes. "The closest comparison might be someone like Kawann Short, who signed a five-year, $80 million deal after being franchised by the Panthers in 2017. The cap has risen by 12.7 percent since then, so Jarrett might very well ask for five years and a hair over $90 million for his own deal."

The Falcons have stated that reaching an agreement on extensions with Jarrett and Julio Jones is their top priorities for this offseason, and Deion Jones has become one of the best off-ball linebackers in the league.

To see the rest of Barnwell's remaining offseason to-do lists for the NFC, click here.

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Same, @DevondreCampbell.

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AJC: Falcons have major holes, but so do their foes

Until the players actually suit up and take the field this fall, there will be plenty of talk about how NFL teams stack up on paper. Roster strength can be a good indicator of which teams will be successful, but, as the Falcons found out in 2018, injuries and disappointing play can quickly undo a talented roster. In looking at the league's current landscape, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Cunningham thinks the Falcons have some remaining holes, but they aren't alone in that.

"I still think my doubts about the Falcons are warranted," Cunningham writes. "Maybe the offensive line is fixed, but the defensive line still looks problematic. The Falcons are shaky at cornerback: Desmond Trufant no longer is elite, and Isaiah Oliver needs to make a second-year leap. 

"These are not small concerns but — back to my theme — pretty much every team has at least a couple of major issues. Few teams have a quarterback-wide receiver combo better than Ryan and Jones. Only the Saints compare in the division. I don't see another team in the NFC on that level."

To see the rest of Cunningham's column, click here. Three days in rookie camp with the Falcons

The Falcons wrapped up their rookie minicamp for 2019, but fans can get an inside glimpse at what occurred during those three days. Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit was given a special behind-the-scenes view of rookie minicamp with the Falcons, and he chronicled much of what took place during that time.

"NFL walkthroughs typically go exactly like as the name suggests—unless it's with a bunch of rookies trying to make the team," Benoit writes. "At the starting horn, the entire O-line group sprints to its station with the urgency of men fleeing a live grenade. Halfway there, they realize they're going the wrong way and, clumsily, all 10 turn around and sprint back to where they just came from. Eventually everyone is situated, and it's here where players start looking their part. The first-rounders, McGary and especially Lindstrom, exit their stances with a crisp burst. Some of the undrafted guys are visibly processing the calls. One even waits for the rest of the group to perform an action before coming out of his stance to copy them."

For any fan who wants a peak behind the NFL curtain, Benoit’s piece is certainly worth a read.

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Getting in reps @atlantafalcons #riseup

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