This offseason has been filled with lists ranking the top players in the NFL ahead of the 2020 season, and there's one more that has been released with the season set to start next week.
A panel of 46 ESPN NFL experts rated the 100 players they believe will the best in the upcoming season. Only a player's expected performance in 2020 factored into their decisions. Julio Jones, Matt Ryan and Grady Jarrett were the three Falcons players who made the list coming in at Nos. 13, 37 and 86, respectively.
Fans will certainly feel some type of way about Jones landing outside of the top 10 and coming in two spots behind Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill. Ryan's spot feels about right, and he could move up the list with a big year in 2020, which he still seems capable of having. Jarrett feels too low. He's coming off of his first Pro Bowl season and all signs point to him having yet another great year in 2020 with the potential to reach new career-high marks.
"Although he's on this list, Jarrett still doesn't get the respect he deserves as a dominant, disruptive interior force," ESPN's Vaughn McClure writes. "He continues to play with a chip on his shoulder as a former fifth-round draft pick out of Clemson in 2015. Jarrett spent this offseason trying to elevate his game to yet another level, and 2020 promises big things."
What each NFL team needs to see from its rookie class
The Falcons have often relied on their rookies to play big roles early in their careers, and that figures to again be the case in 2020 with players like A.J. Terrell, Marlon Davidson and Matt Hennessy expected to be factors on the field. For Atlanta to accomplish its goal of reaching the postseason, the rookie class will need to step up to the challenge in front of them. In particular, Pro Football Focus writer Ben Linsey believes Terrell will need to show the team that he can take over Desmond Trufant's top corner spot.
"Terrell certainly has the length and speed that you want from an NFL starting cornerback, and he has the fluidity to his game to match receivers in man coverage," Linsey writes. "That physical profile is paired with a solid grading profile at the collegiate ranks, as well. Terrell earned coverage grades of 80.0 or higher in each of the past two seasons with Clemson. The biggest question is how he'll handle the increased physicality of the NFL game, particularly at the catch point. It's something that will likely be put to the test early in Atlanta."
Younghoe Koo: It's never OK to get comfortable
The Falcons opted not to bring in competition for kicker Younghoe Koo this offseason, but he understands that he's still under pressure to perform. Koo spoke with the media on Monday, and he explained that he knows the team could always choose to bring in another kicker at any time and that he's being evaluated each time he goes out to attempt a kick. Koo performed well in his first action with the team in 2019, and he's looked sharp in practice thus far in 2020. Jason Butt wrote more about Koo's mindset for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"Through my experience I've learned it's never OK to get comfortable in this league," Koo said. "You have to produce right now. I know I don't have competition right now in person, but I understand that I'm always getting evaluated and I'm competing against people not necessarily here, but I'm always competing against somebody."
Flexibility makes Wreh-Wilson a fit with Falcons
Serving as a trusted and valuable reserve corner the past few seasons for Atlanta, Blidi Wreh-Wilson again figures to occupy that role this fall. He has experience in the system and has proven himself in pinch situations when called upon. The Falcons have focused on adding some versatility to Wreh-Wilson's game this offseason, which D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote about for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"He's certainly a trusted member here," coach Dan Quinn said of Wreh-Wilson. "We've added some nickel back to what he can do. He's played a little bit of safety for us in a pinch. We line him up mostly outside. But the versatility for a guy like that is huge for the team. When you're called upon, you have got to be able to deliver. Blidi is somebody that can deliver for sure."
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