FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes a pair of Falcons making the NFL's perfect roster and a ranking of the best defenses heading into 2018.
Constructing a deep and talented roster can be a challenge for teams when dealing with the NFL's salary cap. ESPN's Bill Barnwell took a stab at it anyway, building what he claims is the perfect NFL roster while also staying under the league's salary cap.
Two Falcons players made Barnwell's roster: Linebacker Deion Jones and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. It's not surprising that those two made the perfect roster, as they are two of the league's most impactful defensive players and remain on their rookie contracts.
Jones, who made the Pro Bowl in his second season, led the Falcons with 138 tackles and he also contributed 10 pass defenses and three interceptions. Jarrett is one of the best penetrating defensive tackles in the NFL, and he led the Falcons with 15 tackles for a loss in 2017 while also recording 13 quarterback hits and four sacks.
To see the rest of Barnwell's perfect salary cap roster, click here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
NFL.com: Rankings the NFL's best defenses for 2018
People who watched the Falcons play at least a few games in 2017 saw a young defense that was quietly improving. Now, after finishing as a top-10 unit last year, the Falcons' defense looks poised to continue its upward trajectory. NFL.com columnist Adam Schein released his ranking of the top defenses heading into 2018, and he's got the Falcons on his list at No. 8.
"The defensive backfield is strong as a whole, with Keanu Neal establishing himself as one of the league's most imposing hammers," Schein writes. "Up front, Grady Jarrett is a menace on the defensive interior. Defensive end Vic Beasley is capable of being special, but the Falcons have to put him in positions to succeed as an edge rusher. And I expect Takk McKinley to have a vastly improved second season.
"In the middle of it all is Deion Jones, a stud middle linebacker who excels against the pass and run. Pro Football Focus had him ranked as the No. 4 linebacker in football last season."
To see who else Schein has among his top defenses for 2018, click here.
CBS Sports: Preseason All-NFC South Team
Taking a page from the college playbook, CBS Sports is building its preseason All-Division team with the NFL season quickly approaching. On Wednesday, CBS Sports' Jared Dubin released his choices for the NFC South, admitting that it "was an incredibly difficult division to narrow down."
The Falcons led all NFC South teams with 12 players on the list, including five on offense and six on defense. The Falcons had a player on every level of the defense, at every offensive position except tight end and quarterback and Matt Bryant was chosen as the kicker.
To see who Dubin selected to make the team, click here.
The Ringer: Redrafting the 2008 NFL Draft
The 2008 NFL Draft will always be a memorable one for the Falcons. By selecting Matt Ryan with the No. 3 overall pick, the Falcons ushered in their greatest decade in franchise history during a team that has been defined by superb quarterback play. Now 10 years removed from that draft, The Ringer's Danny Kelly took a look back and used the benefit of hindsight to hold a redraft.
Ryan went No. 1 overall to the Miami Dolphins in a decision Kelly called a "no-brainer." With their quarterback off the board, the Falcons end up selecting tackle Ryan Clady at No. 3.
"With Ryan off the board, the Falcons instead shore up their left tackle spot a little early (the first time around, they chose tackle Sam Baker with their second first-rounder)," Kelly writes. "Clady's career was cut short by injury (he played eight seasons) but he was a top-echelon tackle in his prime, going to four Pro Bowls while being named All-Pro three times."