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Early Bird Report: Where Falcons rank among NFL offenses

More often than not, the Falcons have boasted one of the NFL's most productive offenses since Matt Ryan arrived in Atlanta in 2008. With Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley at receiver, the Falcons have enough firepower to stress opposing secondaries, and they've added a couple of new weapons this offseason.


Hayden Hurst now steps in to fill Austin Hooper's shoes in a tight-end-friendly offensive scheme run by Dirk Koetter, and Todd Gurley is reportedly headed to Atlanta to take the top spot at running back after the Falcons parted ways with Devonta Freeman. Those additions should again keep the Falcons among the top offenses in the league.

CBS Sports' Jared Dubin put together a system to rank the offenses in the NFL, and he has the Falcons tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 10.

"Hooper is gone now after having signed a sizable deal with the Browns," Dubin writes. "The Falcons replaced him with Hayden Hurst, who was acquired in a pretty massive overpay but should nevertheless be a solid addition to the offense. Also helping matters is the jettisoning of Devonta Freeman, one of the NFL's least effective runners over the past two years, in favor of Todd Gurley. The former Rams running back was not nearly worth his contract last year and is a walking injury risk but he at least provides an upside that there was no way Freeman was going to hit. The Falcons should add another back in the draft as a complement to Gurley, and with the Ryan-Jones-Ridley trio still in place, they're in good shape at the skill positions."

There's plenty of firepower on Atlanta's offense, and the offensive line could be better with Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary entering their second seasons. If all things come together, the Falcons could prove worthy of a higher spot on this list.

To read all of Dubin's piece on NFL offenses, click here.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today: 2017 NFL Draft do-over

It's entirely possible that the Falcons add a cornerback in the first round of this year's NFL Draft, but they also addressed the position in Adam Rank's do-over of the 2017 draft for

Atlanta, coming off its Super Bowl appearance, held the 31st pick in the 2017 draft but traded up to select defensive end Takk McKinley. In Rank's do-over, the Falcons draft Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie.

"Blowing a huge lead in the Super Bowl is going to make you want to go out and splurge on defense," Rank writes. "In reality, the Falcons did that when they traded up for Takkarist McKinley. Which I thought was a good move at the time. But here, we're going with Awuzie, who has been extremely solid in coverage for the Cowboys. He's not the second coming of Deion Sanders (oh, wow, that works as a callback for both the Cowboys and the Falcons), but he would be pretty nice right here."

Awuzie has started 36 games in his three seasons with the Cowboys and recorded 175 tackles, 32 pass defenses and three interceptions. The Falcons parted ways with top cornerback Desmond Trufant this offseason and are expected to add to the position at some point.

To read the rest of Rank's draft do-over, click here.

CBS Sports: Teams that should trade down in Round 1

The Falcons currently hold the 16th-overall pick in the draft, but CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso believes they could be a candidate to trade back in an effort to pick up another pick or two. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has not been afraid to make draft-day trades in the past, and Atlanta could have some options at the midpoint of the first round.

"This suggestion comes with a caveat -- if one of Jeudy, Ruggs, or Lamb are on the board when the Falcons go on the clock at No. 16 overall, then I believe the wisest move for Atlanta would be to trade down," Trapasso writes. "… Atlanta moved a second-rounder in the trade for Hayden Hurst, and the offense looks pretty loaded. The defense is in dire need of an explosive edge rusher, the cornerback room is missing a true No. 1 with Desmond Trufant gone, and Grady Jarrett could use a disruptive running mate on the interior of the team's defensive line."

To see the other teams Trapasso believes could trade down, click here.

'NFL Total Access': Favorite free agency moves

The Falcons addressed their running back position with one of the premier free agency moves of the offseason – the addition of former Georgia star Todd Gurley. The former NFL Offensive Player of the Year has been among the most dominant running backs in the league since he was drafted by the Rams in 2015, and the Falcons are hoping he provides a boost to their ground attack in 2020.

Michael Robinson of "NFL Total Access" believes Gurley is one of the best free agency pickups of the offseason.

"He still has a lot left in his legs," Robinson said. "People say that he might be a little hurt, or whatever the case may be. I still think Todd Gurley has a lot of football left, and he's finally going to have a guy on the outside in Julio Jones. Julio Jones is going to always command two or three defensive backs looking at him every single time. So, there's this game that's going to be played, guys. Are you going to put an extra guy over here with Julio? If you do, we're going to hand it off to Todd Gurley. If you're to bring that extra guy into the box, we're going to let Julio eat all day long."

The Players' Tribune: I am who I'm meant to be

New Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst is looking to do big things in Atlanta, but he's already had a journey that's made him the man he's become. In a very compelling piece for The Players' Tribune, Hurst details the lowest point of his life and how he's grown stronger as a result. He briefly mentions the Falcons and the next chapter of his NFL career towards the bottom of the story, but that is far from what this is really about.

"I'm heading into my third year in the NFL," Hurst writes. "After three seasons at South Carolina, the Ravens drafted me in the first round in 2018. Now I'm an Atlanta Falcon. I couldn't be more excited to be a part of this organization, but I will also be forever grateful to Baltimore. The Ravens took a chance on me, and I hope I helped build something that will last a long, long time in that city."

This is an important story for any Falcons fan to read, and you can find it here.

ESPN: NFL power rankings factoring in free agency

Free agency has shaken up the NFL landscape and brought some big names to the NFC South. The Falcons landed some of those big names with Dante Fowler and Todd Gurley heading to Atlanta.

How have those moves impacted the way members of the national media view the Falcons? ESPN's post-free agency power rankings had Atlanta dropping two spots from the site's previous "Way-too-early" rankings, and the Falcons currently sit at No. 18.

"Three words: Something to prove," ESPN's Vaughn McClure writes. "The Falcons added four former first-round draft picks in Todd Gurley, Dante Fowler Jr., Hayden Hurst and Laquon Treadwell, and all four have to show they can play up to their first-round talent. Gurley is the one fans are excited about the most, and he certainly wants to answer questions about his left knee and his ability to be a productive back. The Falcons, as a whole, have to prove they can compete in a revamped NFC South now featuring Tom Brady."

To read the rest of ESPN's post-free agency power rankings, click here. Top 5 needs for all 32 teams

Although the Falcons may still make a few more moves in free agency, the NFL Draft now looms as the best way for them to add impactful talent to their roster. Atlanta addressed a few needs during the first wave of free agency, and it's shifted what the team's remaining needs are heading into the draft. editor Dan Parr broke down the top five needs for each team, and he had defensive back, linebacker, edge rusher, offensive lineman and running back listed for the Falcons, in that order.

"Yes, defense is the topic for the Falcons this draft season," Parr writes. "They're in the market for a starter opposite Isaiah Oliver at corner (insurance at safety for the oft-injured Keanu Neal wouldn't be a bad idea, either) and Deion Jones could use some running mates at 'backer. The work of jump-starting the edge rush shouldn't end with the addition of Dante Fowler. As for Atlanta's offense, the starting O-line could remain intact, but depth is needed. And Todd Gurley, even if he returns to top form, can't be considered a long-term answer (he's playing on a one-year deal)."

To read the rest of Parr's list, click here.

AJC: Hurst hopes to flash his talents for Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons have a new tight end in Hayden Hurst who is very reminiscent of their old tight end, Austin Hooper. Hurst, a former first-round pick with the Baltimore Ravens, has many of the same qualities that helped Hooper become a star in his final two seasons in Atlanta.

Although Hurst didn't have much production as a receiver in Baltimore, he was effective in the passing game when called upon. Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has always had a scheme that offers plenty of opportunities for tight ends, and Hurst is looking forward to playing in it.

"It's going to be a perfect fit," Hurst told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "(Offensive coordinator Dirk) Koetter's pass-heavy offense is going to suit me well. It's going to allow me to do some things that I personally do well (like) stretch the field vertically and hopefully create some mismatches for the other guys, Julio and Calvin. I saw where they've picked up Laquon Treadwell as well. It's a pretty potent offense. I'm just excited to be a part of it."

To read more of Ledbetter's article on what Hurst brings to Atlanta, click here.

We have a feeling former Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who ESPN insider Jordan Schultz reports will be signing with the Falcons, will look good in red and black.

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