Falcons 2017 roster: Position-by-position analysis of final 53-man roster

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons have finalized their 53-man roster for the 2017 season. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has said all offseason that he believes this is “one of the most impressive” rosters he’s ever had, and now it’s complete.

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The club waived 13 players, waived/injured three players, reached an injury settlement with tight end Darion Griswold, placed safety Quincy Mauger on injured reserve, and placed cornerback Jalen Collins on the reserve/suspended list. Additionally, defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman has been placed on the Commissioner Exempt List.

The NFL placed Hageman on the Commissioner’s Exempt List as a result of domestic violence-related charges filed by prosecutors in DeKalb County, Georgia, following a March 2016 incident. The criminal proceeding concluded in late August, and the league’s investigation remains pending. For background from the Personal Conduct Policy: A player who is placed on the Commissioner Exempt List may not practice or attend games, but with the club’s permission he may be present at the club’s facility on a reasonable basis for meetings, individual workouts, therapy and rehabilitation, and other permitted non-football activities.

Here’s the full position-by-position breakdown of Atlanta’s 53-man roster:

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks: (2)

o Matt Ryan

o Matt Schaub

Final thoughts: The reigning NFL MVP returns for his 10th season. Ryan completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in the 2017 season. Schaub, a trusted veteran who has 13 years of NFL experience, saw action in four games for the Falcons as Ryan’s backup last season.

Running backs: (4)

o Devonta Freeman

o Tevin Coleman

o Terron Ward

o Brian Hill

Final thoughts: Atlanta’s two-headed monster is back. The Falcons locked up Pro Bowl Devonta Freeman for the next five years and Tevin Coleman enters his third season with Atlanta. The duo teamed up for 200 total yards six times in the 2016 season. Freeman and Coleman combined for 2,482 yards and 24 total touchdowns last season. After a strong training camp and preseason, Terron Ward solidified the No. 3 running back spot. Ward played in five games for the Falcons, logging 31 carries for 151 yards. Hill, a fifth-round draft pick, was a significant contributor on special teams.

Wide receiver: (6)

o Julio Jones

o Mohamed Sanu

o Taylor Gabriel

o Justin Hardy

o Andre Roberts

o Nick Williams

Final thoughts: One of the most competitive position battles of training camp and the preseason was at wide receiver. Guys like Reggie Davis and Marvin Hall made a strong case for themselves – but in the end, the Falcons kept six receivers. Outside of Andre Roberts, who will be Atlanta's primary return specialist, all of Atlanta’s receivers have at least one year in the offensive scheme. Jones and Sanu combined to catch 142 passes for 2,062 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2016. Gabriel and Hardy were signifcicant contributors for the Falcons as well, combining for 11 touchdowns. Williams played in two games last season, catching five passes for 59 yards.

Tight end: (3)

o Austin Hooper

o Levine Toilolo

o Eric Saubert

Final thoughts: Both Austin Hooper and Levine Toilolo had impact roles in the Falcons’ offense in 2016. Hooper took over as the No. 1 tight end midway through the 2016 season and became one of Matt Ryan’s most reliable targets. In 14 games, Hooper caught 19 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Toilolo played in all 16 games for Atlanta last year, catching three passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. Atlanta drafted Saubert in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Drake University. The Falcons waived Joshua Perkins who played in eight games for the team in 2016, catching three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Fullback: (1)

o Derrick Coleman

Final thoughts: The Falcons signed Coleman in free agency this March. Coleman previously played for the Seahawks, where he played in 31 games for Seattle. Atlanta waived Tyler Renew, the other fullback the Falcons carried on the roster through the preseason.

Offensive line: (9)

o Left tackle: Jake Matthews, Austin Pasztor, Ty Sambrailo

o Left guard: Andy Levitre, Sean Harlow

o Center: Alex Mack

o Right tackle: Ryan Schraeder, Ty Sambrailo

o Right guard: Ben Garland, Wes Schweitzer

Final thoughts: The Falcons returned all but one starter along their offensive line. Head coach Dan Quinn said the battle for the starting job at right guard between Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer would go all the way through the preseason, and Quinn has yet to name a starter. Harlow, Atlanta’s fourth-round draft pick, serves as one of the backup options at guard. Atlanta added depth at the tackle position by recently signing Austin Pasztor and trading with the Denver Broncos for Ty Sambrailo.

DEFENSE

Defensive line: (8)

o Defensive end: Brooks Reed, Adrian Clayborn, Takkarist McKinley, Courtney Upshaw, Derrick Shelby

o Defensive tackle: Dontari Poe, Grady Jarrett, Jack Crawford

Final thoughts: General manager Thomas Dimitroff said the Falcons’ defensive line was the most improved from the end of the 2016 season, and as you can see, the unit is as deep as it’s ever been since Quinn has been head coach. The Falcons signed Poe and Crawford in free agency and drafted McKinley with their 2017 first-round pick. The unit also returns a healthy Shelby and Claybron, two players who missed significant time in 2016 with injuries.

Linebacker: (6)

o Vic Beasley Jr.

o Deion Jones

o LaRoy Reynolds

o Jermaine Grace

o De’Vondre Campbell

o Duke Riley

Final thoughts: The Falcons are fast and physical across the board, but perhaps the position they upgraded their speed at the most this year is at linebacker. Quinn said the competition at linebacker through training camp and preseason was one that particularly stood out to him.

Cornerback: (6)

o Desmond Trufant

o Robert Alford

o Brian Poole

o C.J. Goodwin

o Blidi Wreh-Wilson

o Deji Olatoye

Final thoughts: Atlanta decided to keep six cornerbacks – a position that depth has proved to be critical at. After finishing the season on IR, Trufant returns as the No. 1 cornerback. The Falcons also locked up Trufant and their No. 2 cornerback, Alford, for the forseeable future. Second-year cornerback, Poole, showed that he’s more than capable of carrying the load as the Falcons’ nickel corner. Goodwin, Wilson and Olatoye all have experience in Atlanta’s defensive system and provide depth at cornerback.

Safety: (5)

o Keanu Neal

o Ricardo Allen

o Damontae Kazee

o Sharrod Neasman

o Kemal Ishmael

Final thoughts: Atlanta returns both their starters at free safety and strong safety in Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. Sharrod Neasman has proved to be a quality backup, seeing action in three games for the Falcons in the 2016 season. The Falcons drafted Kazee out of San Diego State in the fifth round of this year’s draft. Kazee primarily played cornerback in college, but the Falcons plan to feature him at free safety.

Special teams: (3)

Kicker: Matt Bryant

Punter: Matt Bosher

Kick returner: Andre Roberts

Punt returner: Andre Roberts

Long snapper: Josh Harris

Holder: Matt Bosher

Final thoughts: The only new addition to this unit is Roberts who the Falcons signed in free agency this year. Roberts previously played for the Detroit Lions where he was the starting punt and kick returner. While in Detroit, Roberts returned two punts for touchdowns and has recorded 2,047 yards and one touchdown in his eight-year career as a kick returner in the NFL.

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