Falcons 2020 roster outlook: 6 things to know about the receivers

RosterWRs

Editor's note: This is No. 3 in a series detailing each position group on the Falcons' 90-man roster.

FALCONS ROSTER PREVIEWS

Led by Julio Jones, the Falcons have had one of the NFL's better receiving corps in many seasons over the last decade and that should remain the case in 2020. Jones continues to perform as one of the very best wide receivers in the league, and Calvin Ridley looks capable of becoming one of the best No. 2 options.

2019 returning production

Table inside Article
Player Games started Catches Receiving yards Touchdowns Yards/catch Catch rate
Julio Jones 15 99 1,394 6 14.1 63.1%
Calvin Ridley 10 63 866 7 13.7 67.7%
Russell Gage 4 49 446 1 9.1 66.2%
Christian Blake 3 11 91 0 8.3 45.8%
Olamide Zaccheaus 0 3 115 1 38.3 60.0%

2019 incoming production

Table inside Article
Player Games started Catches Receiving yards Touchdowns Yards/catch Catch rate
Laquon Treadwell 1 9 184 1 20.4 56.3

Here are six things to know about the Falcons' wide receivers heading into 2020:

1. Can Calvin Ridley reach a new level?

No Falcons player has received as much attention as a possible breakout star in 2020 as Calvin Ridley. The third-year receiver has played really well since entering the league in 2018 and has the third-most touchdown catches among all receivers in that time. He was on pace for his first 1,000-yard season last year before an abdominal injury cut his season short.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is among those who believes fans will see "a jump" in Ridley's game in the near future, which would make the Falcons' offense all the more dangerous. With Mohamed Sanu no longer on the roster, Ridley figures to see even more targets next season. How well he's able to take advantage of those increased looks will ultimately determine whether or not a breakout year is in the cards.  

2. Is Russell Gage the new slot receiver?

No other receiver benefitted from Sanu's departure as much as Russell Gage. In his second season, Gage really picked things up in the back half of the year after getting more opportunities on the field.

Throughout his career at LSU, Gage never really popped as an offensive player, and it was his special teams prowess that earned him a role with the Falcons as a rookie. Atlanta continued to work with him at receiver, however, and it appears to be paying off. Gage is a fluid route runner who can be dangerous with the ball in his hands. Although he's not as polished a receiver as Sanu was, Gage has plenty of exciting traits to offer and could have an inside track at taking over in the slot next season.

3. Laquon Treadwell is the X factor of the group

Just what exactly do the Falcons have in mind for Laquon Treadwell? The former first-round pick never carved out a big role during his time in Minnesota, and he joins a fairly deep group in Atlanta. He might be the biggest competition for Gage as a slot receiver, but it's also entirely possible the Falcons want to use him like they did Justin Hardy as the fourth or fifth receiver in select packages.

There's not much known about Treadwell's potential role right now, and that may remain the case until things start to play out on the field.

4. The growth of the young receivers will be vital

Although the Falcons have depth at wide receiver, there's not a ton of experience. Atlanta appears to like what it has in players like Christian Blake and Olamide Zaccheaus, who each received some playing time in 2019, but with Sanu and Hardy now gone, those players may have to step into larger roles. The Falcons have had success in the past in turning players like Marvin Hall into contributors on offense, and this new group of developmental receivers could take Atlanta's receiver corps from being good to great.

5. Three college free agents to watch

The Falcons added three undrafted free agent receivers this offseason: Juwan Green, Jalen McCleskey and Chris Rowland. Green had a monster 2019 season at Albany, catching 83 passes for 1,386 yards and 17 touchdowns, and he also has experience as a returner that could help his chances at a roster spot. McCleskey is a versatile and exceptionally fast wide receiver who played four seasons at Oklahoma State before transferring to Tulane for his final college season. The 23-year-old caught 167 passes for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns during his time at Oklahoma State, and he caught 37 passes for 581 yards and four scores in his lone year at Tulane.

Rowland has already garnered a bit of buzz among Falcons fans for his skills as both a receiver and a returner. During his four-year career at Tennessee State, Rowland caught 194 passes for 2,578 yards and 14 touchdowns. He returned 46 punts for 543 yards and a touchdown while at Tennessee State, and he also returned 74 kickoffs for 1,689 yards and another touchdowns.

6. Julio is still Julio

We can't have a piece about Falcons receivers without mentioning Julio Jones, but what else is there to say at this point? Instead, let's just relive some of his best plays from the 2019 season.

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