Last week, Falcons stars Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones were named to NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2016, landing at No. 50 and No. 8, respectively. Here are five players who could join the pair of Pro Bowlers on that list next season:
Desmond Trufant: A strong argument can be made that Trufant deserved to make the Top 100 this season. A premier corner who can neutralize top wide receivers around the league, he's among the most consistent and technically sound defensive backs in football. Perhaps the reason why he didn't earn a spot on the Top 100 is because teams seldom targeted the 2014 first-round pick last year. That respect goes a long way, however, and has made it clear that coaches and players alike believe he's a premier talent.
Jake Matthews: Dubbed one of Pro Football Focus' most improved players in 2015, Matthews is developing into one of the game's best offensive linemen. In his first healthy NFL season, the 2014 first-round pick adapted well to Atlanta's zone blocking scheme and consistently protected Ryan's blindside, allowing just one sack — the fewest among starting tackles. It's easy to see him making the Pro Bowl and the Top 100 as long as he stays healthy.
Matt Ryan: No stranger to the Top 100 list, Ryan can easily make it again next year — his second in Kyle Shanahan's offense. Turnovers, especially those in the red zone, more or less pushed him out of the Top 100, so if he can limit mistakes next year and get the most out of his improved supporting cast, Atlanta's franchise quarterback should be just fine.
Vic Beasley, Jr.: Beasley's 4.5 sacks during his rookie campaign led the team in a category the Falcons finished at 32nd in the league, but after gaining muscle and NFL experience, he may be primed for a breakout year. He showed flashes of Pro Bowl potential toward the end of 2016 — especially during Atlanta's victory over Carolina — and, as Falcons alum Patrick Kerney said, the physical skills and effort are there.
Mohamed Sanu: It would take one of the most impressive breakouts seasons in recent memory for Sanu to reach the Top 100. But that doesn't mean it's impossible. With an expanded role in Atlanta's offense, the former Cincinnati Bengal will have a chance to prove his physicality, athleticism and hands can complement Julio Jones. As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling pointed out on Twitter, when Sanu was a focal point in Cincinnati's offense back in 2014, he was on pace for 78 receptions, 1,336 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns at midseason. A similar output over the course of 16 games would undoubtedly make him one of the best No. 2 receivers in the NFL.