The Atlanta Falcons completed what many viewed as a successful draft after adding eight players over the course of the three-day event. Following the conclusion of the draft, Atlanta added 13 undrafted free agents to compete for roster spots.
Falcons Head Coach Arthur Smith and General Manager Terry Fontenot
Roughly 30 percent of players on NFL rosters in week 1 last season made their way after going undrafted. Which of Atlanta’s 13 additions can be the next to join the club?
Timmy Horne, NT, Kansas State
Horne arrived at Kansas State after five years at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, where he earned fourth team All-Conference USA honors. He posted three tackles for loss and two sacks last season for the Wildcats but was largely under the radar until his pro day.
Horne has prototypical size (6-4, 323-pounds) for a nose tackle, and his strength (28 reps with 34 ¾-inch arms, a particularly impressive number) should help him hold the line of scrimmage well against the run. Horne’s wingspan is over seven feet, and his explosiveness is evident based on his numbers in the vertical and broad jumps.
Perhaps most importantly for Horne, he plays a position of need for the Falcons’ defense, with defensive coordinator Dean Pees primarily running a 3-4 scheme featuring a nose tackle in the middle. Horne’s biggest competition at nose is Anthony Rush, a 6-4, 361-pounder who started six games last year after joining the Falcons mid-season.
Rush re-signed with Atlanta on a one-year deal in March and should be viewed as the favorite to start at nose tackle in 2022. However, Horne is younger, cheaper, and has intriguing traits, making him a name to watch moving forward.
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Tyler Vrabel, OT, Boston College
Yes, he’s Mike Vrabel’s son. Yes, Arthur Smith worked under Mike Vrabel some two seasons ago. And, finally, yes, Tyler Vrabel is a really, really good football player.
A three-time All-ACC Honorable Mention, Vrabel has experience at both left and right tackle. This versatility is particularly important as Vrabel tries to make the roster, as most teams carry “swing” tackles who can play either tackle position on their roster.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler described Vrabel as, “a solid run blocker with strong hands and enough leg drive to generate push at contact.” Further, Brugler said that Vrabel, “reaches his landmarks as a pass blocker to steer defenders from the pocket, but he will struggle with wide speed and shifty rushers because of marginal flexibility and balance.”
Vrabel will have to beat out former Chicago Bear Elijah Wilkinson, who the Falcons signed in free agency. Wilkinson can play inside and outside but doesn’t have the same experience as Vrabel at left tackle. Vrabel, being a coach’s son, has already made an impression with his work ethic, as he was the first in the building to day two of rookie minicamp practice.
Seth Vernon, P, Portland State
Vernon is a big man, standing 6-5, 230-pounds, with a big leg, averaging almost 45 yards per punt and booming 12 for 50+ yards, including a season-long of 65 yards. Vernon has a simple path to playing time - the only other punter currently on the Falcons roster is Dom Maggio, who spent a portion of last season on the practice squad.
While many undrafted players have several people to beat out, Vernon must out-perform only Maggio in camp. Atlanta could handle the punting situation like they did last year, bringing in multiple veterans throughout the campaign, but with two young, big-legged players already on the roster, the team should first look in-house to see if either Vernon or Maggio can be the long-term answer at punter.