The Atlanta Falcons arguably have the best receiving corps in the NFL led by Julio Jones and a supporting cast around him that possess speed, explosiveness and reliability. After displaying the most potent offense in franchise history in 2016, the Falcons knew they didn’t have many holes to fill on that side of the ball entering the 2017 season. With that being said, they primarily spent the off-season bringing in new defensive talent.
On the other hand, some teams like the New York Giants spent the offseason focusing on bringing in new offensive talent, which includes veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall. With the arrival of Marshall, some people have immediately jumped to the conclusion that the Giants all of a sudden have the best receiving corps in the NFL.
After acquiring Marshall, the Giants receiving corps now consists of Marshall, Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, Tavarres King and Dwayne Harris. There is no doubt Marshall has had a great career, but the receiver turned 33 in the off-season and is coming off one of his least productive seasons. In Marshall’s defense, the New York Jets didn’t have a set quarterback all year and the rotation of quarterbacks weren’t top-of-the-line talent. However, Marshall certainly did not help his case by having his worst single-season catch percentage (46.1).
Teaming Marshall up with the flashy duo of Beckham and Shepard is definitely going to be exciting to watch. However, Marshall’s success will be dependent on the chemistry he builds with his new quarterback, Eli Manning.
Here’s why the Falcons top the Giants
In comparison, Jones (64.3) had the lowest catch percentage of any returning Falcon from a season ago. When Jones has the lowest catch percentage on your team (min. 10 targets), you’re in pretty good shape. To make things better for the Falcons, the man who lines up opposite of Jones, Mohamed Sanu, has the lowest drop rate (2.8) in the NFL since 2015. Despite having the lowest catch percentage on the Falcons, Jones is the NFL’s all-time leader in receiving yards per game (96.3).
One cannot simply talk about the success of the Falcons air attack from a season ago without mentioning the unexpected dominance of Taylor Gabriel. Gabriel, another gem the Falcons picked up at the Cleveland Browns expense, quickly became a fan favorite in Atlanta with his breakaway speed and explosive routes.
Below is a list of all the returning Falcons who had at least ten targets during the 2016 season and their catch percentage:
Catch percentage: (minimum ten targets)
Devonta Freeman (83.1) – 54 receptions, 462 yards, 2 touchdowns
Tevin Coleman (77.5) – 31 receptions, 421 yards, 3 touchdowns
Mohamed Sanu (72.8) – 59 receptions, 653 yards, 4 touchdowns
Austin Hooper (70.4) – 19 receptions, 271 yards, 3 touchdowns
Taylor Gabriel (70.0) – 35 receptions, 579 yards, 6 touchdowns
Levine Toilolo (68.4) – 13 receptions, 264 yards, 2 touchdowns
Justin Hardy (67.7) – 21 receptions, 203 yards, 4 touchdowns
Julio Jones (64.3) – 83 receptions, 1,409 yards, 6 touchdowns
The average age of the players listed above is 25. And based off those players, the Falcons will be returning 315 receptions, 4,262 yards and 30 touchdowns. Remember that’s not everyone, those numbers are only from the returning players who acquired ten or more targets last season.
The Falcons weren’t entirely opposed to adding depth to their receiving corps this off-season and went ahead in signing return specialist Andre Roberts and undrafted free agent Reggie Davis out of the University of Georgia.
Throughout Roberts seven-year career in the NFL, he has recorded 243 receptions for 2,899 yards and 14 touchdowns. A season ago, Roberts finished with 14 receptions for 188 yards and a touchdown for the Detroit Lions.
On the other hand, the rookie out of Georgia has caught the eyes of the Atlanta coaching staff this off-season with his uncanny speed. And if anyone watched the Falcons last season they’d know just how much they value speed in their receivers. Davis has a chance to come in and fill Aldrick Robinson’s role from a season ago, as a deep threat coming off the bench.
With the offseason additions of Roberts and Davis the Falcons have added two dynamic playmakers to an offense that’s already playing at historic levels.
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Originally published at LastWordOnProFootball.com