Summer is here, and the Atlanta Falcons are wrapping up their first week of organized team activities as they embark on a 2013 campaign that they hope will end with a trip to MetLife Stadium to play in the Super Bowl.
A couple of weeks ago I gave you my early projection of what the Falcons' final 53-man roster may look like after training camp.
As the Falcons coaches continue their own evaluations, join me as I take an updated glance at the top 53 players currently on Atlanta's roster and rank them based on their overall talent, their projected role on the 2013 squad and their prior NFL production (I based rookie rankings on a combination of how I view their potential and their projected roles with the team).
I placed players that I ranked outside of the top 20 into three groups based on the roles that I expect them to play for the Falcons next season: special teamers/backup quarterbacks, utility reserves/spot starters and fringe starters, subpackage players and kickers.
For any of my Madden gamers, you can consider this article to be my best guess as to how the "OVR" ratings would stack up for the players on the Falcons roster as we head into June.
Let's break it all down.
53. Josh Harris
Harris is a solid long snapper, but his limited role keeps him on the back end of these rankings.
52. Robert James
James has managed to stick on Atlanta's roster since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, but he will probably face some serious competition for a backup linebacker spot from some of the Falcons' undrafted rookie free-agent linebackers like Nick Clancy, Paul Worrilow and Brian Banks. For now, James gets the edge, since he's a veteran.
51. Pat Schiller
Pat Schiller found his way on to Atlanta's practice squad last year, and he should have an opportunity make the final roster this year because of the team's lack of depth at linebacker. Like James, Schiller will have to hold off an undrafted rookie or two.
50. Sean Renfree
Renfree had the privilege of being coached by quarterback guru David Cutcliffe in college, so he should know a thing or two about offense. Look for Renfree to resemble an assistant coach as he holds a clipboard on the sideline next year.
49. Martel Moore
Moore was a playmaker at Northern Illinois, but he'll have to make his mark on special teams to land on the Falcons roster. His potential at wide receiver earns him a spot on this list.
48. Micanor Regis
Barring the addition of another defensive tackle, Regis is in line to be the fifth defensive tackle in Atlanta's rotation. Beyond that, he'll probably have to spend some time as a blocker/rusher on special teams as well.
47. Phillipkeith Manley
Manley should be able to earn a job as a reserve guard after being a practice squad member last season. He's got to manage his weight though.
46. Dominique Franks
This year's training camp may be Franks' last chance to prove to the Falcons that he deserves to be retained after the team drafted two cornerbacks in April. Franks showed some improvement in coverage last season.
45. Kevin Cone
Cone made the 53-man roster after demonstrating his value on special teams and making a couple of plays at wide receiver last preseason. He'll have to do the same this preseason after being placed on injured reserve at the end of the season.
44. Kemal Ishmael
Ishmael wasn't a household name like fellow seventh-round safety Zeke Motta, but if he displays his noted tackling ability during the preseason he could make the roster and become a valuable special teams player.
43. Charles Mitchell
Mitchell enters his second season in Mike Nolan's system, and he figures to make a strong push to be Atlanta's primary backup at safety behind Thomas DeCoud and William Moore, since the team opted not to re-sign Chris Hope.
42. Antone Smith
The Falcons have three quality running backs ahead of Antone Smith, but Smith has earned his living on special teams. All of this special teams talk may seem redundant, but Jacoby Jones and Trindon Holliday both demonstrated how kick coverage and return units can impact playoff games.
41. Dominique Davis
Davis stole the show during last year's preseason, and the Falcons appear to be confident enough in his ability to go into 2013 with him as Matt Ryan's top backup. It's going to be interesting to see Davis' development from year one to year two.
40. Drew Davis
Davis emerged as Atlanta's fourth wide receiver last season and caught a touchdown pass against the Eagles. The Falcons didn't spend a high draft pick on a wide receiver, so Davis should go into camp as the favorite to win the fourth wide receiver job.
39. Stansly Maponga
The Falcons are going to be counting on a group of young defensive ends to help boost the pass rush next season. Maponga showed some ability to get to the quarterback at TCU, and he lands right behind fellow 2013 draft pick Malliciah Goodman in this ranking based on his draft position, since we haven't seen what he can do in pads yet.
38. Malliciah Goodman
Clemson product Malliciah Goodman brings some impressive physical tools to the table, and he should add valuable depth even if he only ends up being more of a run-stuffing defensive end because he's big enough to play the 5-technique in a 3-4 front too.
37. Jonathan Massaquoi
Massaquoi slides into this slot ahead of Mapong and Goodman because he already has a year of NFL experience under his belt. Massaquoi will likely get every opportunity to show that he can be Atlanta's top young pass-rusher in camp.
36. Cliff Matthews
Matthews has already exceeded expectations for a seventh-round pick as he enters his third year with the team. He's been a key special teams player, and he even played some key downs as a reserve defensive end in the playoffs. He may not have the upside that Massaquoi or Maponga have, but he's turning into a valuable utility player like Kroy Biermann.
35. Levine Toilolo
Toilolo's pass-receiving skills may need some polishing, but as the saying goes, "you can't coach" his size. He's slotted behind Chase Coffman here because of seniority, but I wouldn't be surprised if Toilolo ended up winning the No. 2 tight end job.
34. Chase Coffman
Coffman had a highlight-reel catch against the Seahawks in the playoffs that offered a glimpse of what some draft analysts expected from him when he was drafted by the Bengals in the third round of the 2009 draft. He could keep Toilolo off of the field if he can build on that momentum and display some ability as a blocker.
33. Travian Robertson
Richard Seymour is sounding like a real possibility, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport (via Chris Wesseling), but Robertson will likely see an increased role even if the Falcons do add the soon-to-be-34-year-old former UGA star to their roster. The Falcons didn't re-sign Vance Walker, and Robertson flashed some potential last season.
32. Joe Hawley
Hawley is amongst the group of young offensive linemen whom the Falcons are expecting to make significant contributions this season. Hawley has the versatility to play center and guard, and both positions offer opportunities to compete for a starting position or a top backup spot.
31. Jason Snelling
Snelling has been rock steady during his time with the Falcons. If you look up "utility player" in the NFL dictionary you'll probably see a picture of Snelling. He may be underrated here at No. 31.
30. Matt Bosher
Matt Bosher has shown steady improvement during his two seasons in Atlanta. The value of a quality punter cannot be understated, since tight playoff games often come down to field-position battles.
29. Bradie Ewing
Bradie Ewing missed all of last season with a knee injury, but as a former fifth-round pick he is the clear leader in the clubhouse to be the team's starting fullback. The potential he showed as a college player at Wisconsin and the fact that he projects as a starter move him into the top 30 on this list.
28. Peria Jerry
Jerry could slide down on this list if the Falcons sign Richard Seymour. For right now, he makes the top 30 since on paper he's probably third in Atlanta's defensive tackle rotation behind Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters.
27. Matt Bryant
Bryant may not be high enough on this list. After all, if not for his clutch kick against Seattle, the Falcons would still be looking for their first playoff win since the 2004 season. Matt Bryant and Matt Bosher should keep the Falcons kicking game performing at a high level next year.
26. Mike Johnson
Like fellow 2010 draft pick Joe Hawley, Mike Johnson should get every chance to win a starting job on the offensive line during camp. At worst, Johnson will likely keep his role as the Falcons' top reserve offensive tackle.
25. Akeem Dent
The 25th slot may seem a little low for a starting middle linebacker, but the Falcons play so much nickel under Mike Nolan that the team's third cornerback often ends up playing more than Dent. Dent took some lumps in his first season as a starter, but he is a thumper who isn't afraid to do the dirty work.
24. Garrett Reynolds
Reynolds is in the fringe starter group because he's been fighting to hold on to a starting spot on the offensive line since Harvey Dahl signed with the Rams. A back injury cut his season short last year, but if Peter Konz wins the job at center, Reynolds is the presumed favorite to start at right guard.
23. Lamar Holmes
Lamar Holmes headlines the group of young Falcons offensive linemen who have to step up in 2013 if the Falcons want to be a Super Bowl contender. The 2012 third-round pick has tremendous physical tools and should be able to hold off competition for Falcons' vacant right tackle job with a strong preseason.
22. Robert McClain
McClain took advantage of Brent Grimes' injury and made some plays as a subpackage cornerback last season. Look for McClain to continue making a contribution even with Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford on board. Alford gets the nod over McClain on this list because of his speed and projected impact as a return man.
21. Robert Alford
The competition between Alford, Desmond Trufant and Robert McClain should be fun to watch. Alford is a big-time athlete who's likely to see some time as a return man as well. For now, I'll give Alford the nudge over McClain as the team's nickelback.
Harry Douglas' production may not have been to the level that some Falcons fans had hoped for in 2012, but he rounds out the top 20 on this list because of his talent as route-runner and the opportunities he should have to make big plays in 2013 as defenses focus on Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Steven Jackson.
For now, you can probably pencil Kroy Biermann in as the Falcons' starting left defensive end opposite Osi Umenyiora.
However, Biermann's versatility is what lands him in the top 20. Look for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to find more ways to take advantage of Biermann's unique skill set in 2013.
Konz started at right guard last season after Garrett Reynolds went down with an injury, but he will likely return to playing center to take over for Todd McClure in 2013.
Konz struggled at times at right guard, but the move to center and the fact that he will have an NFL season under his belt should increase his value
The Falcons haven't practiced in pads yet, so remember that any rookies on this list are being ranked solely on their potential and the projected role that they will play for the team in 2013.
The Falcons traded up to get Desmond Trufant for a reason. He has an NFL pedigree and shouldn't have to make too much of an adjustment to the league.
Based on the Falcons' need at cornerback and where Trufant was drafted, I think it's safe to pencil Trufant in as the team's starting right corner. Given that, I don't think slotting him at 17 is too high at this point.
Jacquizz Rodgers still figures to play a key role in the Falcons offense in spite of the arrival of Steven Jackson. Rodgers proved that he can make big plays both on the ground and as a receiver last year.
He's a difficult matchup in space as a receiver, and defenders will have a difficult time finding him in the running game when he carries the ball behind the Falcons' big offensive line.
Rodgers' penchant for making timely plays on offense earns him a spot here in the top 20.
Thomas DeCoud rounds out the top 15 coming off of his first career Pro Bowl berth last season.
He still needs to improve as a tackler, but he doesn't get caught out of position much in the passing game and knows how to take the ball away from opposing offenses.
Stephen Nicholas took a little bit of heat from Falcons fans after the playoffs for his perceived shortcomings in coverage against Zach Miller and Vernon Davis, but in hindsight that criticism was probably more of a typical knee-jerk reaction to an emotional loss.
The fact that the Falcons spent time with Clemson coaches preparing for the read-option this offseason suggests that it wasn't just Nicholas who was ill-prepared for some of what Seattle and San Francisco threw at him.
Nicholas may not be a Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker, but he led the team in tackles last year and is an above-average starter in the NFL. He belongs in the top 15 spots on this roster.
In 2012, Sam Baker bounced back so well from a subpar 2011 season that Falcons rewarded him with a contract extension this offseason.
Like Nicholas, Baker may never be a Pro Bowl talent. However, as long as this former first-round pick is protecting Matt Ryan's blind side, he should be ranked comfortably in the top 15 slots.
Corey Peters missed the start of the 2012 season with an injury, but he made his presence felt when he returned.
As he enters his fourth season in the NFL, Peters appears to be primed to challenge Jonathan Babineaux as the top defensive tackle on this roster.
Peters slides into the 12th spot on this ranking because of his ability to defend the run and impact opposing offenses as an interior pass-rusher.
Asante Samuel heads into his second season with the Falcons as the team's undisputed leader in the secondary.
He will be partly responsible for making sure that Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford grow up quickly on the outside.
Last season Samuel proved that he isn't done being a big-time contributor on the field. His pick-six against Oakland saved the Falcons from what would have been an embarrassing home loss.
Samuel's talent and his role as team leader earn him the 11th spot on this list.
Justin Blalock is the elder statesman on the Falcons offensive line now that Todd McClure has retired and Tyson Clabo is with the Dolphins.
A starter since 2007, Blalock has been one of the Falcons' most steady performers over the past five seasons.
The Falcons have plenty of questions along the offensive line headed into camp, but Blalock's spot at left guard isn't one of them.
The Falcons brought in Osi Umenyiora to take over for John Abraham as the team's primary pass-rusher at right defensive end.
Umenyiora split time with Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul during his last couple of seasons with the Giants, so he should have enough left in the his tank to play at a high level as a full-time starter in Atlanta.
Umenyiora's role as the team's primary pass-rusher and his championship pedigree from the Giants land him firmly in the top 10.
Steven Jackson's ability to make an impact in Atlanta's passing game out of the backfield will further complicate matters for opposing defensive coordinators.
Beyond that, Jackson is a more powerful runner than Michael Turner was because oftentimes he doesn't just hit holes, but instead he makes holes by running with authority.
If Jackson stays healthy, he'll take this offense to an even higher level.
Jonathan Babineaux is one of the most underappreciated players on the Falcons roster. He makes plays behind the line of scrimmage in run defense and does well in pursuit when he breaches the pocket.
Mike Nolan even used Babineaux as a 5-technique defensive end at times last season.
The ability to bring that kind of consistent value to Atlanta's defense is the main reason Babineaux finds himself ranked seventh in this list.
Sean Weatherspoon hasn't done much to disappoint since being drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft.
He makes his presence felt as tackler, blitzer and in pass coverage. A strong 2013 season should validate Weatherspoon's status as one of the NFL's elite linebackers.
The fact that I've ranked William Moore ahead Sean Weatherspoon may come as a surprise to some fans, given the fact that Weatherspoon is the vocal leader of the Falcons defense.
However, William Moore is a complete strong safety who would probably garner more league-wide interest on the open market than Weatherspoon would because of his ability to create turnovers and excel in run support and pass coverage.
Put simply, William Moore is the best physical talent on Atlanta's defense.
Tony Gonzalez proved that "age ain't nothing but a number" again in 2013 by reeling in 93 passes for 930 yards and eight touchdowns.
Gonzalez put off retirement for a year to win a championship, and with that kind of motivation I wouldn't expect his production to dip.
Given what Gonzalez did at his age last year, you could make an argument that he belongs at the top of these rankings.
The Falcons really nailed their first two selections in the 2005 NFL draft when they took Roddy White and Jonathan Babineaux.
White has persevered through two tough seasons in 2005 and 2006 to become one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.
His value to the Falcons on the field and in the locker room is tough to measure because in many ways he is the main face that people associate with this franchise outside of Matt Ryan.
Matt Ryan took his game to new heights in 2012 under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, with career highs in passing yards, touchdowns, passer rating and completion percentage.
Ryan should put up even better numbers in 2013 in his second year in Koetter's system with addition of Steven Jackson and the absence of the "he can't win a playoff game" monkey on his back.
If Ryan can cut down on the turnovers and get the Falcons into the playoffs again, he could be an MVP candidate.
I know it's a quarterbacks' league, but Julio Jones earns the top spot in these rankings because he is the best overall player on Atlanta's roster.
He's a game-changer athletically, and if NFL general managers conducted a league-wide fantasy draft to fill their rosters, he'd probably be the first player they'd take from the Falcons.
Jones made his first Pro Bowl last season, and he shouldn't have a problem earning a return trip in 2013.