I am already on record as saying the Falcons are the best team, by far, in the NFC.
One reason for that are these breakout players for 2017.
This club has dominating players on both sides of the ball and there is no reason not to believe that will be the case for Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Alex Mack, Jake Matthews, Ryan Schraeder, Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, Dez Trufant, Keanu Neal and more, this season.
Add to the previous list of stars and Pro Bowl caliber players at every level are these players who are set to break out, big time, this coming season.
Devonta Freeman: Wait a minute. Didn’t you say “break out?” Isn’t this dude a Pro Bowl guy who has scored 27 touchdowns and totaled over 3,000 yards in the last two seasons? Yes he has! And this is Year 4. Peak Freeman! He could put up huge numbers, even splitting time with Tevin Coleman, and finally get arguably the biggest thing he is aiming for… consideration as one of the best in the game.
Grady Jarrett: Jarrett began to blossom in his second season, but it was at the Super Bowl where he shined. He was surely the best defensive player of that game and that was a taste of the kind of push pressure he will deliver this season. With a proven pro like Dontari Poe alongside Jarrett, the third-year pro is ready to break into the big time.
Justin Hardy: Hardy has grown through his two seasons and last year made some eye-popping grabs among the 21 catches he made. Here’s betting he truly solidifies himself as the No. 3 wide out and improves his numbers (4 TDs in 2016) across the board. Freeman says Hardy looks as impressive as anyone he’s seen on the offense this offseason. He’s got great hands, is a good route runner and he’s tough.
Austin Hooper: A late start last season translated to a slow start for the big tight end. Hooper grew in his role and his importance through the season and caught a big TD in the Super Bowl. Through the regular season and playoffs he was targeted 36 times; a number that will likely more than double since he is now the primary target for a position that can put up big numbers in a Matt Ryan led offense. He’s big, faster than you think and has sure hands. Hooper could have more than a couple of big games this season as other teams key on the Falcons’ other weapons.
Damontae Kazee: With average size (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) and average speed, nothing screams that the fifth-round pick will excel as a rookie. Nothing but… the dude makes plays, lots and lots of them. I got a chance to watch a number of his college games (I was once the play-by-play guy for San Diego State – Go Aztecs). as Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year in each of the last two seasons. He had 15 picks over the last two years. It seems all he does is ball hawk. He will make more than a couple big plays this season.