The Atlanta Falcons may have come short of a post-season once again, but that doesn’t mean that they have a talentless roster.
According to PFF, the list “is based solely on 2021 play. Past or future play is not accounted for. This isn’t about class or talent; it’s about performance throughout the 2021 NFL season.”
PFF also notes that the list is created with an “all positions are created equal” mindset. That means, they looked above and beyond the quarterback position.
And that was true for the Falcons players who made the cut. Let’s take a look.
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No. 47 CB A.J. TERRELL
Zero Falcons landed in the top 10 nor did they make it under the top 25 but one of them made it below No. 50: cornerback A.J. Terrell.
The second-year cornerback came in at No. 47 on the list.
2021 Snaps: 1,023 | 2021 PFF Grade: 82.7
A season ago, Terrell was a struggling rookie cornerback, but he is now an All Pro-caliber player despite the defense having little in the way of quality around him. Terrell allowed just 43.9% of passes thrown into his coverage to be caught, resulting in a 47.5 passer rating. He surrendered only 200 yards all season long, a figure some cornerbacks gave up in a single game during the season.
The Falcons drafted Terrell 16th overall in the 2020 NFL draft. Despite a promising first NFL season, he went unranked on PFF’s Top 101 in 2021.
No. 55. G CHRIS LINDSTROM
The next Falcon that made the list was starting right guard Chris Lindstrom who was the only guard in the league to allow zero sacks on his quarterback all season long.
It’s also notable to add that Lindstrom did not miss a game even though his mom was in the hospital battling cancer and passed away toward the final weeks of the season.
2021 Snaps: 992 | 2021 PFF Grade: 84.9
The Falcons’ offensive line was far from amazing this season, but Lindstrom continues to improve into one of the best guards in football. He finished this season with a PFF grade more than six points better than last year’s mark, and he allowed 31 pressures from 661 pass-blocking snaps. Lindstrom has improved each season in the NFL and is one short step away from being a regular All-Pro.
Lindstrom was a 2019 first-round pick by Atlanta and this is also his first appearance on PFF’s top 101.
No. 67. HB CORDARRELLE PATTERSON
While the Falcons’ dual-threat running back, Cordarrelle Patterson, didn’t earn respect from the Pro Bowl committee, PFF shined some light on him.
2021 Snaps: 458 | 2021 PFF Grade: 82.3
Patterson has always been a talented playmaker, but the Falcons unlocked the full scope of that potential this season. He became a hybrid matchup weapon from the running back position, capable of carrying the ball for positive yards and becoming a huge problem for defenses when catching passes either out of the backfield or lined up out wide. Patterson averaged 2.95 yards per run after contact and 2.23 yards per route run, and he scored 11 total touchdowns.
Now, Patterson is set to hit the open market and if the Falcons don’t come up with money quickly, they could let a very good thing slip away.
No. 94. TE KYLE PITTS
Of course, the Falcons’ 2021 “unicorn” draft pick, Kyle Pitts, made the list. But, did PFF place him way too low?
2021 Snaps: 740 | 2021 PFF Grade: 81.2
The best tight end prospect to enter the NFL draft in years, Pitts quickly became a tight end in name only, lining up either in the slot or out wide on 78.2% of his snaps in 2021. He effectively became the Falcons’ No. 1 receiver, catching 63.6% of the passes thrown his way and generating 2.0 yards per route run. He had only one touchdown catch, fittingly following in the footsteps of Julio Jones as an elite playmaker for Atlanta with a curious aversion to the end zone.
Things can only go up for the future superstar from here.
No. 101. C MATT HENNESSY
And last, literally, on the list was Falcons second-year center, Matt Hennessy. This one comes by surprise but he deserves some recognition for being a light in an unstable offensive front.
2021 Snaps: 947 | 2021 PFF Grade: 80.8
Matt Hennessy was much improved in Year 2 after an ugly rookie campaign a season ago. His overall PFF grade jumped more than 30 points, and his pass-blocking grade was up more than 20. Pass-blocking remains his weaker area, but as a center, it is less of a problem than on other positions on the offensive line. His run-blocking grade of 89.1 was elite, and his trajectory is pointed in the right direction.
His third-year jump will be pivotal as he becomes a veteran amongst a young Falcons O-line.