The Atlanta Falcons have been busy through the first wave of free agency, loading up on former first-round picks on the offensive side of the ball. It could be a weird coincidence, but there's some merit toward what the Falcons are attempting.
Atlanta signed running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, and traded for tight end Hayden Hurst last week, all of which are former first-round picks. Add those acquisitions to the first-round skill players the Falcons selected over the years in quarterback Matt Ryan (2008), Julio Jones (2008) and Calvin Ridley (2018), making all those skill players in the starting lineup former first-round picks.
The Falcons aren't done there.
Atlanta selected Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary in the first round of the 2019 draft, as Lindstrom started all five games he played at right guard after suffering a foot injury in Week 1 of the season. McGary started all 16 games at right tackle. Left tackle Jake Matthews was the team's first-round pick in the 2014 draft. Left guard James Carpenter was a first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2011 and center Alex Mack was the Cleveland Browns' first-round pick in 2009.
The entire Falcons offensive line consists of first-round picks, making it possible Atlanta's starting offense could feature 11 first-round selections in 2020.
QB: Matt Ryan (2008)
RB: Todd Gurley (2015)
WR: Julio Jones (2011)
WR: Calvin Ridley (2018)
WR: Laquon Treadwell (2016)
TE: Hayden Hurst (2018)
LT: Jake Matthews (2014)
LG: James Carpenter (2011)
C: Alex Mack (2009)
RG: Chris Lindstrom (2019)
RT: Kaleb McGary (2019)
This will change based on the personnel the Falcons will run, but there's no questioning the talent the Falcons have on offense. Some of these first-round picks have lived up to their draft billing, while others have struggled to find their footing. Hurst was the No. 2 tight end in Baltimore as Mark Andrews emerged as the go-to player for Lamar Jackson while Treadwell struggled to find his footing with the Minnesota Vikings, having 701 yards and two touchdowns in four seasons.
Gurley's resume is the most impressive of the offseason acquisitions, even if knee problems played a role in him averaging 3.8 yards per carry and 857 yards in 2019. He still has 7,494 yards from scrimmage (5,404 rushing, 2,090 receiving) and 70 touchdowns in five seasons.
The Falcons are looking to bolster an offense that finished 13th in the league in points and fifth in yards in 2019. Despite having the third-ranked pass offense, Atlanta finished 30th in rushing, and its 10 rushing touchdowns were just 24th in the league (which is where Gurley comes in).
Atlanta did start 1-7 to begin the season, but went 6-2 after the bye week to finish 7-9 (including ending the year on a four-game winning streak). The Falcons averaged 27 points per game in the second half of the season and 374.1 yards per game, even with their well-below-average ground game.
A talented Falcons offense will be even better if the 2017 and 2018 version of Gurley shows up. Even if Gurley's knee problems continue, the Falcons offense will be tough to keep off the field in 2020.