The last time we saw the Atlanta Falcons in the ESPN Power Rankings, they were hovering somewhere near the bottom.
But the post-draft rankings show how much respect folks had for what the Falcons have accomplished this offseason. They made the biggest jump of any team in the league, moving up 12 spots from No. 26 to No. 14. The Falcons are the only team in the top 15 with a losing record last season (4-12).
Team owner Arthur Blank expressed firm belief in his team making a worst-to-first turnaround in '14. To do so, the Falcons beefed up both the offensive and defensive lines with the additions of nose tackle Paul Soliai, defensive end Tyson Jackson, guard Jon Asamoah, rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews and rookie defensive end Ra'Shede Hageman. That's more than 1,500 pounds added up front.
Although the Falcons will attempt to establish more offensive balance, particularly with rookie running back Devonta Freeman expected to contribute, they still will rely heavily on the passing game. No doubt about it.
Giving Matt Ryan adequate time to throw deep to returning top target Julio Jones (foot surgery) will give the Falcons the element they sorely missed last season. A healthy Roddy White next to Jones gives the team one of the most dangerous tandems in the league.
Of course none of that will matter if the Falcons can't stop anybody. But the switch to a 3-4-base with, Soliai as the anchor, will help shut down the run. And a pressure-by-committee approach will help the Falcons get to opposing quarterbacks more often than last season.
Not to be forgotten is the impact Devin Hester could have in the return game. Field position is always important and Hester has plenty left in him. Plus he's working under one of the league's best special teams coaches in Keith Armstrong, who will be a head coach eventually.