Taylor Gabriel, a guy the Browns cut this season, could become a breakout playoff star
We've talked a lot about Saturday's matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons (4:35 p.m. ET on FOX and FOX Sports GO) -- about why Seattle could be in trouble, and the 11 players we think will have the biggest impact on the game.
But one guy we haven't talked about yet is Taylor Gabriel, a 5-foot-8 wide receiver who was cut by the Browns in September and has thrived since joining the Falcons, catching 35 passes for 579 yards. Gabriel, who played under Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland, posted similar numbers in his first season as an undrafted free agent out of Abilene Christian, with one big exception: He had just one touchdown in two seasons in Cleveland, while he's found the end zone seven times this season -- more than Julio Jones.
From sweep plays to jump balls to deep strikes, Gabriel has done it all.
"Everybody could tell from Day One he was a guy who was going to be able to help us in some way," QB Matt Ryan told reporters.
So while the Seahawks' Paul Richardson became a breakout star last week with his acrobatic grabs against the Lions, this week it could be Gabriel, especially since Richard Sherman likely will be shadowing Jones.
"I hope they don't underestimate me," Gabriel told ESPN back in November. "This is the NFL. You should never underestimate anybody that's on the field because it's the best of the best."
The Browns, meanwhile, reportedly regret having cut Gabriel to open up playing time for young receivers Corey Coleman, Jordan Payton, Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins, all of whom were drafted last year. Gabriel scored more TDs than all four of them combined. But he isn't salty.
"I mean, it was a just a business decision on their hands," Gabriel told ESPN. "They felt like it was the right choice. At the same time, I'm not really worried about that. ... That's the farthest thing from my mind."
Now he's poised to be an in-demand free agent following the season, and he can increase his value Saturday in his playoff debut, stretching the field to draw the attention of the Seahawks' safeties and open up passing lanes for Ryan and the Falcons.