JACKSONVILLE FL - SEPTEMBER 02: Jason Snelling #44 of the Atlanta Falcons runs during a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on September 2 2010 in Jacksonville Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
It would be fair to say that Jason Snelling has been the forgotten man a few times.
During his college career at Virginia, Snelling fought epilepsy that forced him to take a redshirt year of two. Despite having the fifth best yards per carry average of any back in Virginia history, nobody took a flyer on him until the Falcons scooped him up in the seventh round of the 2007 draft. He was more or less an afterthought his rookie season, pulling down 13 carries for 43 yards in a decimated group of running backs. He looked like a guy who might stick around a couple of years as a third back, but that was it.
As we all know, a funny thing happened on the way to irrelevance.
Think about this for a moment: Jason Snelling has led the team's running backs in receptions for two straight seasons. As a big guy, he doesn't look like the world's most natural pass catcher, but he actually is incredibly smooth out of the backfield. He's also a competent runner, as we all know, and a quality blocker.
That made him an excellent backup for Michael Turner, and it's kept him on the roster since. It also ensures he'll have a niche in this offense in 2012.
All of that means that Snelling isn't likely to completely fade into the background. His 108 receptions since 2007 and his 7.7 yards per reception average are more than solid for a running back, and we all know Michael Turner is not a pass-catcher. Considering that Jacquizz Rodgers is still learning the ropes, it's not outlandish to think that Snelling will be on the field plenty this season, even if he's just blocking.
The most important development for Snelling, though, would be an increase in screen passes. A guy with the ability to truck someone over and catch passes is a valuable commodity in the screen game.
So I think you can still expect close to 25 or 30 catches for Snelling in 2012, plus about 50 carries. Do you agree?