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The case for and against the Falcons bringing back Derrick Coleman in 2018

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This is going to open a larger discussion about the fullback position in Atlanta.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Interesting but true: From 2007-2016, the Falcons had exactly four fullbacks starting multiple games per season. In 2012, they split duties between Mike Cox, Lousaka Polite, and sometimes Jason Snelling, but from 2007-2011 it was Ovie Mughelli’s job, and from 2013-2016 that gig belonged to Patrick DiMarco.

That means that stability has been the norm, not the exception, at the fullback position. And that makes Derrick Coleman’s status and the question marks around the position worth talking about.

Coleman was one of the team’s best special teamers in 2017, but he was only an average blocker and was barely a factor on offense at all. The team could elect to re-sign him for cheap and maintain some continuity at the position, or they could try to find their next multi-year solution at a useful but not critical position.

Here’s the case for and against Coleman.

For

You start with Coleman’s Pro Bowl-caliber special teams performance, whatever that means at the end of the day. He was one of the league’s leading special teams tacklers, laying the wood on returners across the league. I’m sure Keith Armstrong would like to see Coleman come back and help out on an unsettled unit.

As a blocker, Coleman was far from the worst option in the NFL last year, and he occasionally delivered the kind of impressive block that made him a promising fullback in Seattle.

When the Falcons did use Coleman on offense as anything but a blocker, it was a mixed bag, but he had a couple of productive carries and a couple of receptions for 20 yards.

In short, Coleman was largely fine, and the state of the fullback position league-wide is such that fine is going to get him another starting gig somewhere in 2018.

Against

Aside from special teams, which isn’t exactly the primary reason the Falcons signed him, Coleman did not elevate beyond fine. There were some situations where he simply got destroyed blocking, and frankly he was a downgrade from Patrick DiMarco in just about every way. That’s understandable—DiMarco is a top-tier fullback—but it does make the drop-off evident. Coleman was, at least in 2017, an eminently replaceable fullback.

Probably the biggest case against Coleman is that there are better fullbacks on the open market, for a change. The Falcons would have to pony up a little bit, but they could get a true bruising blocker in Zach Line to help out the ground game.

The Verdict: Yes

This is another one I’ve waffled on, but ultimately I think the Falcons will look at the fullback market and the potential costs of expending a draft pick on a fullback and elect to bring Coleman back. He’s decent enough and genuinely valuable on special teams, so I expect a deal will get done before April, and the Falcons will punt on finding a long-term option for one more season.