With the 2018 NFL Combine inching ever closer, we move on to the next prospect preview in our series: RB. The Falcons are unlikely to be in play for any of the big-name prospects—players like Saquon Barkely, Derrius Guice, and Sony Michel—but are likely in the market for a mid-to-late round player that can compete for the RB3 spot and potentially serve as Tevin Coleman’s replacement after the 2018 season.
There’s also buzz that the team could be in the market for a new FB, which could bring a few players into the mix late in the draft. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting Day 2 and later RBs that will be in attendance at the 2018 NFL Combine.
If you missed the previous entry in our prospect preview series, you can find it here: offensive line.
NICK BAWDEN, FB, SDSU
For those who want the Falcons to upgrade the FB position but don’t want to use a mid-to-late round pick, Nick Bawden could be just the man for the job. The 6’3, 245 Bawden began his career as a QB, but has since started two seasons at FB for SDSU. He’s a good blocker, with solid athletic ability and the hands to be useful as a chess-piece in the passing game.
KALEN BALLAGE, RB, Arizona State
Ballage is the quintessential “workout warrior” without much production or great tape to his name. He’s got the prototypical build of a high-ceiling NFL RB at 6’2, 227, but there’s a lot he needs to improve with his technique. Look for Ballage to impress in the Combine workouts, where he’ll generate a fair amount of buzz. As a late-round project with upside, Ballage could be an intriguing “offensive weapon” piece for a creative OC.
DIMITRI FLOWERS, FB, Oklahoma
For those that don’t mind spending a mid-round pick on a FB, you won’t find a better prospect than Dimitri Flowers. The 6’2, 245 lead blocker from Oklahoma is fantastic at clearing out running lanes and has the ability to be a competent RB in his own right. He’s a smooth pass catcher and a solid athlete that looks like a Pro Bowl-caliber FB option that can also take carries in a pinch.
ROYCE FREEMAN, RB, Oregon
Aside from the fact that having two RBs named Freeman on the same team would be awesome, Royce Freeman is actually a very good RB that fits very well into a zone-scheme attack. He has exceptional vision and decisiveness as a runner coupled with plus ability in the passing game and great size at 6’0, 234. There are concerns about his workload in college and his lackluster pass blocking ability, but Freeman could be an ideal option as an RB2 for Atlanta.
NYHEIM HINES, RB, N.C. State
A player that the Falcons are rumored to have interest in, Nyheim Hines is somewhat of a “tweener” at the RB position. He’s definitely on the small side at 5’9, 197, but Hines has the look of a high-level athlete that could contribute in both the running and passing games. Durability is a concern, but that would be less of an issue if Hines was used as a change-of-pace back or as part of a committee approach. His athletic testing will go a long way in determining his value.
RASHAAD PENNY, RB, SDSU
The NCAA’s leading rusher in 2017 with 2,248 yards and 23 TDs, Rashaad Penny has the look of an NFL starter. At 5’11, 220, he’s got desired size to go along with solid agility and a physical running style. Penny is not an explosive player and he lacks the top-end speed to ever be a home-run threat, but he’s got proven and consistent production over his college career. He’ll likely demand a Day 2 pick, but Penny would be a very good RB2 for Atlanta.
ROC THOMAS, RB, Jacksonville State
Another athletic RB that could make waves with his testing at the Combine, Roc Thomas is an under-the-radar player due to spending the last two seasons at FCS Jacksonville State. If you can put that aside, Thomas looks like an intriguing prospect: he’s got great agility, balance, and explosion, and could be a factor in the passing and return game at the NFL level. However, he’s very technically inconsistent, and there will be questions about the lack of talent he faced in the FCS.
AKRUM WADLEY, RB, Iowa
You might be sensing a theme here. Wadley is another slightly undersized RB at 5’10, 191, but he’s a great athlete with fantastic receiving ability and untapped potential as a returner. Wadley is a finesse runner and there are concerns about his durability, but his traits and plus receiving ability make him a good mid-round option for a team that can add him to an established committee.
MARK WALTON, RB, Miami
One of my favorite mid-round options for the Falcons, Mark Walton looks like a great fit as an RB2 in a zone-blocking scheme. He does a lot of things well that the Falcons require from their RBs. Walton is an agile runner with good decisiveness and vision, particularly when running outside. He’s got great hands and can make plays in the open field once he completes the catch. Walton’s weakness is between the tackles, where he seems a bit lost at times and lacks the desired power to burst through the line.
DARREL WILLIAMS, RB, LSU
The Falcons were rumored to have interest in Williams during the Senior Bowl, and it’s easy to see why. Williams has great size at 6’1, 229 and showed off a physical and powerful running style as the back-up to potential first round RB Derrius Guice. He’s not a flashy athlete and needs a good deal of work with his technique, but Williams has shown some ability as a pass catcher and will be an asset in short-yardage situations. As a late-round project with upside, Williams makes a lot of sense for Atlanta.
Who are some RBs that you’ll be watching for the Falcons during the Combine? What round do you think Atlanta should consider adding a RB in? Do you see Tevin Coleman returning to the Falcons in 2019?