The Falcons are in an interesting spot at the RB position. At first glance, the group that includes arguably the best 1-2 combo in the NFL with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman appears to be one of the strongest position groups on the roster. Upon closer inspection, however, the group is strong—but vulnerable.
The only other RB on the roster at this point is Terrence Magee, who has some fans of his potential, but hasn’t done much in his two-year NFL career. Tevin Coleman is awesome, but will be a free agent in 2019. It’s unlikely, despite Thomas Dimitroff’s confidence, that Atlanta will be able to keep both RBs around going forward. Freeman has been the workhorse for the team since 2015, but dealt with multiple concussions and other injuries in 2017. If you’re concerned about his long-term health, you wouldn’t be alone.
Heading into 2018, the Falcons RB group is pretty darn good. Sure, maybe you can find an upgrade on Magee at RB3—but when you have two RB1s on the roster that player will almost never see the field. The bigger concern is what Atlanta will do in 2019, when either Freeman or Coleman exit via free agency or trade. Which brings us to the primary question of this article: should the Falcons add a RB in the 2018 NFL Draft?
The answer, in my mind, is still a resounding maybe. Atlanta has been linked to several mid-to-late round prospects throughout the draft cycle. Georgia’s Nick Chubb is perhaps the biggest name of the bunch, but he’s likely a second round pick. We’ve also seen the team show continued interest in Nyheim Hines and Darrel Williams, who are late Day 2 and late Day 3 prospects, respectively.
That’s far from an exhaustive list of all the RBs the Falcons have talked with, but a pattern (outside of Chubb) is clearly emerging: these players are all projected to go in the mid-to-late rounds. Most still need development and are likely best suited to duties as “committee” backs. The selection of a player like Nyheim Hines makes a lot of sense for Atlanta in the late Day 2-early Day 3 range, as he would have an opportunity to develop for a season before taking over as the RB2.
The Falcons don’t need a starter from this draft, and really only need an RB2 or rotational back in 2019 to pair with the starter—whether it’s Freeman or Coleman. In that case, it makes sense to spend a fourth round pick (in a historically deep RB class) on a developmental RB that can sit for a year behind the dynamic duo. Atlanta could get excellent value and be in a strong position going forward.
On the other hand, there isn’t really a need to add another RB this offseason. Freeman, Coleman, and Magee could certainly handle things until 2019 without much trouble. Any draft pick you add would realistically only be upgrading RB3—which is fine, but certainly shouldn’t be much of a priority, especially for a team with two RB1s. Drafting someone high, like Chubb, only to have them sit behind the two starters for a year would be a huge waste of draft resources and an affordable contract.
RB is a position that can be relatively easy to acclimate to at the NFL level—we’ve seen plenty of backs hit the ground running in their rookie seasons—so the Falcons may be better off simply waiting until 2019 to find Freeman or Coleman’s successor. It’s unlikely that the 2019 class will be as overwhelmingly talented as 2018’s, but that shouldn’t be a huge issue for a team like Atlanta.
In my opinion, the Falcons could afford to pass on RB in this draft. However, if there is a player they like on Day 3 that happens to fall into their lap, I wouldn’t be opposed to it. There’s also the chance that Dimitroff actually pulls off keeping both Freeman and Coleman, however unlikely that is.
No matter what happens, the Falcons wouldn’t be desperate for a RB in 2019. They’ll have their workhorse starter, whether it’s Freeman or Coleman, locked down long-term. Adding a young RB2 candidate in 2019 wouldn’t be much of an issue—particularly with the Falcons slated, at least at this point, to receive multiple compensatory picks. That strategy would allow the player to get more snaps early in his career, and give Atlanta an affordable rookie contract for an additional year.
What do you think about Atlanta’s RB situation? Should the Falcons spend a mid-to-late round pick on a RB in 2018, or should they wait until 2019? Vote in the poll below to give us a window into how the fanbase feels about this particular need.
When should the Falcons draft a RB?
This poll is closed
2018 on Day 2
2018 on Day 3
2019 on Day 2
2019 on Day 3