The Atlanta Falcons made a smart decision drafting running back Ito Smith in April. Give it a little time, let it percolate, and it may be one of the smartest decisions the front office has made in recent years. As we reluctantly look ahead to the 2019 offseason, one fact can’t be disputed: the running back depth chart is likely to take a big hit. Unless something unexpected happens, Tevin Coleman will not play for the Falcons after the 2018 season wraps. It’s sad, it’s unfortunate, it’s downright unfair. But this is the NFL; he has to move on and make his money.
In comes Smith, a slightly under the radar talent that miraculously landed at Flowery Branch when the draft dust settled in late April. Have you read Eric Robinson’s scouting report on Smith yet? No? Then go do it. Immediately. He’s a dynamic player, one the Falcons may need to lean on in the years ahead. What better time to test his readiness than now?
Simply stated, the Falcons can’t afford to just wait and see with Smith. Devonta Freeman is a talented running back, and he’s under contract through the end of the 2022 season. But he’s had his fair share of bumps and bruises (i.e., concussions). If he can’t stay healthy or if he needs to miss a few games, the Falcons must have a reliable number two waiting in the wings. Do we really want to wait until 2019 to confirm that Smith is that reliable number two?
I’m not suggesting Smith should eat up a large chunk of Coleman or Freeman’s carries in 2018. I am insisting that it makes sense to test him, to really test him, to the extent they can without hurting the team.