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2019 NFL Combine: RB prospects to watch for the Falcons

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While RB isn’t one of the Falcons’ most pressing needs in 2019, finding a successor to Tevin Coleman is still important. We take a closer look at some potential options participating in the 2019 NFL Combine.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: The NFL Combine is here, with the workouts starting today for the OL and RBs!

We’re officially one week away from the first workouts of the 2019 NFL Combine, otherwise known as the Underwear Olympics. I’m pretty excited for both the on-field workouts and all the interesting news tidbits that always seem to leak during the festivities, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get an update on the contract status of Grady Jarrett and Julio Jones.

Friday’s workouts combine the offensive linemen and the running backs. I’ve already taken a closer look at offensive tackle and the interior offensive. Next up are the RBs. While it’s not a primary need for the Falcons, finding a replacement for Tevin Coleman—who is almost assuredly departing in free agency—is still important for this team. We’re likely to see a Day 3 pick here, particularly with Atlanta’s two compensatory selections, and the nature of the position means that some quality options will still be available.

If you’d like to take a look at my other Combine prospect previews, you can find them below:

Offense

Defense

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting RBs for the Falcons at the 2019 NFL Combine.

Myles Gaskin, Washington

Listed Size: 5’9, 190

2018 Production: 259 carries, 1268 yards, 4.9 YPC. 12 TD, 21 receptions, 77 yards, 3.7 YPR, 1 TD

You’ve probably heard of Myles Gaskin at some point, because he’s been an incredibly consistent RB throughout his 4-year career at Washington. It’s pretty remarkable that Gaskin has managed 220+ carries in four straight seasons at his stature, and that durability is a major selling point. Beyond that, however, Gaskin is a talented runner and receiver—despite getting relatively few opportunities in the passing game.

Gaskin’s best attributes are his vision and elusiveness, which make him a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme. He’s been effective running both inside and outside in college, but his best fit is probably as a rotational RB2 in the NFL. The nature of the RB position means that Gaskin, despite his talents, has a realistic chance to be available for the Falcons on Day 3 because of his lack of prototypical size.

Damien Harris, Alabama

Listed Size: 5’10, 216

2018 Production: 150 carries, 876 yards, 5.8 YPC, 9 TD. 22 receptions, 204 yards, 9.3 YPR

Damien Harris was upstaged by Josh Jacobs at Alabama this past season, but that doesn’t mean that Harris isn’t a quality RB. He’s got the ideal frame for an every-down NFL back, with a hard-charging, decisive running style. Harris can be more than a just short-yardage back, but he the lacks elusiveness and long speed that you’d like to see from a “bell cow”.

Despite Harris’ production and prototypical frame, I’m not sure that he’s anything more than an average rotational piece. He’s shown some decent receiving ability, but nothing too special—and his pass protection is surprisingly poor for someone of his size. Harris’ athletic testing will go a long way in determining his stock, which could tumble into Day 3 with a poor showing.

Justice Hill, Oklahoma State

Listed Size: 5’10, 190

2018 Production: 158 carries, 930 yards, 5.9 YPC, 9 TD. 13 receptions, 68 yards, 5.2 YPR

One of my favorite targets for the Falcons in the 2019 NFL Draft, Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill is an electric playmaker despite his lack of ideal size. I’ve had the Falcons drafting him early on Day 3 in several of my mock drafts, and here’s how I described Hill’s skillset:

Hill certainly isn’t a physically imposing back at 5’10, 190, but he’s the third down specialist the Falcons have lacked since Jacquizz Rodgers left for Tampa Bay. He’s agile and smooth as a runner, showcasing excellent balance and footwork, and is a dangerous weapon in the passing game. Despite his frame, Hill is reliable as a pass protector and should immediately carve out a role there. He’s a perfect replacement for Coleman and should be an ideal complement to Freeman and Ito Smith.

Elijah Holyfield, Georgia

Listed Size: 5’11, 215

2018 Production: 159 carries, 1018 yards, 6.4 YPC, 7 TD. 5 receptions, 40 yards, 8.0 YPR

A player that I’m sure many Falcons fans know well, Georgia’s Elijah Holyfield is one of the premier short-yardage RBs in the 2019 class. His physicality with the ball in his hands is something to behold, and Holyfield pairs this natural strength with impressive vision and excellent instincts. He’s more elusive than you might think, and possesses solid burst to break through the line of scrimmage.

The questions surrounding Holyfield stem from his lack of experience: he’s only got one year of starting action to his name. Outside of that, Holyfield has only seven career catches and has yet to prove himself as a third down option. He seems to have a good feel for pass protection and shouldn’t be a liability there, but early-down backs simply aren’t valued highly in the NFL. That could end up working out nicely for Atlanta, however—if Holyfield manages to fall into the early Day 3 range, he’d be well worth scooping up.

Travis Homer, Miami

Listed Size: 5’11, 195

2018 Production: 164 carries, 985 yards, 5.9 YPC, 8 TD. 19 receptions, 219 yards, 11.5 YPR, 1 TD

One of my favorite “sleeper” RBs in the 2019 class, Miami’s Travis Homer looks the part of a classic Day 3 pick that can easily outperform his draft stock. The Falcons seem to have a habit of targeting these guys, and have been successful with this strategy more often than not—Freeman and Ito Smith come to mind as successes, while the jury is still out on Brian Hill.

Homer combines good size and impressive athleticism with a physical running style and excellent receiving ability. He’s not the most agile back in space and his vision still needs a lot of work, so Homer is far from a perfect prospect. Still, Homer is, at worst, an intriguing third down back with quality receiving chops and pass protection ability. From his time as a reserve, Homer also has additional value as an experienced gunner on special teams. As an RB3 with the potential to grow into a larger role and the ability to contribute on special teams, Homer is one of my favorite late Day 3 targets for the Falcons.

Bryce Love, Stanford

Listed Size: 5’10, 196

2018 Production: 166 carries, 739 yards, 4.5 YPC, 6 TD. 20 receptions, 99 yards, 5.0 YPR

After a 2017 season that saw him post 2118 yards at 8.1 YPC and a whopping 19 TDs, Stanford’s Bryce Love decided to go back to school for his final season. If he had come out in 2018, Love would’ve been in consideration to be one of the first backs off the board. Now, after a disappointing 2018 season in which his production nosedived behind a terrible OL and some nagging injuries, Love isn’t even in the top-10 RBs according to The Draft Network.

While it’s true that many of Love’s flaws were accentuated this season—his slight frame coupled with his huge workload led to significant injuries, and his lack of ideal vision was exposed behind a bad OL—I think it’s foolish to simply forget what he showed in 2017. Love has several elite traits: he’s one of the most elusive backs in the class, and showed off phenomenal athletic ability when healthy. I’m not sure how good of a receiver he is, and he’s been relatively disappointing in the pass protection reps I’ve seen, but Love’s stock has tumbled all the way into Day 3. In the fifth round, I’d be willing to roll the dice on a player of his talent—particularly with two quality RBs in Freeman and Ito Smith ahead of him.

Alexander Mattison, Boise State

Listed Size: 5’11, 210

2018 Production: 302 carries, 1415 yards, 4.7 YPC, 17 TD. 27 receptions, 173 yards, 6.4 YPR

Boise State’s Alexander Mattison is another late Day 3 option for the Falcons, and yet another RB that is likely to get lost in the shuffle on draft day. Mattison was an every-down bellcow back in college, putting up quality numbers as both a runner and receiver. He’s durable, aggressive, and physical as a run finisher. Mattison can get it done on any down and distance, and there really aren’t any serious holes in his game.

The problem is, I’m not sure Mattison has any elite traits either. He doesn’t seem to have special athletic ability—although he’s not a poor athlete by any means, he lacks impressive top-end speed or agility. Mattison is functional as a pass blocker and has great hands as a receiver, but without plus athleticism he’s not going to create many big plays. As an RB3 that can play any role competently, however, Mattison has plenty of value. If the Falcons choose to wait on RB until the latter portion of Day 3, Mattison could be a good fit as a jack-of-all-trades reserve.

Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic

Listed Size: 5’9, 200

2018 Production: 261 carries, 1348 yards, 5.2 YPC, 22 TDs. 6 receptions, 36 yards, 6.0 YPR

If the Falcons elect to go after a RB to replace Tevin Coleman on Day 2—which I still think is pretty unlikely given their other needs—Florida Atlantic’s Devin Singletary is one of the better zone scheme RBs in the 2019 class. He’s one of the most elusive runners I’ve watched in recent memory, with lightning-fast cuts and impressive vision. While I wouldn’t call Singletary’s running style “physical”, he showcases tremendous balance and routinely bounces off or simply avoids would-be tacklers.

Singletary’s athletic testing at the Combine will be important for his overall stock. On film, I’m just not sure I saw very much long speed. He’s got the agility and smoothness in space to be a successful receiver, but Singletary wasn’t utilized there at FAU. To become a three-down back in the NFL, he’ll need to further develop that aspect of his game—and that’s simply a projection at this point. Still, he’s mighty fun to watch, and he’d be an exciting addition to the Falcons’ RB corps. More than likely, however, his price tag will end up being too high.

Benny Snell, Kentucky

Listed Size: 5’11, 225

2018 Production: 289 carries, 1449 yards, 5.0 YPC, 16 TD. 17 receptions, 105 yards, 6.2 YPR

Kentucky’s Benny Snell has been one of the most consistent workhorse RBs over the past several seasons, finishing with over 1000 yards and 5.0 YPC in each year since 2016. He might be the most physical runner in the 2019 class—he hits the hole with incredible power and can break tackles with the best of them. I love his attitude and the way he dominates in short-yardage, and Snell has been very fun to watch.

However, at the NFL level, I’m just not sure that Snell meets the athletic thresholds that many teams require. Particularly for the Falcons, I just don’t think Snell is a fit in the zone blocking scheme. I’ve added him here because I know he has a lot of supporters in the fanbase, but I seriously doubt he’ll end up in Atlanta. He’s a good player and I believe he’ll carve out a niche in a power-based offense as a short-yardage specialist, but without any receiving ability to speak of and no athletic traits to support a switch to a zone scheme, he’s simply not a fit here.

Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M

Listed Size: 5’9, 200

2018 Production: 271 carries, 1760 yards, 6.5 YPC, 18 TD. 27 receptions, 278 yards, 10.3 YPR, 1 TD

One of the most polarizing watches for me in the RB group, I want to love Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams...but I have significant questions. To start, Williams had awesome production this season as both a runner and receiver. His long speed is among the best in the class, and I expect him to put on a show at the Combine. Williams also shows off very good pass protection, which could allow him to carve out an early role on third downs in the NFL.

Williams has the athletic traits of an elite prospect, but there are also some considerable question marks. For starters, his vision is...well, it’s bad. He’ll need a lot of work to find consistent success at the NFL level, particularly in a zone blocking scheme. Williams has great burst and speed, but he’s not overly elusive and can’t make the quick cuts that you’d like to see. He’s a tough evaluation for me, but at this point and with his probable early-Day 3 price tag, I’m not sure he’s someone that the Falcons will target.


Who is your favorite RB prospect in the 2019 class? Any RBs that you’ll be watching closely at the 2019 NFL Combine? When do you think the Falcons might target Tevin Coleman’s replacement?