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What kind of numbers will Falcons RB Ito Smith put up in 2019?

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Will the second year back take a big step forward?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

With Tevin Coleman now signed with the 49ers, the Falcons will likely turn to Ito Smith to help offset the load that Devonta Freeman will carry in the 2019 season. Projecting what kind of season Smith will have is difficult, since we only have one season to go off of, and it was one riddled with poor offensive line play overall. We’ll take a look at how Ito did as a rookie, what kind of production Coleman had in 2018 and how that may project the numbers for Ito in 2019.

Carries and yardage

When Devonta Freeman went down early in 2019, Tevin Coleman shouldered the load for the Falcons. Ito, however, got a fair number of carries as a rookie. In 14 games, he got 90 carries for 315 yards. That 3.5 yards per attempt average is not exactly mind-blowing, but for a rookie playing behind a banged-up offensive line, there’s reason to believe it will easily go up in 2019.

Should Freeman stay relatively healthy in 2019 - which we’re going to project happens for our purposes - Ito should see about the same number of snaps as Coleman did in 2016 and 2017, when he was the clear second option to Freeman. Between those two seasons, Coleman had 118 and 156 carries, which averaged out to roughly 9 to 10 carries per game. Assuming Ito plays all 16, that would give him 160 carries in 2019.

Between the 160 carries and a hopeful improvement to at lest 4.0 yards per carry, Ito should be able to put together about 640 yards on the ground.

Receiving and touchdowns

Smith also demonstrated an ability to catch the ball in 2019. He pulled in 27 receptions (on 32 targets) for 152 yards. That average of 5.6 yards per reception should improve somewhat, but I think anything over 8 yards per reception is too optimistic. For our purposes, we’ll set that as our target. Ito brought home 4 total touchdowns between the ground and the air in 2018.

Tevin Coleman averaged between 2 and 3 receptions per game in 2016 and 2017, which feels like a reasonable expectation for Ito in 2019. Against 16 games, that would net Ito Smith between 32 and 48 receptions. For our purposes, we’ll stay on the low-end since Matt Ryan has about 14,000 different weapons to throw to this year.

That would give Ito 32 receptions for about 250 yards.

Overall

While I do expect Ito Smith to take a big step forward in 2019, I’m not sure he’ll have the same home-run impact that Tevin Coleman did. However, he is a far more balanced runner who fought hard for yards as a rookie, and I expect that to continue this season. Here’s how I see his 2019 potentially playing out:

160 carries, 640 yards rushing, 32 receptions for 250 yards and 5 touchdowns

What kind of season do you think Ito Smith will have for the Falcons in 2019?