Our draft history under the current regime rolls over to running back, a position of interest to the fanbase this offseason. With Devonta Freeman likely moving on at some point this offseason and no clear-cut feature back waiting in the wings, it’s likely Atlanta’s going to draft one again.
Considering they’ve drafted three in the past three seasons, you may be apprehensive about that. Let’s take a closer look at what they’ve done in the past to see where they might go in 2020.
2008: Thomas Brown, 6th round
2011: Jacquizz Rodgers, 5th round
2012: Bradie Ewing, 5th round (Fullback)
2014: Devonta Freeman, 4th round
2015: Tevin Coleman, 3rd round
2017: Brian Hill, 5th round
2018: Ito Smith, 4th round
2019: Qadree Ollison, 5th round
The Falcons have a remarkably consistent organizational philosophy when it comes to backs. They’re willing to pay free agents and their own homegrown players, but they are not willing to invest higher than a 3rd round pick on the position, and they only used a 3rd rounder once.
Considering how difficult it is to consistently hit on mid-to-late round picks at most positions, that approach carries an element of risk. It also prevents you from finding yourself in the kinds of situations that the Rams have gotten into with Todd Gurley or the
That philosophy has gotten them great backs (Devonta Freeman, Michael Turner), very capable complementary backs (Tevin Coleman, Jacquizz Rodgers, hopefully Ito Smith), and players they never should’ve ever considered drafting (primarily Bradie Ewing). Thomas Brown was the exception as a promising late round choice who didn’t get his fair chance at a career due to injury.
That track record has been significantly less impressive in the Dan Quinn era than the Mike Smith era, unfortunately, as the team has the same number of picks (4) but have gotten zero lead backs out of their investments thus far, and only one truly proven second option. Still, their unshakeable belief that they can find useful backs in the middle-to-late rounds has mostly been borne out to this point, and it’s worth remembering that Freeman was very, very good as recently as two seasons ago under Steve Sarkisian. Ito Smith has shown flashes, Brian Hill is at least competent, and Qadree Ollison scored a totally sustainable number of touchdowns, so it’s not like Atlanta’s just been burning these picks.
That means the philosophy is unlikely to change, though the crushing pressure from above on this front office and coaching staff could mean they go higher than usual, perhaps all the way up to the late second round. At the end of the day, though, I’d expect a 3rd or 4th round draft choice to be the lead back in Atlanta this season, and so should you.