The Falcons made waves in free agency when they decided to sign ex-Rams RB Todd Gurley, who had been cut by Los Angeles despite a monstrous amount of dead money. After Devonta Freeman’s release, Atlanta had been widely linked to RB in the upcoming draft. That may have changed now with the addition of Gurley, who ostensibly steps into the starting role vacated by Freeman.
Atlanta’s deal for Gurley is reportedly 1-year, $5.5M with up to $500K in incentives. That’s a fairly reasonable number for a former All-Pro who was among the league’s highest earners at the position in 2019. Outside of Gurley, the Falcons also elected to tender RFA Brian Hill at the second-round level—which is worth approximately $2.1M. With these moves in free agency, do the Falcons still need to add a RB in the 2020 NFL Draft?
Let’s take a closer look at the depth chart to determine if the need is still there at RB.
Falcons RB Depth Chart
With the addition of Todd Gurley, the Falcons immediately filled the void left by Devonta Freeman’s departure. Is Gurley likely to be his All-Pro self in 2020, taking 200+ carries and dominating the NFL? No. Will he be the RB1 in a committee-based approach who still has an opportunity to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards? Yes, certainly. He’ll need to be on a snap count and can’t be relied upon as the “bell cow” anymore, but Gurley is still a very good RB who can make plays on all three downs.
The rest of the depth chart is a little more uncertain. Ito Smith has looked like a quality RB2 option when healthy, replicating Freeman’s role in the offense admirably. He’s arguably the best receiving back on the roster now, but questions surrounding his health need to be addressed. Ito has dealt with a lot of concussions over the past two seasons, and I think it’s reasonable to wonder about whether he can or will continue to play NFL football if he suffers another.
Brian Hill finally got his opportunity to start in 2019, and was largely disappointing. We can probably chalk a lot of that up to Koetter’s wholly uninspiring rushing scheme, but he doesn’t appear to be anything more than a solid RB2 at this point. Qadree Ollison made a name for himself in the red zone during his rookie season, putting up 4 TDs on just 22 total attempts. He’ll probably be given a larger role in 2020 as the team evaluates their RB corps going forward. Craig Reynolds is a former UDFA who joined Atlanta’s practice squad in November of 2019, and he’ll be given a shot to compete in training camp.
Based on the way the depth chart looks right now and the Falcons overall lack of draft capital (only 6 picks), I think it’s ultimately unlikely that the team spends a pick on RB in the 2020 NFL Draft. They’ve certainly done their due diligence on prospects, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Atlanta does trade down to acquire additional late-Day 2/early-Day 3 picks. In that scenario, I could absolutely see an RB added. But as it stands now, their other needs are simply too great.
The committee of Todd Gurley, Ito Smith, Brian Hill, and Qadree Ollison is a solid RB room at worst—and the team will almost certainly add a few UDFAs to the mix to compete in training camp. Keep in mind that they’re also going to be rostering Keith Smith, which effectively gives them 5 RBs in terms of roster construction.
There are still scenarios that could result in an RB selection for the Falcons. If Ito Smith were to retire for medical reasons, or if the team decided to rescind Brian Hill’s RFA tender to save $2.1M, then there would be space for another RB on the depth chart. I could also see the team using their seventh-round selection to select their favorite of the potential UDFA candidates—a good RB or two always seem to fall on draft day. But unless a trade-down happens, I just don’t see RB being a priority with only 6 picks available.
What are your thoughts on the Falcons RB corps heading into the 2020 NFL Draft? Would you still like to see the team add a RB, or has the signing of Todd Gurley changed things?