We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. After covering QB, we’re moving on to the next position in the backfield: RB. The Falcons cut long-time starter Devonta Freeman this offseason and replaced him with free agent Todd Gurley, but the depth remains largely unchanged from 2019.
Today we take a closer look at restricted free agent Brian Hill, who returns in 2020 on a second-round tender after a sizable role in 2019.
RB Brian Hill
Age: 24 (25 during 2020 season)
Contract: $2.13M cap hit in 2020 (2nd round RFA tender), free agent in 2021
Career Production: 29 games played, 2 games started | 109 carries, 517 yards, 4.7 YPC, 2 TD | 13 receptions, 114 yards, 8.8 YPR, 1 TD
2019 Production: 12 games played, 2 games started | 78 carries, 323 yards, 4.1 YPC, 2 TD | 10 receptions, 69 yards, 6.9 YPR, 1 TD
Previous Teams: Drafted 5th round (#156 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2017), Cincinnati Bengals (2017), Atlanta Falcons (2018-present)
One of three fifth-round picks for the Falcons in the infamous 2017 draft class, Brian Hill joined the team with significant interest. His college tape at Wyoming was good, and he seemed to be a more physical option with solid athleticism to complement the elusive Devonta Freeman and the speedy Tevin Coleman in Atlanta. However, Hill had a disappointing preseason and lost the RB3 job to UDFA Terron Ward. He was eventually cut for roster-related reasons in October of 2017, spending a month on the Falcons’ practice squad before being signed by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Hill stuck around with the Bengals through the season, but failed to make the roster in 2018. Atlanta pounced on the chance to get Hill back, adding him to the practice squad once again. He was activated a week into the season and appeared in 10 games for the Falcons, putting up some impressive production in limited action towards the end of the year. Hill returned in 2019 and seized a bigger role in the offense after Tevin Coleman departed in free agency and Ito Smith went down with a neck injury.
He finally got his opportunity to start after an injury to Devonta Freeman, but Hill was largely ineffective in a starting role. To be fair to him, the Falcons’ rushing attack in 2019 was anemic at best—perhaps it wasn’t truly his fault. But Hill did show he could be a serviceable replacement runner, putting up a solid 4.1 YPC and adding 3 TDs on the year. The big question is: can Hill be anything more than a solid committee back?
The Falcons apparently think so, as they gave Hill a second-round RFA tender. With Atlanta deciding against adding a RB in the 2020 draft, Hill figures to be a key part of the rotation behind Todd Gurley along with Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison. It’s unclear how the roles will be divided, but with Hill making the second-largest salary of the bunch, he seems to be ticketed for the RB2 job. As with all the Falcons’ RBs, their production largely depends on improvement from Dirk Koetter and better play from the offensive line.
Projection: Expect Brian Hill to get the second-highest number of carries behind Todd Gurley as the primary committee runner. If Ito Smith is healthy, I’d expect Hill to be relegated to mostly an early-down option—but if Smith’s health is an issue, Hill is likely to be the secondary pass-catching RB as well. Similar numbers to his 2019 season seem likely, with perhaps a slight uptick in efficiency.