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Falcons player profile: FB Keith Smith

We’re kicking off our Falcons player profile series with a look at the projected starters. We now move on to FB, where Atlanta recently extended starter and core special teams player Keith Smith.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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 RB, we move on to FB. While the position has been devalued in Dirk Koetter’s offense, the Falcons made the curious decision of giving a hefty (for a FB) contract to Keith Smith to keep him here through 2022.

FB Keith Smith

Age: 28

Contract: $1.276M cap hit in 2020, under contract through 2022 ($1.45M APY)

Career Production: 79 games played, 12 games started | 8 carries, 13 yards, 1.6 YPC | 14 receptions, 82 yards, 5.9 YPR | 37 special teams tackles, 5 special teams FF

2019 Production: 16 games played, 5 games started | 5 carries, 8 yards, 1.6 YPC | 1 receptions, 13 yards, 13.0 YPR | 8 special teams tackles, 2 special teams FF

Previous Teams: UDFA signed by Dallas Cowboys (2014-2017), Oakland Raiders (2018), Atlanta Falcons (2019-present)

Measurables: 6’0, 240 | 4.98 40-yard dash, 1.76 10-yard split | 31” vertical jump, 113” broad jump | 26 bench reps (All numbers from Pro Day)

A former LB at San Jose State, Keith Smith was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys in 2014. Smith spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons as a depth LB, being shuffled frequently between the active roster and the practice squad. It wasn’t until 2016 that Dallas made the decision to convert Smith to FB based on his special teams acumen and his strong play on the scout team.

Smith would beat out Rod Smith for the starting FB job prior to the 2016 season, appearing in all 16 games and contributing to an electric season for RB Ezekiel Elliott. He was also a key contributor on special teams. 2017 was more of the same for Smith, who retained the starting job and continued to play well on special teams. Smith became an RFA in 2018, and Dallas elected not to tender him. He instead signed a two-year deal with the Oakland Raiders, where he became the starting FB and once again played a significant role on special teams.

The Raiders decided to part ways with Smith during final roster cuts prior to the 2019 season, and the Falcons added him a few days later as their starting FB. He was a solid lead blocker for Atlanta during the 2019 season, but his true impact was felt on special teams. Smith posted 8 special teams tackles and an impressive 2 forced fumbles. The Falcons rewarded Smith with a lucrative (for a FB) three-year extension, which likely takes into account his special teams acumen.

It’s interesting that Atlanta has elected to pay a FB much of anything with Dirk Koetter running the offense. Koetter utilized Smith on just 17% of offensive plays in 2019—a mere 196 snaps. Perhaps the overall badness of the team and the fact that the Falcons were playing from behind most of the time limited the number of opportunities to run the ball, but this contract seems to indicate that Koetter is committed to at least trying to incorporate Smith more frequently into the offense.

Projection: It’s difficult to put on a number on a fullback’s production, so instead we’ll say that Keith Smith is likely to continue being an above-average lead blocker and strong special teams player. I’m not sure it’s likely he’ll post multiple forced fumbles on special teams again, but he’s a strong tackler with a background at LB—anything is possible.