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Examining the Falcons 1st round options: Running back

Will Atlanta address the position Arthur Blank identified as the most deficient with the first round pick?

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Having a draft pick in the top 5 is actually somewhat rare for the Falcons. The last time it happened was in 2008, in the aftermath of the Michael Vick scandal and the Bobby Petrino disaster of 2007. Having a pick this high gives you a host of options, with the hope being that you won’t be here again for a long while.

In this series, we’ll take a look at all the different ways the Falcons can use this pick to rebuild under a new regime. Today, we consider the option of drafting a running back.

Why it makes sense

Much has been made about Arthur Smith having Derrick Henry in his 2 years as offensive coordinator with the Titans. Right now, the Falcons don’t have anyone that is near that level. Todd Gurley clearly isn’t the guy, and he’s a free agent. Ito Smith is a good change of pace back, but clearly not a dominant starter. Brian Hill has been good in spots, but also doesn’t appear to be ready to take over and is a free agent this year. Qadree Ollison may have untapped upside, but couldn’t get on the field for Dirk Koetter.

A player like Najee Harris or Travis Etienne could be the shot-in-the-arm that Smith’s offense needs in year one. Additionally, running backs are able to hit the ground running as rookies faster than almost any other position, yielding an immediate improvement to the team in 2021. With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst all on the roster, Harris could be the missing piece in creating a truly explosive offense in year one, and could be a massive lift for this team over the next few seasons.

Why it might be the wrong move

The NFL just isn’t a running league anymore, or at least it isn’t a league where a single dominant back runs roughshod over the league for a decade. That’s not to say running backs don’t have value, but the classic ground-and-pound backs of the past just aren’t as necessary anymore. While Henry was certainly a part of the success for Smith in Tennessee, Smith’s passing concepts were just as important in re-igniting the career of Ryan Tannehill.

Additionally, a top 5 pick for a running back is inarguably overspending, no matter how good that runner is. The team may be able to find a guy on Day 2 or even 3 that—while not as dominant—could still be a big upgrade over the existing backs on the roster and someone Smith can deploy in a high impact way. Plus, the Falcons have shown that you can find good value for the RB position in later rounds having drafted Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in recent years, and they have a couple of complementary backs to help out already.

What do you think? Would you support grabbing a running back with the first round pick? Let us know in the comments below.