In 2020, the Atlanta Falcons had one of, if not, the worst rushing offense in the NFL. The rotation of Todd Gurley, Ito Smith and Brian Hill was one to be forgotten about, even if all three players had their moments. Under the new regime, the Falcons have added Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson, while also holding on to Qadree Ollison and Tony Brooks-James. Following the 2021 NFL Draft, the team signed undrafted rookies Caleb Huntley and Javian Hawkins.
As part of my UDFA Q&A series, I had the pleasure of speaking with Hawkins, who is widely considered one of the best undrafted rookies in 2021. Hawkins attended Louisville, where he rushed for 2,355 yards and 16 touchdowns on 399 carries. Coming in at 5’9, 196 lbs, Hawkins is an explosive runner who somehow slipped through the cracks in April’s draft. The Falcons have to be feeling lucky he did.
How would you describe your time at Louisville?
Overall, how can I sum it up into one word... I would say “growth.” Definitely growth. It was a great experience, coming out of high school I had a great support system, so I was very family-oriented. I was around my family all of the time. But in college you feel more on your own, and I feel like I grew a lot as a person.
Was there something that made you ultimately decide to join the Falcons? Did you receive any other offers?
Yes, and honestly I can’t tell you exactly what it was. Originally, Baltimore called me in the sixth-round, it was one of their coaches and we were just talking. After that, I kind of realized what was happening. Then when I was talking with my agent, he said that he was talking to some teams, so I told him Baltimore had called me. Atlanta was the first team he talked to, and once he told me I was like “Let’s go to Atlanta, come on.”
After not being selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, do you have a chip on your shoulder?
Honestly, I don’t feel that way. There’s definitely room where I feel like I have to improve. I’ll just keep striving to get better and prove to myself that it’s all up to me on how good I can be.
How was rookie mini-camp?
It’s always good to get on that grass. It’s fun getting back out there and get into the motions, and have actual practices. You know, with rookie mini-camp it’s just us. But now getting to clash with the veterans it’s good, a great learning experience. Getting to learn from those guys and see how they work. But it’s good, man. It’s football so anything involving that is fun.
Who was your favorite NFL player growing up? Is there anyone specific that you model your game after?
Originally, Michael Vick. My grandparents, for my seventh birthday made a book with me and Michael Vick in it — I hope they still have it. He was definitely that guy. I’ve been playing football since I was like 4-years-old, so growing up watching that was something. I also like a lot of the older dudes, like Jim Brown and Ernie Davis. Those older players, older running backs — Walter Payton and Barry Sanders — the list goes on and on. But, Michael Vick was that individual when I grew up.
Before going to college, I was big on Dalvin Cook. Seeing guys around the league, I like to try and take a little something from all of them, even bigger backs, and try to implement it into my game.
What does it mean to officially make it to the NFL?
It means everything to me. It really is like, that goal. To actually sit back and realize that I’ve made it this far is just amazing and crazy. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
What’s your expectations for the 2021 season?
Honestly, I have my own expectations but whatever the coaches want me to do, I’m going to do it. If they want me on special teams... even if they want me on defense, I will do it. I definitely have goals though, but I have to focus on staying healthy, learning the system and being available to play as many positions as possible.
What do you want Falcons fans to know about you?
I’m here to give my all. Honestly, I’m looking forward to doing something in the community soon. Let’s work.
If there’s one undrafted rookie who joined the Falcons this offseason that you’ve heard of, it’s likely Hawkins. You’ll notice in the highlight package above, his style of play fits with the modern NFL. He’s insanely fast, but still very strong for his size.
The Draft Network describes Javian Hawkins as:
Javian Hawkins was a dynamic playmaker for Louisville over the last two seasons where he racked up 417 touches from scrimmage for 2,432 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is exceptionally quick, elusive, and has the speed to take the football the distance from anywhere on the field. What he lacks in size, he makes up in big-play potential. At the next level, Hawkins doesn’t profile as a feature back, but his skill set demands a few chances each week to get involved in the passing game, jet motion, and perimeter runs. The challenge with Hawkins in the NFL is he lacks natural vision, is undersized, and has some ball security issues. Despite his skill set translating well to pass-catching duties out of the backfield, he only caught 21 passes in college, so he must prove his ability to be a reliable receiver. Hawkins is a niche player, but his ability to produce big plays and add a speed dynamic gives him a chance at the next level. Ideally, he could increase his value by contributing as a returner, but he didn’t receive many chances to do so in college and needs to prove himself in that aspect as well.
Like with all the rookies, I’m excited to see what impact Hawkins will do given a proper chance to prove himself on the field, unlike what rookies faced in 2020. Hawkins has some competition on the team, but I honestly think he has a realistic chance to not only make the roster, but also compliment the run game in 2021.
Hawkins has agreed to come on The Falcoholic Live in the near future to answer fan questions and speak more about joining the Falcons, so stay tuned for that!