Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Next up is running back. The top player returns in Cordarrelle Patterson, but the rest of the depth chart has been shaken up this offseason.
Let’s begin with Cordarrelle Patterson.
RB Cordarrelle Patterson
Contract: $2.5M cap hit in 2022, under contract through 2023
Career Production: 143 games played, 49 games started | 320 carries for 1,635 yards (5.1 YPC), 14 TD | 268 receptions for 2,635 yards (9.8 YPR), 15 TD
2021 Production: 16 games played, 13 games started | 153 carries for 618 yards (4.0 YPC), 6 TD | 52 receptions for 548 yards (10.5 YPR), 5 TD | 82.2 overall PFF grade
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 1st round (29th overall) by the Minnesota Vikings (2013-2016), Oakland Raiders (2017), New England Patriots (2018), Chicago Bears (2019-2020), Atlanta Falcons (2021-present)
I don’t think anyone expected Cordarrelle Patterson’s 2021 season. The electric kick returner seemed to be brought in as part of Atlanta’s special teams emphasis, but was curiously announced and talked about as a running back. That was a bit of a surprise, given Patterson’s experience at receiver and lackluster production in the backfield over the past two seasons in Chicago. Patterson’s real role ended up being versatile—and invaluable—to the Falcons’ struggling offense, so much so that his return duties were taken over by rookie Avery Williams by season’s end.
While Patterson’s overall efficiency numbers took a big hit late in the year as the workload started to weigh on him, there was a midseason stretch where he was one of the most prolific runners and receivers in the NFL. His red zone dominance was a godsend for Atlanta’s offense, which lacked playmakers outside of rookie Kyle Pitts and languished behind a struggling offensive line. Patterson found ways to create on his own, and with some creative alignments from Arthur Smith. He kept the offense watchable for much of the year.
The Falcons clearly realized that they were asking Patterson to do too much in 2021. Atlanta brought in reinforcements for him in veteran Damien Williams and rookie Tyler Allgeier in free agency and the draft, respectfully. Hopefully, those two can help take some of the “grunt work” off of Patterson’s plate and free him up for high-leverage touches. His best performances came when used as a chess piece and a dynamic rotational option, and I think he’ll be able to get back to that in 2022.
Projection: Cordarrelle Patterson is the nominal starter in the RB committee and is likely to once again push for the plurality of snaps. While I think he’ll get less carries overall than in 2021, Patterson’s efficiency (and the run blocking) should improve enough that his production could wind up about the same as last season. I expect a significant passing down role once again, both as a backfield target and lined up out wide.