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 fullback. There is technically a competition at the position once again in 2022, with veteran Keith Smith facing former 2021 UDFA John Raine, but Smith is once again the prohibitive favorite.
Let’s take a look at Keith Smith.
FB Keith Smith
Contract: $1.66M cap hit in 2022, free agent in 2023
Career Production: 112 games played, 27 games started | 21 carries for 51 yards (2.4 YPC) | 34 receptions for 197 yards (5.8 YPR) | 53 total ST tackles, 34 solo ST tackles, 5 FF, 2 FR
2021 Production: 17 games played, 8 games started | 9 carries for 31 yards (3.4 YPC) | 9 receptions for 56 yards (6.2 YPR) | 8 total ST tackles, 5 solo ST tackles | 61.8 overall PFF grade
Previous Teams: UDFA signed by the Dallas Cowboys (2014-2017), Oakland Raiders (2018), Atlanta Falcons (2019-present)
While most teams are shying away from keeping a full-time fullback, the Atlanta Falcons have continued to do so for most of the last decade—including some excellent players like Ovie Mughelli and Patrick DiMarco. Atlanta’s current fullback, who has been with the team since 2019, hasn’t quite reached the heights of those two Pro Bowlers. Smith has, however, been a reliable stalwart and a very good special teams player in his own right.
Smith’s NFL journey has been an interesting one, as he was originally a linebacker in college. He bounced on and off the practice squad and active roster for the Cowboys over his first two seasons before transitioning to fullback in 2016. It was a great fit, and Smith appeared in all 16 games for Dallas over the next two years. He then signed a lucrative two-year deal with the Raiders in 2018, but was cut prior to the 2019 season. Atlanta picked him up, and the rest is history.
Smith is a fairly average fullback. He does his job as a physical blocker and can occasionally carry the ball in short-yardage situations, along with catching a few passes as a sneaky dump-off option. Where he excels is on special teams, as he’s had 8 ST tackles in every season with the Falcons—along with two forced fumbles in an exceptional 2019 campaign. That’s where Smith’s value truly comes through, as he only plays around 24% of the offensive snaps. It’s also worth noting that Atlanta’s offense is one of the most FB-heavy units in the league, as that mark ranks 4th in the NFL.
Projection: Keith Smith is the heavy favorite to win the fullback spot once again in 2022. A seasoned veteran, Smith is a fairly average blocker and receiver but excels on special teams. With Atlanta utilizing a FB at the 4th-highest rate in the NFL, it seems like the position is still a roster lock under Arthur Smith.