Heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons running back room looked pretty similar to last year’s edition. That wasn’t entirely a bad thing: Cordarrelle Patterson was a terrific addition who shocked the league and vastly outperformed his contract, and Mike Davis was a reliable receiver and blocker who underwhelmed on the ground behind a porous offensive line. The one addition was veteran Damien Williams, a versatile runner and receiver who has proven himself as a productive committee back.
Then the draft happened, bringing fifth-round selection Tyler Allgeier into the fold. That quickly led to the release of Davis—whose $2.5M cap savings was too tempting to pass up—and shook up the depth chart. There’s now a little more intrigue at the position, with the size of Allgeier’s workload the biggest open question.
Let’s take a closer look at Atlanta’s running back room and the outlook for the 2022 season.
The starter: Cordarrelle Patterson
2021 Stats: 153 carries, 618 yards (4.0 YPC), 6 TD | 52 receptions, 548 yards (10.5 YPR), 5 TD | 82.2 overall PFF grade | 8.71 RAS
The most fun player to watch on Atlanta’s offense and one of the only players who outperformed expectations in 2021, Cordarrelle Patterson was a revelation. An electric All-Pro kick returner and occasional receiver through his NFL career, Arthur Smith finally found a way to unlock Patterson’s talents at running back. Patterson responded with a career year in both rushing and receiving, filling the role of chess piece in the offense and providing desperately-needed red zone production.
Patterson returned to the Falcons on a reasonable two-year, $10.5M deal. There’s no telling when the wheels will fall off for Patterson, who will be 31 this season, but the hope is that Atlanta can take some of the early-down carries off his plate and save him for high-leverage situations. That should give Patterson better longevity over the next two seasons, and possibly give him a path to more time at receiver as well. Patterson should once again be a dynamic threat for the Falcons—particularly in the red zone.
The committee: Damien Williams, Tyler Allgeier
2021 Stats: 40 carries, 164 yards (4.1 YPC), 2 TD | 16 receptions, 103 yards (6.4 YPR), 1 TD | 71.4 overall PFF grade | 8.02 RAS
It’s tough to predict exactly how Atlanta will deploy their backfield in 2022, but I think it’s pretty clear we should expect veteran Damien Williams and rookie Tyler Allgeier to factor in significantly. Williams is an experienced, versatile veteran who fits the size profile Smith looks for at 5’11, 222. While he played a rotational role in 2021, Williams filled in admirably as the starter for the Chiefs in 2020, posting nearly 500 yards at 4.5 YPC along with 5 rushing TDs.
I’d expect Williams to be the primary pass protector and backup for Patterson. Williams can fill a similar role—albeit at a less dynamic level—and give the offense another versatile option in the rushing and passing game.
2021 Stats (College): 276 carries, 1601 yards (5.8 YPC), 23 TD | 28 receptions, 199 yards (7.1 YPR) | 7.44 RAS
While Williams will fill a versatile Patterson-like role in the offense, I’d expect Allgeier to take control of the early-down and short-yardage carries. A physical runner with good size (5’11, 224), Allgeier possesses excellent burst and contact balance. He also had a nose for the end zone in college, with an incredible 23 rushing TDs in 2021. Allgeier has good hands and has shown flashes of competence in pass protection, but those are roles he’ll likely need to grow into at the NFL level. As it stands now, I think Allgeier will take roughly a third of the overall carries and should continue to earn more as the season goes on.
Competition for RB4: Qadree Ollison, Caleb Huntley
2021 Stats: 21 carries, 105 yards (5.0 YPC), 1 TD | 4 receptions, 12 yards (3.0 YPR) | 56.6 overall PFF grade | 4.49 RAS
With the selection of Tyler Allgeier and the signing of Damien Williams, Qadree Ollison once again finds himself on the outside looking in for carries. The good news is that he showed some quality flashes last season, putting up an impressive 5.0 YPC on 21 attempts, and that Atlanta has tended to roster four RBs under Arthur Smith. I’d give him the edge for RB4 due to his experience.
2021 Stats: N/A | 1.77 RAS
A former UDFA and practice squad holdover from last season, Caleb Huntley impressed in limited action during the 2021 preseason. That wasn’t enough to land him on the active roster, but he did stick around on the practice squad through for most of the year. Huntley will get another chance this summer, but it’ll once again be a tough mountain to climb to the roster. He’ll have to best Ollison both on offense and on special teams to claim the final spot.
While Atlanta’s running back room lacks a dynamic workhorse option, the Falcons have assembled the makings of a quality committee backfield. Patterson was tremendous last year and should once again have a large role—one hopefully more focused on his strengths. Williams is a quality veteran addition who will factor in on third downs and offers proven production as part of a committee. Rookie Tyler Allgeier has intriguing upside and should take on a prominent role as an early-down grinder and short-yardage specialist.
The depth behind them is also solid, with Qadree Ollison showing some flashes last season and an interesting former UDFA in Caleb Huntley providing competition. Hopefully this group will be more productive than last season’s, though much of that has to do with the ability of the offensive line to create holes on a more consistent basis.