The Falcons haven’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since 2016, and their last truly terrific season from an individual back was in 2017, when Devonta Freeman rushed for nearly 900 yards and 7 touchdowns in just 14 games. Since then, Atlanta’s backs have largely either been hurt, ineffective, or just a solid cog in a backfield-by-committee.
Cordarrelle Patterson was a breath of fresh air in 2021, especially in light of the recent history of the position. With Mike Davis struggling more than anticipated, Patterson led the team in rushing yards and touchdowns, putting up a tidy 618 yards to go with 6 touchdowns. Davis, Qadree Ollison, and (briefly) Wayne Gallman also chipped in last year.
Now the backfield looks radically different than it did a year ago. Patterson and Qadree Ollison are still here, but the Falcons added Damien Williams in free agency, drafted Tyler Allgeier out of BYU, and converted Avery Williams from cornerback to running back. Out of last year’s group, only Patterson is a lock to have any kind of a significant role in 2022.
Given that, who will lead the team in rushing? Will Patterson be the first back to lead the team in rushing in back-to-back years since 2016-2017 Devonta Freeman, or will it be a fresh face once again?
Personally, my money’s on Tyler Allgeier. The rookie has the physicality the team clearly covets at running back and is the first draft pick the team has invested in the position, which is a strong indication of how much they like him. With Patterson figuring to mix in more at receiver, Damien Williams playing more of a third down role, and Williams learning the job on the fly, a healthy Allgeier has the most straightforward path to major carries. I think he’s a strong bet to lead the team in yardage and carries, with touchdowns also a legitimate possibility.
How about you?