Starter: Tevin Coleman
The starter could go either way, and I’m leaning on Tevin Coleman on being the starting halfback. I am a big fan of Devonta Freeman and love his work ethic, but Coleman’s potential is undeniable. While I think both Coleman and Freeman will see the field plenty in 2015, only one gets the start. We have yet to see the rookie running back actually play a down in the NFL, but we saw a glimpse of his talent in college. Running for 2000 yards last year showed off how durable, tough, elusive, and the top-notch vision and speed in his arsenal. Most NFL experts had Coleman going in the 2nd round in their mock drafts, and most had him as the 3rd best back in the draft class behind Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. Atlanta’s offense has lacked a solid running back for the past couple years. In order to have a dynamic offense, opposing defenses have to respect the run game. If Coleman can become that back Atlanta has so desperately needed, then defenses will have a hard time stopping Atlanta’s weapons on offense.
Backups: Devonta Freeman, Antone Smith
Antone Smith catches and takes it to the house against the New York Giants in 2014
On paper, Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith are actually very solid backups for the running back position. Coming into his second year in the league, Freeman actually was viewed as the potential starter in 2015. Many Falcons fans wanted Freeman to be in the backfield over former starter Steven Jackson last year. On the few touches he received last season, it looked as if Freeman had above-average vision and explosiveness. Speaking of explosiveness, Antone Smith could actually be the definition of that word. In 2014, Smith had two touchdown runs that were 38 and 48 yards. He also had caught three touchdowns that were 41, 54, and 74 yard scores. These catches were not your normal vertical routes, rather, balls thrown in the backfield or close to it. Smith just outran the defenders, and took defenders and coaches by surprise. If Tevin Coleman can be a useful NFL starting running back, he has all the help behind him in Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith.