Yesterday, I talked about the possibility of the Falcons extending Todd Gurley, who signed a one-year deal this offseason worth up to $6 million. This is a prove-it year for the 25-year-old, two-time First-Team All-Pro, and while the days of him earning $15 million a year may be over, Gurley could still make quite an impact while the Falcons manage his load, earning him a multi-year deal. However, he’s not the only Falcons running back fighting for a new contract. If you’ve missed any other parts of this series, click the links below.
While Brian Hill’s road with the Falcons is intriguing, it isn’t atypical for a running back drafted in the fifth round. The 24-year-old was selected out of Wyoming in 2017 and waived that October before signing with Atlanta’s practice squad. However, it didn’t take long for the Cincinnati Bengals to poach him, where he played the final six games of the season.
Late in the following offseason, the Bengals cut Hill, and he rejoined the Falcons practice squad. He wound up appearing in ten games that year for Atlanta, carrying the ball 20 times for 157 yards (7.9 YPC), earning him a spot on the team again in 2019, which was a breakout year of sorts. Thanks to injuries suffered by both Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith, Hill played in 12 games, starting in two and was equally as effective, rushing the ball 78 times for 323 yards and catching 10 passes for 69 yards. His performance led to the Falcons placing an original round tender on him this offseason, all but guaranteeing him a roster spot in 2020, and he will be needed with Todd Gurley’s health being a significant concern.
To this point, the Falcons haven’t asked too much of Hill, but every time he’s been called upon, he’s been effective, as can be seen by his career 4.7 YPC. This year he has the opportunity to solidify himself as the primary backup behind Todd Gurley — a critical role, but the Falcons have shown faith by tagging him with an original round tender. Given Gurley’s injury concerns, there’s an overwhelming possibility that he could find himself as the starting running back several times this season.
I’m not sure Hill is ever going to be viewed as a full-time starter in the NFL, but there’s a ton of value in a dual-threat backup that can fill in because of an injury. Hill showed he’s plenty capable of that in the past two seasons, and the Falcons will need him in 2020 more than ever. Perhaps there’s a case that Gurley and Hill could form a formidable one-two punch for years to come.
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