Falcons: Mid-to-late round running backs Terry Fontenot should target in the NFL draft

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Terry Fontenot has preached that the Falcons must hit on later-round draft picks as well as the lower-priced free agents, given their current salary cap outlook.

“We’re going to have to find players because you can’t just build your roster with overpaid players in free agency or top draft picks. We have to really dig and find value in free agency,” Fontenot said via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s working with the coaches and finding exactly what they need and going and finding the players that they need. That’s throughout the entire draft, and that’s in undrafted free agency. So, we have to be scouts and go find good players that can really fit the make-up and profile that we are looking for.”

This will begin a series on mid-to-late round prospects that could intrigue the coaching staff and front office. These are just as important as the higher-valued picks. Devonta Freeman (fourth-round) and Ricardo Allen (fifth-round) were both productive players for the Falcons but did not become worth their second contracts. Grady Jarrett (fifth-round) was the best mid-to-late-round pick from the Thomas Dimitroff era. He is top-three at his position and deserves to be a Falcon for life — similar to Julio Jones and Matt RyanDe’Vondre Campbell (fourth-round) was good for Atlanta when he was here, but again, not worth bringing back. Russell Gage (sixth-round) and Foyesade Oloukon (sixth-round) both are ascending players and could receive second contracts for the right price. Most recently, Mykal Walker (fourth-round) is the latest mid-to-late-round pick to earn starting time, but who is next?

Javian Hawkins

Arthur Smith won’t run power with a back like Javian Hawkins; instead, a wide zone concept better suits what Hawkins does well. He is a north and south runner with breakaway speed and elite lateral quickness — a big play waiting to happen. Smith’s running back by committee approach would surely benefit from someone like Hawkins, who would pair nicely with a bruiser like Javonte Williams. According to Pro Football Focus, the former Louisville Cardinal was also excellent in pass protection. On 231 pass-block snaps, he never allowed a single sack.


Josh Johnson

Like Hawkins, Josh Johnson has quick cuts, but he lacks the elite breakaway speed that the former possesses. Johnson is the prototypical “one cut and go” running back, who has great vision and decisively hits openings. With elite burst, Johnson is rarely brought down behind the line of scrimmage. And although it isn’t elite, his agility to make defenders miss is serviceable, giving him just enough wiggle to break arm tackles. Still, how he finishes runs is most impressive, topping off each play with power. I don’t think I have seen a running back fall forward as much as Johnson does.

Jaret Patterson

Patterson is my running back draft crush. Because he is listed at 5’9”, 195, it makes it very easy to stereotype him as a third-down back at the NFL level; however, Patterson has shown he has much more to his game. He has 644 rushing attempts in his career at Buffalo; 2,522 Yards AFTER Contact (3rd in CFB), 3,915 Rushing Yards (3rd), 52 TDs (2nd), and 214 1st Downs (1st). Patterson’s low center of gravity gives him elite contact balance and agility. The best part of his game is his vision and patience, finding lanes to burst through. He has also shown that he is well-rounded enough to engage in pass-protection, blocking, and the receiving game. This isn’t important, but the dude scored eight touchdowns in a single game; Mid-American Conference aside, that’s insane.


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