Report: Falcons have done “extensive work” on running back prospects

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According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the Falcons have done extensive work on running backs in this draft class. With Mike Davis under contract for the next two years, the only other traditional running back on the roster is Quadree Ollison. Terry Fontenot recently released SportsTalkATL’s friend Ito Smith, which was head-scratching as he only saved the Falcons $200K against this year’s cap. This points toward two things: the staff might be higher on Ollison than the fan base, and Cordarrelle Patterson might be featured as a traditional running back more than he ever has.

With Davis, Ollison, and Patterson filling out the running back room, there isn’t an overly pressing need for Fontenot to draft a running back highly. I am President of the Never Draft a Running Back High Club, so naturally, I’m against taking one in any of the first few rounds of the draft. Arthur Smith and Fontenot have been adamant about hitting on mid-round draft picks, which is the only way to have long-term success in this league. An NFL team doesn’t need to be able to draft high-end elite players in the middle of the draft, but a constantly successful one finds starting-caliber players at every point in the draft — not just the first two rounds. Here are a few mid-to-late round running backs that Fontenot and Smith could be interested in that compliment the power running styles of Smith and Ollison.

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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