I'm in agreement with everything Comp said. If Deangelo Williams is there, and assuming another Top 10 talent player is not at a position of higher need (like Mario Williams), then we should take Williams.
Dunn will be back in 2006, but as has been the case the past few years, he's basically playing year to year. His performance this past year basically guaranteed he would be a Falcon in 2006. But if he doesn't have quite as good a year in 2006 (like say 800 yards), then is he going to be back in 2007? Maybe not. Of course, much of this depends on what the Falcons do with his contract and how they restructure/extend it.
But I'm of the belief that because Dunn took less of a beating in his 20s unlike most backs, he has a bit more longevity than others. I don't believe he'll ever again have a season as good as he did this past year. But I still think for another 2-3 years he can be a 900+ yard back. NOt great, but still productive enough to be the spearhead of our rushing attack.
I think the chances of Duckett beign traded this offseason are much stronger than most may think. I think if Bettis retires and the Steelers management realize that they lack a powerful and durable power runner, he becomes a very good fit for them, and they are probably the most likely candidate.
Other teams that might be interested are the 49ers, Jaguars, Jets, Panthers, Patriots, and longshots being the Texans and Vikings. Of those teams Carolina is the best fit, but since we're in the same division, I doubt he goes there. The 49ers will be interested if they don't get a quality RB in draft. The Jaguars may have some interest, but it depends on if they decide to move Greg Jones back to RB. The Jets could be interested because they right now they don't have a strong inside runner. The Patriots would also be a good fit, but again only if they don't address the position in the draft. The Texans are a longshot, but could look at him if they opt not to take Bush at #1. Vikings could be an option, althoguh he's not a great fit in that offense, but would be an option if they are looking to beef up their inside running.
But let's say Duckett does return. he's a FA after the year, and short of the Falcons paying him starter money and guaranteeing he gets 20-25 carries a game, he's not coming back here.
So we'll have a void at #2 RB after the '06 season most likely. And if Dunn's play drops off, it may be at #1.
One hope is that DeAndra Cobb makes big strides within the next 12 months and begin to look like Dunn's heir apparent. I think Cobb can be a capable runner down the road, but I'm not going to hold my breath for him.
I also agree with Comp in that I believe we have the OL and system that we can plug in players and still be productive. Will any pair be as good as Dunn & Duckett have been at their best? Probably not. But Knapp has shown a good ability to manage a 2-headed backfield and this OL and blocking scheme really makes average players look excellent.
One of the beautiful things about the NFL draft is usually there are several quality RBs that fall to Round 4 each year. Some examples of these guys are Marion Barber, Mewelde Moore, Domanick Davis, Lee Suggs, and Rudi Johnson, just in the past 5 drafts. Both Barber (in college) and Davis (last 2 years in Houston) have proven that can be capable runners behind a zone-blocking line. Any of those guys would be 1000 yard guys on our team IMO.
So I don't think we have to put as much emphasis on it as other teams do. While other teams look for the guy that can carry the ball 20 times a game for the next 5 years, we can look for 2 guys that each share 20 carries for the next year or two until we find someone better. As we see in Denver, besides the brief run of Portis, the Broncos have had only stopgaps at RB since Terrell Davis went down in 1999. It doesn't seem they are ready to invest in another RB long-term because they don't need to. I think we're in a similar boat.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.