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Ranking the Falcons 2014: No. 34 Jacquizz Rodgers

Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Jacquizz Rodgers

I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 34th-ranked player: running back Jacquizz Rodgers.

To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.

Total Score: 44/100

Last year’s rank: 27
Player Grade: 49/100
Teams he is starter: 0 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 28 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +2
Positional Bonus: +3

Rodgers was pushed down in this year’s rankings thanks to additions the Falcons made in the offseason as well as the fact that a number of unproven players rose in the rankings from a year ago. But that does not mean that Rodgers doesn’t add significant value to the Falcons roster.

While he’ll face stiff competition from rookie running back Devonta Freeman this summer, Rodgers isn’t exactly going to lay down. He is one of the best third-down backs currently in the league, being one of only four players that ranked in the top 15 in premium website Pro Football Focus‘ pass-blocking efficiency and yards per route metrics for running backs in 2013.

But Rodgers likely hopes to expand his role as a rusher this season. He received a career-high 96 carries in 2013, including 58 carries during a five-week stint where starter Steven Jackson was sidelined with injury. Rodgers has yet to receive more than 10 carries in a game in which he was not filling in as a starter or the Falcons were involved in a rout. Earning those reps will become harder with Freeman on the roster, as the team envisions Freeman as capable of being a lead back, something that Rodgers has not been.

Rodgers could benefit however if the Falcons intend to incorporate more zone-blocking into their ground attack, which would make sense given insertions of Jon Asamoah, Jake Matthews and Joe Hawley into the starting lineup along the offensive line. Rodgers’ quickness and visions makes him a better option on the outside stretch plays that are the bread and butter of the zone scheme versus many of the inside runs he ran last year.

But in all likelihood thanks to Freeman, Rodgers’ workload as a runner will take a hit this season unless there is another injury to Jackson. Instead, the bigger concern for Rodgers may be whether or not Freeman carves significantly into his reps in the passing game. Both players have the potential to be very effective on screen passes, so much so that they could be interchangeable.

How this season plays out for Rodgers will be a huge determining factor for his future in Atlanta. He is after all, entering the final year of his contract and the team has a player in Freeman that could do everything Rodgers can do, but possibly better. Helping Rodgers chances of returning is that he’ll be only 25 next offseason and his price tag should be far from prohibitive.

But it’s ostensibly a make or break season for Rodgers. Whether it’s to earn a second contract with the Falcons or to audition for a larger role with another team, it makes sense for Rodgers to put his best foot forward in 2014.

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