Counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, let’s move on to the 39th-ranked player: running back Antone Smith.
To read about the methodology in how these rankings came about, you can click here.
Total Score: 39.5/100
Last year’s rank: N/A
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: 24 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +0
Positional Bonus: +3
Smith is a prime example of a player that I was referring to when I explained the scoring system in that the formula hurts him. Smith’s explosive abilities make him one of the team’s few impact players, but unfortunately for Smith he’s largely shown to date that he’s mostly a “specialty” role player.
Smith however may have a chance to disprove those notions this year. He’s steadily carved out a bigger chunk of the reps at running back with his explosive capabilities the past two years and could be poised for an even bigger chunk this year behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
The main knock on Smith is that he’s yet to prove that outside that ability to hit the home run (which is by no means a small thing) that he brings much more to the table. A capable receiver, Smith struggled throughout the 2014 season when asked to contribute in pass protection, which was another reason why his reps have been limited.
Smith shines in space, but when asked to run between the tackles can be fairly ho-hum. These deficiencies are why Smith may be better called a “specialist” than a true running back. Also holding Smith back is the fact that as he approaches his 30th birthday in September, he spent his prime years in Atlanta playing exclusively on special teams. But the flip side is that Smith has very little wear on him with just 29 career carries, so perhaps he’s poised for several more peak years of production in contrast to your typical tailback.
Smith’s trademark speed also makes him an excellent gunner and cover man on special teams units, so even if his role on offense remains limited, he still can be a major contributor to the team in other ways.
Smith will be a free agent in 2016, meaning that his performance this year will determine whether or not he is back in Atlanta a year from now or trying to convince another team to feed him the ball.