Three summers ago, I made predictions about what the Atlanta Falcons roster might look like in 2015. Recently, I revisited those predictions to discover just how oddly accurate and wildly inaccurate they were in most cases.
But in so doing, it got the creative juices flowing once more to try and do it again, this time predicting what the Falcons roster might look like three years from now in 2018. As I did then, I will break down each position group with the goal of examining a pathway that the Falcons roster could go down.
I already began with discussing the quarterbacks, now it’s time to turn to the running backs…
With a renewed emphasis on balance, the Falcons running back position in 2018 has undergone a bit of a makeover. 2015 third-round pick Tevin Coleman is still around, having spent the previous two years as the team’s leading rusher. Coleman once again enters 2018 as the team’s leader at the position, but the team has brought in more competition to push him.
The knock on Coleman is that despite having a number of breakaway runs and explosive plays, he hasn’t become the reliable between-the tackles runner that the team was hoping for when they drafted him. Since then, the Falcons have added a pair of bruisers at the position in the hopes that it would add a more physical element to their roster.
The first of the pair is Marshall’s Devon Johnson, who the team used a fourth-round pick on in the 2016 draft. After a 2015 season of platooning the speedy Coleman with Devonta Freeman, the Falcons sorely missed the hammer that could pound it between the tackles and in short-yardage situations, prompting their selection of Johnson the following spring.
Johnson continued to get work situationally for his first two years behind Coleman and Freeman, but after Freeman’s departure via free agency in the offseason of 2018, the Falcons look for more help in the middle rounds, taking Western Michigan runner Jarvion Franklin. Franklin doesn’t have explosive breakaway speed, but is a physical runner that the team believes can grow into a potential starter down the road.
Freeman played out his rookie contract with the Falcons, primarily adding value on third downs over his last three years in Atlanta. But ultimately the Falcons grew to see that Coleman is just as good if not better on passing downs, and opted to go with a pair of bruisers instead. Taking a page from the Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos, the Falcons opt against handing out a second contract for Freeman in 2018 thanks to their ability to continually replenish the position via mid-round draft picks.
At fullback, the team made the switch to linebacker Allen Bradford in 2017 after Patrick DiMarco’s contract expired. Prior to that point, Bradford had proven a valuable performer on special teams. His athleticism and past experience as a collegiate running back makes the transition relatively easy. With quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur taking over play-calling duties in 2017, the Falcons look to move towards an offense featuring multiple tight ends and wide receivers rather than one that needs to have a major contributor at fullback. Bradford is certainly capable of getting the job done in that regard.