A position that surely to generate some heated debate: what should the Falcons do for the future at running back? The Birds just had their feature back Michael Turner head to the Pro Bowl for the 2nd time in 2 years and both times the Falcons made the playoffs, even if it ended poorly. Their backup running back Jason Snelling boosted his stock not only as a runner between the tackles, but also was the 3rd leading receiver on the entire team in terms of receptions. Jerious Norwood was injured in the beginning of the season and will have a tough road back. 3rd string backs Gartrelle Johnson and Antone Smith couldn’t take advantage of their opportunity and made a negligible impact. Obviously, Turner is the undisputed starter, but what will the Falcons do with the rest of the position, or rather what SHOULD they do?
2010 Rushing Stats
Michael Turner – 334 Attempts – 1,371 yards – 12 TDs – 4.1 yards/attempt
Jason Snelling – 87 Attempts – 324 yards – 2 TDs – 3.7 yards/attempt
Gartrelle Johnson – 10 Attempts – 36 yards
Jason Snelling - 44 Receptions – 303 yards – 3 TDs – 6.9 yards/reception
Ovie Mughelli – 13 Receptions – 126 yards – 1 TD – 9.7 yards/reception
Michael Turner – 12 Receptions – 85 yards – 7.1 yards reception
Gartrelle Johnson – 3 Receptions – 6 yards 2 yards/reception
Turner is locked in as the undisputed starter and is under contract for several more years, so that much is a definite. Jason Snelling has been positioning himself to become some team’s lead back the last several years and he will be garnering some attention, or at least a much bigger payday from the Birds. Snelling proved to be a capable backup to Turner even if their styles were too similar, he more than made up for it with his receiving skills. Jerious Norwood’s speed is well-known and his presence could make the RB corps perfectly balanced, but simply hoping that Norwood will return to health will take a large leap of faith. Throw in the fact that Snelling will be looking to max his status and Dimitroff and Smith have talked about being faster and more explosive and this option may not be the best.
This option almost seems unfathomable, but Dimitroff does hail from the New England Patriots where they are the masters of buying low and selling high. Michael Turner just turned 29 and has shown some signs of slowing down a little, although it’s hard to argue when he’s made the Pro Bowl 2 out of 3 years. But the point still remains that Turner is nearing the big 3-0 albatross that accompanies even the greatest running backs. He’s under contract for 3 more years, so either way the Falcons will be looking for a future back sooner rather than later. This would be contingent on too many things to be plausible including finding appropriate trade partners and re-signing Snelling believing that he in fact should be the feature back going forward. The Falcons could then draft a running back to groom for the future. All that being said, it’s almost impossible seeing Dimitroff shipping off one of the most popular players fresh off two Pro Bowls and one of the biggest reasons for the Falcons success.
Of all the possibilities, this seems the farthest from likely. The Falcons have two free agent running backs of their own coming up with Snelling and Norwood and just wouldn’t make sense to go out and sign a free agent when you can scout and develop your own, but you never know.
Notable Free Agent RB’s: Pierre Thomas, Deangelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, Darren Sproles, Michael Bush among many others.
This one seems to be the most logical and gaining more steam as the draft nears. Considering several positions of great need, such as DE or OT, offer up very much in terms of immediate impact, this could very well match Dimitroff and Smith’s mantra of need for speed. The Falcons don’t need your standard running back, but rather a speed back to complement Turner and catch the ball out of the backfield. Even if the Falcons don’t draft an RB at #27, they could certainly take one in the first three rounds. Here’s a few that might look good in red and black:
Mikel Leshoure – 6’0 – 227 – 4.59 Forty – Illinois
A prototypical NFL running back who looks to do some serious damage at the next level. Even though not a true burner, this guy can run, catch, and break tackles. Coming out as a junior, Leshoure ran for almost 1,700 yards and an eye-popping 17 TDs. Also caught 196 yards receiving with 3 TDs. May not be a true complement to Turner, but the guy looks to be really good. Almost a lock to go in the first round.
Demarco Murray – 6’0 – 213 – 4.41 Forty – Oklahoma
The knocks on this guy are long and pointed, most referring to his long injury history. Many says he runs too upright, is too injury prone, and doesn’t carry the ball well. But take a simple look at this guys speed and insane college production and you get the feeling this could be a play-maker. Ran for 3,685 yards and 50 TDs. Caught 1,571 receiving yards and 11 TDs over his career, including almost 600 yards through the air as a senior. Seemingly the perfect complement to Turner and could grow into the role. One of the most productive college RB in the draft. Probably won’t make it to Falcons in 2nd rd, especially with his 4.41 forty at the combine.
Kendall Hunter – 5’7 – 199 – 4.53 Forty – Oklahoma State
Also extremely productive running back out of OSU. Low center of gravity help him amass over 1,500 yards rushing paired with 16 TDs. Not insanely productive through the air, but has shown nice hands and the capability of catching out of the backfield. Thought to be a complementary back, which could work out nicely for the Falcons. Speed was good, but not great at the combine. 2nd or 3rd round possibility.
Jordan Todman – 5’8 – 203 – 4.40 Forty – Connecticut
Similar to Kendall Hunter, was an extremely productive RB at UConn where he ran for almost 3,000 yards as a sophomore and junior and scored almost 30 touchdowns. Definitely helped himself at the combine by running a 4.40. Definitely not very productive in the passing game, taking in not even 300 yards receiving total in his career and not scoring any TDs through the air. If not successful through the air, would he be a good fit with Turner?
Other Notable RB Prospects: Ryan Williams, Taiwan Jones, Shane Vereen, Derrick Locke, Noel Devine
So there you have it, what to do at running back? You decide.
-Straight up: what should the Falcons do at RB?
-Should Turner be the undisputed starter for many years?
-How many years does the Burner have left in the tank?
-Has Turner shown signs of slowing?
-Should the Falcon re-sign Snelling?
-Is Snelling good enough to be a feature back?
-Anyway they stick with all 3 guys exactly the same?
-Can Norwood make a comeback?
-Should a Turner trade be on the table?
-Any free agents you’d like to pick up?
-Should the Birds go RB @ #27? 2nd round? 3rd round?
-Who would you like the Falcons to draft at RB?