Should the Falcons draft Todd Gurley?

Bill Shanks talks about the Falcons possible quandary with Todd Gurley.

What in the world are the Falcons going to do? Let's say those heralded pass rushers the Falcons need so much are off the board. The Jaguars take Dante Fowler, Jr. at three. The Redskins take Shane Ray at five. And the Bears take Vic Beasley at seven.

Well, that when the Falcons' problem begins. They need a pass rusher, but if those big guys are gone, they may have to turn to plan B.

And he'll likely be on the board. They know passing on him may haunt them forever. They know they may never hear the end of it from fans in their own backyard who know him best. And they know he might be the perfect draw in the new stadium in 2017.

The player? Todd Gurley, running back from the University of Georgia.

Yes, that's one way to get Georgians to buy into the personal seat licenses. They would love to see their favorite son, the one that would have won the Heisman Trophy if that little autograph-signing scandal had not happened, or his subsequent knee injury that ended his junior season.

Gurley is a tremendous talent. There is no disputing that. Sure, he made a mistake with the autograph scandal. It was stupid. But it's over now. No one believes this is a bad kid. He's not. He's simply a kid that made a mistake.

But boy, can he run with the football. Do you really need any stats? I'm not going to give them to you. If you saw Gurley last season, you know how good he is. You know the potential he has. You know he might be the next Eric Dickerson.

The problem, however, is that running backs who often get compared to Eric Dickerson sometimes wind up being Trent Richardson. Taking a running back early in a NFL Draft has become taboo. Teams are afraid to do it. They feel, and rightfully so, that they can find running backs later in the draft, and some can even find running backs that aren't drafted as free agents.

Funny that Kyle Shanahan, Atlanta's new offensive coordinator, has experience at just that. Last year when he had the same job in Cleveland, Shanahan had Terrance West, a third round pick last season by the Browns out of Towson. West ran for 673 yards as a rookie.

Shanahan also had Isaiah Crowell, the former Georgia Bulldogs running back who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Alabama State. Crowell ran for 607 yards as a rookie.

So will Shanahan believe he doesn't need to have a running back drafted high in the first round? Will he believe he can find just as much value later in the draft, which would allow the Falcons to concentrate on another need?

It depends on a few things. Do the Falcons believe Gurley can rebound from his torn ACL and help in 2015? There are conflicting reports on exactly when Gurley will be able to play in his rookie season. If they think Gurley might miss a lot of time, they might shy away from him.

But if they think Gurley is a special talent, a once-in-a-generation running back, they might be tempted to pull the trigger on him. Sure, the running back position has been devalued a bit. But how much better was Matt Ryan with Michael Turner behind him as the running back? The Falcons were 10-22 in the last two years with the tragic signing of Steven Jackson. A good running back made Ryan better.

How much better would Gurley make the Falcons? Could he even be great, with a questionable offensive line? That must be a factor. They still need help on the line. If they took Gurley in the first round, they'd probably go defense in the second round, pushing the potential pick of an offensive lineman to the third round.

New head coach Dan Quinn knows first hand what a dominant running back can mean to an offense. Heck, he knows how it can help a defense, too. He saw Marshawn Lynch in Seattle. Is Gurley his Lynch?

What would you do about Gurley? Yes, I'd draft him. I know you might find someone just as good later. But I don't buy the Devonta Freeman love. They need a home run hitter at running back, not a punch-and-Judy hitter. Gurley proved at UGA he's a home run hitter, and the Falcons may not be able to pass him up if he's on the board in the first round.


Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.


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