Post Draft Position Analysis - Running Back

Can a rookie make a huge difference for the Falcons at running back in 2015?

There was little doubt the Falcons were going to add a running back in the draft. After the release of Steven Jackson, the team at the least needed someone else on the roster at the position.

But they needed a starter. Jackson had only 707 yards rushing last season. Rookie Devonta Freeman had 248 yards rushing. Jacquizz Rodgers added 217 yards, but he was a free agent and signed with the Chicago Bears. Antone Smith was the other back, and he was brought back but not expected to be the premier option.

While the Falcons improved from their dreaded 2013 production, it was still not enough to help an offense that has proved through the years is better when productive. Complimenting what quarterback Matt Ryan can do through the air with a potent running game is essential for the new coaching staff to have a well-rounded offense.

Consequently, the Falcons spent their third round draft pick on Indiana running back Tevin Coleman. The 73rd overall pick in the draft had a tremendous 2014 season, with 2036 rushing yards. He’s 5-11 and weighs 206 pounds, so he’s three inches taller than Freeman, who is also listed at 206 pounds.

Atlanta needed a taller back. While the previous coaching staff did not really give Freeman much of a chance to prove his worth late last season, he did show that he was pretty small. Freeman was even shorter than Warrick Dunn, even though he weighed more.

The Falcons needed a back with a big more height, and Coleman’s size did not impact his speed. He ran a 4.4 and 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. The criticism of Coleman includes that he tries to use his speed too much, instead of having the creativity to make moves to avoid tacklers.

One thing that stands out about Coleman is that half of his 28 touchdowns at Indiana were 43 yards or more, so he had some long runs. This was an explosive back in college, which is just the type of runner the Falcons need.

Remember when Michael Turner was the starting running back for the Falcons? His success produced a balanced offense that was one of the most feared in the NFL. With Turner gone the last two seasons, the offense was simply not the same.

Coleman is the type of player the Falcons need to get back to that more balanced attack. The Falcons seem ready to give him the full chance to be the starter. Plus, with the post-draft free agent additions on the offensive line, and the new zone blocking scheme system being installed, the offensive line should be more prepared to open holes for the new running back.

So Coleman looks like a good pick on paper. He was the typical “non-first round” running back that most teams search for, with the running back position believed to be somewhat undervalued. The only thing to worry about is Todd Gurley, the former UGA running back who was selected two picks after Vic Beasley was at eight. If Coleman flops and Gurley becomes a star, the Falcons will receive heavy criticism for passing on someone who played in their own backyard.

But they seem satisfied with their selection of Coleman. Can he be a 1000-yard rusher, even as a rookie? Well, the Falcons seem ready to give him a chance.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and email him at

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