In five of the past six NFL drafts, the Falcons have selected a running back.
Falcons running back Brian Hill, a fifth-round pick (156th overall) in 2017, will have to hold off rookie Qadree Ollison to earn the third running back spot.
Devonta Freeman, who was drafted in the fourth round (103) of 2014 is the No. 1 back. Ito Smith, who was drafted in the fourth round (126) of the 2018 appears to have the inside track to the No. 2 spot.
Tevin Coleman, who was drafted in the third round (73) of the 2015 draft, signed with San Francisco in free agency.
Perhaps both of them can make the final roster if they shine on special teams.
In three of Dan Quinn’s four seasons, the Falcons opened the season with three running backs. In 2017, they opened with four running backs, but Hill was inactive for the game against the Bears.
Ollison was selected in the fifth round (152nd overall) of the 2019 draft.
Hill, who has changed his jersey number to 23 this offseason, finally received an opportunity late last season and ran with authority. He was cut in 2017 and picked up by the Bengals. He came back to the Falcons’ practice squad before playing in 10 games last season.
After being the 15th running back taken, Hill declared himself the best back in the 2017 draft. He has some catching up to do as Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffery, Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Tarik Cohen and Marlon Mack are off to fine starts to their careers.
Hill had 20 carries for 157 yards last season, including a 60-yard run and a fumble.
“When you look at what Brian’s done here in-game, you’d have to be impressed with what he was able to do for us at the end of the year,” running backs coach David Brock said. “At the core, this league is a production league. So, he’s got a phenomenal opportunity in OTAs now and going into the summer and training camp to show exactly what type of player that he is and build on what he did in the those games at the end of the year.”
Brock, like most coaches, is keeping an open mind.
“You certainly look at the opportunity that he got and his ability to make the most of it,” Brock said. “I focus on the production and all of the good things that he did, the energy he brought and how hard he played. I don’t focus on the fumble, because that’s correctable.”
Brock wouldn’t say if Hill was the forgotten back on the roster.
“I’m excited about what he does,” Brock said. “There is not a player in our room that’s a forgotten player. There’s not a player in our room that isn’t thought to be deserving of being there and deserving of the opportunity to help us try to be the best team we can be.”
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