A closer look at the areas the Atlanta Falcons could address in the draft. We got started Monday with a look at the pass-rushers, who are scheduled to work out Sunday in Indianapolis. Then we examined the receivers, scheduled to work out Saturday. Lastly, we'll dissect some of the running backs.
Position of need: Running back. The Falcons need to upgrade in the backfield and that's likely to start with the release of veteran Steven Jackson. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan brings with him an emphasis on the outside zone-blocking scheme and one-cut-and-go mentality for the running backs. The Falcons will benefit from having younger legs in such a scheme. Don't discount second-year player Devonta Freeman, who is eager to take the next step and could thrive in the system. But the Falcons need more bodies, and Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith are headed to free agency. Keep an eye on Justin Forsett, who also is bound for free agency. Forsett thrived in the zone-blocking scheme the past season en route to a career-high 1,266 rushing yards. And Forsett is represented by the same agent who represents Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
Three players the Falcons could target in the draft:
Tevin Coleman (RB), Indiana: The Falcons won't get a closer look at Coleman's skills at the combine because he is sidelined by a foot injury. But as long as Coleman's injury doesn't linger long, he'll be a hot prospect come draft time. His is projected to be a second-round pick, so the Falcons might want to consider him there if they don't go with a receiver. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Coleman has the speed to make that one cut and take it to the house, as evident from his 90-yard touchdown against the speedy Ohio State defense this past season. Coleman finished the year with 2,062 rushing yards on 270 carries with 15 touchdowns. Impressive.
Matt Jones (RB), Florida: The fact that James is known as a one-cut, downhill runner isn't the only reason he's on this list. Jones, who declared early, was recruited to Florida by Falcons head coach Dan Quinn when Quinn was the Gators' defensive coordinator. Certainly the familiarity should help. James is projected as a fifth-rounder and could help himself at the combine, of course. This past season, the 6-2, 226-pound Jones rushed for 817 yards on 166 carries with six touchdowns and one touchdown reception. He has had a couple of knee surgeries, which could raise some red flags.
Josh Robinson (RB), Mississippi State: Robinson, projected as a sixth-round pick, played in a zone-blocking scheme with the Bulldogs, so the transition would be easy for him. The 5-9, 215-pound Robinson has to answer some questions about his speed, although he's shown the ability to bounce off tackles. This past season, he rushed for 1,238 yards on 190 carries with 11 touchdowns and a long run of 73 yards. Robinson also caught 28 passes for 370 yards and a touchdown.