The Falcons' offense had several explosive moments in 2014. Among the many weapons quarterback Matt Ryan used during the season were running backs Steven Jackson, Antone Smith, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Devonta Freeman, who logged 65 carries for 248 yards and one touchdown, as well as 30 receptions for 225 yards and one score.
Despite the contribution from Freeman, ESPN NFL Draft Insider Mel Kiper Jr. speculates the Falcons may go after another young running back, among other offensive weapons, after likely targeting a pass-rush specialist with the eighth overall pick.
"If you're Atlanta and you think about the offensive line, you could use a tight end and another running back at some point, and they can get those," Kiper Jr. said via conference call. "There's a lot of depth at running back with all the juniors that came out."
In addition to the talented class of senior running backs in this year's draft, including Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, who was named the 2015 Senior Bowl's Most Outstanding Player, Kiper Jr. mentioned a handful of early-entry running back candidates as possibilities as later-round options for the Falcons.
Among them, Kiper, Jr. says Georgia's junior running back Todd Gurley is a "top 10-15 talent," who, after suffering a torn ACL in 2014, is projected to be a second-round pick.
"Tevin Coleman at Indiana, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon III, Todd Gurley, Duke Johnson at Miami, Matt Jones at Florida and Josh Robinson at Mississippi State all came out early in addition to the top senior group of running backs, which wasn't that bad," Kiper said. "So, the Falcons will get a running back at some point, but I think (they'll draft) a pass rusher early on, and that would maybe be Dante Fowler, Jr. from Florida."