A Closer Look: Atlanta Falcons Running Backs (2022 Fantasy Football)
In our “Closer Look” series, we’re examining ambiguous, hard-to-read position groups and offering advice on how to handle them in 2022 fantasy football drafts. In this installment, Bo McBrayer takes a closer look at the RB position for the Atlanta Falcons.
One of the best kick returners in NFL history ran himself into RB eligibility last season with an unusual burst of innovation from head coach Arthur Smith. He’s old, but obviously talented as a ball carrier and pass catcher.
He’s 30 years old and hasn’t been relevant for fantasy football since being snubbed for Super Bowl MVP in the 2019 season. Williams is also a talented receiver, but his 4.4 speed from Oklahoma is long gone.
Other Potential Contributors
The rookie fifth-round pick from BYU is a bruising runner who converted from linebacker. It remains to be seen whether he can break tackles in the league as he did in the Mountain West Conference. He is not a premier athlete and has serious question marks around his vision and lateral agility.
The “elder statesman” of this group is eerily similar to the younger Allgeier and has not shown much promise as a primary ball carrier in the NFL. His first order of business will be to crack this roster.
Huntley was primarily a practice squad player in 2021, but he received a futures deal in January to remain with the Falcons. With the position classified as murky at best, he could crack the 53-man roster with a strong camp.
Williams is likely to stick to this roster as nothing more than a return specialist (643 return yards in 2021), but crazier things have happened. The 2021 fifth-round pick is converting from defensive back to offense, lending belief that they are molding him into a quasi-Cordarrelle Patterson for the future.
Cordarrelle Patterson being last season’s late-round darling was an unprecedented development. Patterson is still a dynamic playmaker in the open field with plenty of promise as a pass-catching back. There is justifiable concern that the arrival of Damien Williams will entice Arthur Smith to toss the former (?) wide receiver back on the outside.
The perception that this backfield is a dumpster fire has completely deflated Patterson’s ADP. Last season’s RB9 in PPR scoring is barely cracking the top 100 overall leading into the 2022 season.
It is entirely possible that the bleak outlook for this Atlanta backfield boils down to the faith they are putting into a 30-year-old journeyman who hasn’t been remotely productive since 2019. Even though Damien Williams has decent receiving chops, he will need to show us a lot more than he has to be more than a late-round prayer in fantasy drafts.
Allgeier fits the mold of physical runners that Arthur Smith likes to use on early downs, but he’s more of an Ollison clone than he is Derrick Henry. He lacks the explosive burst to the second level and doesn’t figure to play a role in the passing game. His best hopes for fantasy relevance come from an opaque promise that his physicality can translate into touchdown upside from earning goal-line carries.
Ollison is the older version of Allgeier and has yet to blossom into a productive NFL player. The writing might be on the wall that he will need to accept a special teams role or latch onto another team if he’s a camp casualty. He completely reinvented his gait and running style last season, but it only mildly improved his on-field performance.
Huntley is an intriguing depth piece for Atlanta. He will assuredly be a first-alternate and protected member of the practice squad again in 2022.
Avery Williams is a sneaky option for very deep leagues with scoring for return yards. I am also stashing him in very deep dynasty leagues as the heir apparent to Patterson in this offense.
How to Value These Players
This entire backfield is built on top of a house of cards. Patterson and Williams are long in the tooth, to say the least. Should either one of them succumb to injuries in 2022, Allgeier would back into a pseudo bellcow role. For that reason, I’m willing to take him late in drafts.
The expectations are low for this backfield for good reason, but Patterson is a relatively safe bet to outperform his ADP yet again. He seemed to be the only Falcons player who stirred Coach Smith’s vanilla creative spirit last season. I have him valued as RB35 in my redraft half-PPR rankings. He is slightly ahead of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and James Cook, but behind Chase Edmonds and Michael Carter.
I don’t have as much faith in the production of Damien Williams, as he comes in at RB66 in my rankings. I’d much prefer the implied touchdown upside and volume proposition of Allgeier, whom I have ranked as RB50.
As for the rest of these gentlemen, a drastic shift in narrative can make any one of them a hot waiver priority. I would still caution fantasy managers against wagering too much FAAB on this quandary of a depth chart.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections — to our Waiver Wire Assistant — which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much — we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.