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NFL Draft

Why Javian Hawkins Can Make Falcons Roster As UDFA

  • The Draft Network
  • July 29, 2021
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The Atlanta Falcons experienced quite a bit of change this offseason. They moved on from their long-time general manager and head coach in Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn, and with that change in management came a change in roster outlook.

Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith are now the general manager and head coach, respectively, and we’ve already seen some roster moves that have left their fingerprints all over the depth chart.

A big area of change for the Falcons this upcoming season will be with the running back position—and that’s hopefully a very good thing. Last season, the Falcons were 27th in the NFL when it came to rushing yards per game. They averaged fewer than 100 yards per game with a 95.8 average. On top of that, they were the second-worst team in the NFL when it came to rushing yards per attempt with just a 3.7 yards-per-carry average. In some more advanced and contextual analytics, the Falcons were the 29th-ranked team in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, which measures rushing efficiency and production against the league average. All of that to say, Atlanta wasn’t very good at the ground game in 2020.

Heading into 2021, the Falcons have a new-look running back room. Todd Gurley led the Falcons in rushing attempts and rushing yards in 2020 with 195 carries for 679 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. Behind him was Brian Hill, who gained 465 yards on 100 carries, and then RB3 was Ito Smith, who gained 268 yards on 63 carries. All three of those players are gone. In fact, the only running back on the roster for 2021 who had a rushing attempt in 2020 was Qadree Ollison who had one—count it, one—carry for a grand total of three yards.

Just because the Falcons’ depth chart is a cast of unfamiliar faces doesn’t mean it’s without hope. However, new faces from top to bottom does mean that it is a room that presents itself with unique roster opportunities for young players. A player to specifically keep an eye on is undrafted rookie free agent Javian Hawkins.

Hawkins, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound running back from Louisville, had a really nice final two seasons of college ball. In 2019, Hawkins rushed for more than 1,500 yards with a 5.8 yards-per-carry average and nine rushing touchdowns. In 2020, he played in just eight games, as opposed to the 13 he played in the year before. Because of this, the volume of his stats were down with just 822 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns, but his efficiency-per-touch was up from 5.8 yards per carry to 6.2. Hawkins also became a better option as a receiver, as he caught 16 passes in eight games in 2020 compared to the four he caught through 13 games in 2019.

At his pro day, Hawkins ran a 4.44 40-yard dash, a 4.25 short subtle, and a 6.96 3-cone. But l, unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for the Louisville back to be drafted. After the draft, he chose to sign with the Falcons and that looks to be a great landing spot.

Mike Davis is the assumed starting running back in Atlanta. Davis had been a career backup up until last season, where he started a career-high 12 games in Carolina due to injuries to Christian McCaffrey. Davis rushed for more than 600 yards with six touchdowns. 

The next in line to see carries out of the backfield is Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson originally came into the league as a wide receiver. As a special teams standout as a returner, Patterson continued to stick on rosters in Minnesota, Oakland, New England, and most recently Chicago. But along the way, teams started to use Patterson more as a running back than a wide receiver. He’s now listed as a running back on Atlanta’s depth chart and should be a nice speed option for them. 

After that, there’s Ollison, who as we said before, had one carry last season. But then it’s wide open. One could even argue it’s wide open right at the top.

Atlanta is in a position where the running back depth chart is truly a “let the best man win” scenario. Hawkins likely won’t get the starting running back spot, but he could impress in camp enough to make the regular season roster.

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