As the Atlanta Falcons shift to a new offense under recently hired head coach Arthur Smith, they have retooled their offensive backfield. That process took another step during the hours directly following the 2021 NFL Draft as the team signed Louisville’s Javian Hawkins and Ball State’s Caleb Huntley as rookie free agents.
Undersized at 5-foot-8 and 183 pounds, Hawkins enjoyed a productive career at Louisville. During a breakout 2019 campaign, the running back delivered 1,525 yards and nine touchdowns on 264 carries (5.8 per attempt), earning second-team All-ACC honors in the process. Hawkins followed up that fine season with 133 carries for 822 yards and seven touchdowns before opting out after seven games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In contrast to his new Atlanta teammate, Huntley offers good size (5-foot-10, 225 pounds) but did not produce as prolifically at the college level the past two years. Huntley appear din just three games due to both injuries and the pandemic, rushing for 437 yards and six touchdowns on 80 carries (5.5 per attempt).
The Falcons signed Mike Davis to serve as their lead back with Qadree Ollison and Tony Brooks-James returning from last season. Davis shouldn’t have much competition for the starting job and, if Smith’s previous stop with the Tennessee Titans serves as any indication, the team might not rotate at running back much this season.
Backs with Hawkins’ size have found roles in offenses similar to the one Smith plans to install with the Falcons, but he probably won’t ever become a featured weapon. Huntley has the size to handle the wear and tear of the NFL, but that doesn’t mean he possesses the skill set to become more than a reserve. While both should get a chance to prove themselves, neither looks like a great long-term bet for fantasy purposes.