Devonta Freeman is set to return as the starting running back for the Atlanta Falcons this year after a groin injury ended his 2018 season in Week 6. With Tevin Coleman now playing in San Francisco, the question remains of who will back up Freeman this season and provide potential fantasy value as a handcuff pick in drafts.
The popular name just a few weeks ago was Ito Smith, who served as Coleman's backup last season following Freeman's injury. However, there is now some strong buzz emerging around Brian Hill, who impressed with 57 rushing yards on 11 carries and one receiving touchdown in the Falcons' preseason loss to the Broncos in the Hall of Fame Game.
Hill is a third-year player who was taken by the Falcons in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, only to be cut in October of that year. He latched onto the Cincinnati Bengals and played in six games, but only amassed 11 carries for 37 yards. Hill was reunited with the Falcons last season, and while he played sparingly, he did have a breakout game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16, rushing for 115 yards on eight carries.
Smith is entering his second NFL season and was a fourth-round pick by the Falcons last year. He finished with 90 carries last season as Coleman's backup, which he turned into 315 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. Smith also had 27 catches for 152 receiving yards and zero touchdowns.
While it's still early in the camp battle, Hill could be gaining on Smith, who had three carries for just six yards in the Hall of Fame Game. Hill is being heralded for his hard-nosed running style and pass-catching chops, but there is still plenty of camp left to decide which back will come out on top as the handcuff in Atlanta.
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