Maybe that's why the Falcons seem interested in running backs Jeremy Hill of LSU and Carlos Hyde of Ohio State. Both are physical, downhill runners, and they generally are considered the top two backs in the draft.
Hill (6-foot-1, 233 pounds) is considered a character risk by some, though NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport has reported that teams he has spoken with have no issues with his character. No one doubts Hill's talent. While he can turn the corner, he is at his best rampaging between the tackles. Hill ran for 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013, when he had seven 100-yard games; he ran for 184 yards and three TDs in a win over Auburn. Hill also showed an ability to be an effective receiver in '13, but his blocking needs work.
As with Hill, Hyde (6-0, 230) is at his best between the tackles. Hyde rushed for 1,521 yards and 15 TDs in 2013, when he became the first-ever Urban Meyer-coached running back to crack the 1,000-yard barrier. He rushed for 100 yards in each of Ohio State's final nine games and had two 200-yard outings, including a monster 246-yard, four-TD performance against Illinois in which he averaged 10.3 yards per carry. Hyde has had success in a one-back offense and shown he can handle a heavy workload. His receiving ability looks OK and he is a good blocker.
Conventional wisdom has teams bypassing running backs in the first round for the second year in a row, but Hill and Hyde could be enticing enough to be selected late in the first round.
Atlanta picks No. 6 in the first round, but the team won't be taking a running back at that spot. The Falcons pick fifth in the second round (37th overall) and definitely could be interested in Hill or Hyde then; the potential also exists for Atlanta to trade back into the first round to get their man, especially if the Falcons think someone is interested enough late in the round to grab one of the backs.
The Falcons have Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers at running back. However, Jackson turns 31 in July and clearly is slowing down and Rodgers is not an every-down back. Getting a back who can handle 15-plus carries a game -- and be productive doing so -- likely is important for the Falcons in this draft. Jackson averaged 13 carries per game last season, at 3.5 yards per carry.
Atlanta also has brought in Towson running back Terrance West (5-9, 224), who set FCS single-season records for rushing yards (2,509) and total touchdowns (42). West lacks elite speed, but he ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in 4.54 seconds and has patience and good vision. He has quick feet and is a tough, powerful downhill runner who is right at home working between the tackles. He also was a workhorse, averaging 260 carries per season in his three-year college career (he averaged 26.1 carries per game in 2013).
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.