The Atlanta Falcons struggled in the run game last season, ranking 31st in yards in the entire league.
Although the team re-signed Cordarrelle Patterson and brought in free agent Damien Williams, the Falcons are likely going to look at taking a running back in this month’s draft.
One of the top prospects at the position is Florida running back Dameon Pierce, who is likely to be drafted sometime in the middle rounds. While he may not be considered as the first running back off the board, he has the potential to contribute in the NFL as early as next season. He would also follow the pattern of Florida Gators joining the Falcons, as Kyle Pitts was teammates with Pierce in Gainesville for two years.
We spoke with AllGators SI publisher Zach Goodall to gain a better understanding of Pierce as a prospect and what we can expect from the former Florida Gator.
Kyle Pitts at Florida
1. The Falcons hold four Day 2 picks in this draft. Why should the Falcons use one of those on Pierce?
If the Falcons need a bruising running back to better complement Cordarrelle Patterson’s skill-set than what Mike Davis and Co. are able to provide, Pierce would be a great choice on day three. He’s a missed tackle-forcing machine due to his physicality and contact balance as a rusher with solid elusiveness and speed to pair.
Pierce’s workload in college, to the displeasure of many around Florida football, was also light compared to your typical running back prospect, making him even more appealing.
2. Why is Pierce being considered as one of the best running backs in the draft?
Find me a college running back who scored a touchdown every 7.4 times, or fewer, they touched the football last year (let’s say with a minimum of 100 touches). Any luck?
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Typically as a rusher, although he improved greatly over the years and specifically in 2021 as a pass-catcher, Pierce was a threat to score any time the ball was in his hands. That’s why, in my opinion, he’s one of the best backs in the draft.
3. What will Pierce’s biggest weakness be on the NFL level?
Although he did improve a lot as a pass-catcher over the years, it was a skill he had to develop in college as he was purely a rusher coming out of high school. The NFL route tree and defensive opposition for pass-catching backs is much tougher than it is in college, so I’d probably consider that aspect of his game as his weakness.
4. If everything goes right, what is Pierce’s ceiling in the NFL?
I think he is a starting-caliber running back at the NFL level, although ideally in a committee with a strong third-down back to split reps with.
5. What do you think is Pierce’s likeliest career trajectory in the NFL? Is there an NFL player he reminds you of?
He has a chance to emerge as one of the better value picks in this draft, as we’ve seen day three and even undrafted running backs go on to have very productive careers. If and when he gets an opportunity to carry the load for a team, I believe he’ll accomplish enough to hold onto a starting role in this league and not look back.
This is not at all a player comparison from a trajectory perspective and Pierce is far removed from being as complete a running back or as dominant an athlete as this player — so please don’t crucify me — but his ability to make defenders miss with ease reminds me of LaDainian Tomlinson.