Falcons Playmaker Tipped for Same Role as Former Saints Triple Threat

Darren Sproles

Getty A former record-breaker for the Saints is the template for a young Falcons' playmaker.

The Atlanta Falcons don’t often take tips from the New Orleans Saints. Yet, taking a page from their bitterest rivals could help the Falcons unleash a dynamic playmaker on offense in the 2022 NFL season.

That’s the best-case scenario for a 2021 draft pick who is converting to a new position. He’s a speedster on the ground who can also be electrifying in the return game.

Given his skill-set, one writer believes this second-year pro could emulate a former record-breaking star for the Saints. A versatile, triple-threat who won a Super Bowl during a 15-year career that’s worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.

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Intriguing Weapon Tipped for Saints-Style Role

Avery Williams will be under the spotlight during training camp, as he attempts to transition from defensive back to running back. It’s a switch that opens up a number of intriguing possibilities, according to Alex Lord of SportsTalkATL.

Notably, Lord predicts a “Darren Sproles-like role for Williams, giving Arthur Smith and the Falcons offense one more weapon out of the backfield. He’s already dangerous with the ball in his hands, so as long as he can learn the position, Williams should be able to get on the field in special packages.”

This is a lofty expectation for Williams considering how effective Sproles was during stops with the Chargers, Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. Although he helped the latter win Super Bowl LII after the 2017 season, Sproles’ finest individual campaign came in 2011 for the Saints.

He rushed for 603 yards and tallied 710 more on 86 catches as a receiver, per Pro Football Reference. Sproles also added 294 yards as a punt returner and 1,089 running back kicks.

Those numbers gave Sproles 2,696 all-purpose yards, a single-season record in the NFL:

Sproles became the benchmark for the kind of Swiss Army Knife-type playmaker who can make big plays in three phases. His successful journey from fourth-round pick in 2006 to potential Hall of Famer is the template for a player like Williams.

Atlanta’s fifth-round pick a year ago has a ways to go to reach that level, although Lord thinks switching positions shouldn’t be too much of a challenge: “It isn’t really that unheard of for a player to make this transition, especially for someone as talented with the ball in their hands as Williams. Before he even played a snap.”

The chances of the transition going smoothly are increased by the player’s commitment to his new role. Williams told Falcons Digital Managing Editor Scott Bair: “I was all for it. The staff understands and I understand that my gift to the team starts on special teams. That will always be a priority. That’s how I’m going to make an impact and help us win games. However I can maximize my skill set and help the team even more, that’s a bonus. Making the switch to offense, I took no issue with that. I love it. I embrace it. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Fortunately, Williams already has the return skills down pat from his days at Boise State, per ESPN’s Eric Robinson:

Those same skills were on display at times during Williams’ rookie year in the pros. He gained 153 yards on 20 punt returns and added 490 returning 23 kickoffs.

Sproles is the template for what Williams might become, but for now, the 23-year-old can look closer to home at how the Falcons used another dynamic return man who converted to the backfield.


Cordarrelle Patterson a Good Example for Williams

Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone already have experience incorporating a versatile return ace into the offense. Their approach worked wonders for Cordarrelle Patterson last season.

The former wide receiver became a running back full time and responded with career-best numbers. Patterson rushed for 610 yards and six touchdowns on 153 carries, while also making 52 receptions for 548 yards and five scores.

Those numbers show the Falcons were able to move Patterson all over the field to create mismatches in both phases of the offense. The same blueprint can apply to Williams, according to Around The Block writer Scott Carasik:

Easing the burden on last season’s most productive offensive weapon has obvious benefits, but Williams can offer more than just making life easier for Patterson. His experience as a defensive back should give Williams an intimate knowledge of covering routes and make him an effective receiver, either out of the backfield, from the slot or split out wide.

Williams’ speed on the ground can be an asset on quick-hitting running plays, either directly on sprint draws or for more gadget-style concepts like jet sweeps. Ultimately, making Williams and his big-play potential part of the offense should give defenses unexpected looks and tricky matchups to combat.

Beyond that, Williams reaching Sproles-like levels would be a dream scenario for the Falcons.

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