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Ito Smith - Rookie Recap / Dynasty Outlook

We continue our look back at the rookie seasons of some under-the-radar dynasty assets with Atlanta Falcons RB Ito Smith.

Smith was supposed to be mere depth behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, but injury kept Freeman out of the lineup nearly all season. With Tevin Coleman likely to depart via free agency, Smith could retain his role as the RB2 on a high-scoring offense.

Let's take a look at some of Smith's numbers from his rookie year and what we can expect from him in terms of fantasy production moving forward.

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Team: Atlanta Falcons
College: Southern Miss
Height/Weight: 5'9", 200 pounds
2018 NFL Draft: 4th Round - 126th Overall


The 2018 NFL Draft

In the late fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected the former workhorse out of Southern Miss, Ito Smith. As the 126th running back off the board, Smith was the 13th running back selected in the 2018 rookie draft class. Being drafted by the Falcons immediately put him in a position where it would take some time for Smith to become relevant for fantasy purposes.

Smith was a very exciting prospect who showed some very nice versatility and dual-threat ability, which is huge in the NFL these days. He finished his college career with a whopping 140 catches and had 49 catches for 515 receiving yards as his best season. For what it's worth, only Saquon Barkley had more catches than Smith of the 2018 rookie running backs. I was very excited to grab Smith late in my dynasty drafts, and now even more so.


The Falcons' RBBC

Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have been one of the league's more dynamic running back duos over the past several years. As you can recall, Freeman was the number one running back in PPR scoring in 2015, and has been either an RB1 or borderline RB1 ever since. That obviously wasn't the case in 2018 as Freeman spent the majority of the season on injured reserve. Coleman, on the other hand, has been a nice Flex option over the past few years and has stepped up in the past when Freeman has not been active. Again, that clearly wasn't the case in 2018.

Freeman ended up playing just two games in 2018 where he had 14 carries for 68 yards. This left the season wide open for Coleman to take the reigns and Smith to get a chance to prove himself far sooner than we expected. Neither of the two really stepped up and became that workhorse running back that most fantasy owners work expecting. Coleman has been more than just a handcuff for fantasy purposes and with Freeman sidelined.

The immediate reaction to his injury was that Coleman would step in as an immediate borderline RB1 on a weekly basis. While he did see the majority of the work with 167 carries on the year, Smith did see a nice chunk of the work with 90. As for the receiving side of things, Coleman finished with 32 receptions for 276 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Smith finished with 27 catches for 152 receiving yards and zero touchdowns.


The Future

Both Coleman and Smith showed flashes of what they could do as the lead back, but neither really stood out. As a Coleman owner, I'd be a bit concerned after he struggled to step up. On the other hand, as a Smith owner, the future is bright. With Coleman hitting free agency and as one of the bigger targets for a team with the need for a running back, there's a chance Smith will slide into Coleman's old role as the pass-catching and third-down back for Atlanta. Freeman signed a massive deal with Atlanta in 2017, making him an unrestricted free agent in 2023. However, there is a potential out at the end of 2019, which wouldn't be crazy to see happen if he can't stay healthy.

With the uncertainty around the future for the Atlanta backfield and the promise that Smith showed as a prospect and in his rookie season, Smith is someone I'm excited to own moving forward. He could end up being a steal in redraft leagues next year or someone worth looking at buying in your dynasty leagues.

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