Atlanta Falcons 2012 NFL Draft: Will a Replacement for Michael Turner Be Found?

Alex WelchCorrespondent IIFebruary 28, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 20:  Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons breaks away from Malcolm Sheppard #96 of the Tennessee Titans during play at the Georgia Dome on November 20, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons will have to wait until Round 2 of their NFL draft to start adding to their roster, but there are sure to be several guys they'll have to choose from at pick No. 55. The question is, what position do they seek to fill first?

If you haven't read the recent reports, Michael Turner is probably not going to get 300-plus carries this year. “We want to keep [Michael] as our feature back, but we need to make sure we some of the other guys carries as well,” head coach Mike Smith said in a quote taken from Gregg Rosenthal at Pro Football Talk.

Right now the plan is to keep Turner leading the charge on the ground, but limit how often he touches the ball. Smith clearly noticed Turner's waning performance down the stretch last season. The Falcons need to alter their running game plan if they want to get that first playoff win with under this regime.

Jason Snelling's contract is up now, and there's no assurance he'll be re-signed. If he leaves, who is the team left with? A 30-year-old in regression, a 5'6" scatback and a former undrafted free agent who has a total of minus-three yards rushing in the NFL. It looks safe to say they could use some help.

Without a first-round pick, there's no promise Atlanta can grab a top-tier running back deep in the second round. Right now, though, there's no telling who's going to end up where. Every mock draft will tell you something different, so there is hope a future starter could fall to them.

David Wilson has been listed on a couple mock drafts as Atlanta's first selection. If you watched him at the NFL combine, you know he didn't disappoint. Wilson put up solid numbers in all of his drills and currently has an 86.5 rating on, which according to their grading scale warrants immediate starter status in the league.

Chris Polk has been given several different draft projections from multiple sources, ranging anywhere from Rounds 1-3. Judging by all the talk surrounding him right now, he's looking like he'll be off the board long before Atlanta's selection comes up.

If they did have the chance to draft Polk, he would be extremely difficult to pass up. Polk doesn't have elite speed, but every part of his game is solid. He will likely have an immediate impact on whatever team drafts him.

There have been plenty of other running backs thrown out there as potential Falcons for next season. Isaiah Pead has been mentioned by some. Robert Turbin and Cyrus Gray are two more guys who've been mentioned at some point. These three aren't on the same level as the more elite backs in the draft, but any of them could make a decent addition in Atlanta.

The real questions are when will the Falcons decide to draft a running back: Will it be this season and will they even address the position through the draft?

Looking at the list of potential free agents, there aren't many players that really stand out as permanent replacements for Turner. The big names like Ray Rice and Matt Forte aren't likely to make it out of their respective cities, and after these two who would Atlanta really consider?

Michael Bush has been brought up in the past, and although he did have some big games filling in for Darren McFadden, he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. Unless someone from the upper echelon of the league decides to look elsewhere, the Falcons aren't likely to find a solid fix through free agency in the coming month.

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 26: Montee Ball #28 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs for a second half touchdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Camp Randall Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin defeated Penn State 45-7. (Photo by Jon
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If the franchise decides to give it another season with its current platoon in the backfield, they will certainly have to take action in 2013. Fans are already talking about trading or cutting Turner, and as he continues to age I can't imagine these complaints completely disappearing.

Montee Ball is already at the top of the list for running backs in next year's draft. Marcus Lattimore and Knile Davis are some other candidates for first-round selections, but of course we'll have to see how this season turns out with those two coming off injuries.

The list could go on and on, but the overall moral to the story is that the Falcons are going to have to some tough decisions to make soon. There might be one or two stud running backs available for their No. 55 pick, and if that's the case they might need to jump on the opportunity. 

Atlanta needs help at several spots on the depth chart, but running back is become increasingly worrisome. What do you guys think: Is now the time to start looking?