Discussion has been pretty straight forward so far when it comes to the class of 2011 NFL free agents, certainly with respect to the St. Louis Rams. Even with a bumper crop of free agents, everyone links the same handful of players with the Rams. With a deal to end the lockout coming next week, that circle of players is growing. One player getting more and more attention in recent days is Atlanta Falcons RB Jason Snelling.
A seventh-round pick in 2007, when Billy Devaney was working in the Falcons' personnel department, Snelling mostly sat behind the machine-like Michael Turner. Snelling picked up more than half of his NFL carries in 2009, with Turner feeling the effects of 376 carries in season prior. Last year, Snelling picked up 87 carries and 44 receptions. Relatively obscure, he's ready for a bigger role in the NFL.
Snelling plays a power game, a between-the-tackles kind of runner, with burst to work well downhill and drive through tackles. He even works as a lead blocker, notable now that the true fullback is all but extinct in the NFL. With 70+ receptions in the last two years, he can also catch the ball. Combine that with his pass blocking ability and you have a guy that fits the third down back mold...and maybe even more.
Snelling didn't have a great yards-per-attempt in 87 carries last year, just 3.7, but he did have 4.3 YPA the year before that. I don't know enough about Atlanta's offense, other than watching them spank the Rams last year, to offer much insight into Snelling's YPA numbers. He's not particularly fast, which limits him from being a complete package.
The trouble is, he might be looking for a more featured role in a league where running backs just don't get featured much anymore. And that could be a big issue were the St. Louis Rams to show interest.
And another notable Rams connection, he played college ball at Virginia with Chris Long.
Darren Sproles is still leading candidate for the Rams most high-profile addition, on offense anyway. I doubt that they'll stop with just one running back addition. However, Sproles' price may have them looking to add cheaper options to compete with Keith Toston and Chauncey Washington, including a class of undrafted free agents that includes lots of running backs. Between-the-tackles power guys can be added relatively cheaply.
At the very least, Snelling is a player to keep your eyes on once the free agent frenzy gets started.