Atlanta Falcons 2014 Fantasy Preview
Unless you have lived under a rock for the last decade, I will assume you either play fantasy football or are at the very least familiar with it. I would also assume that if you are an Atlanta Falcons fan you enjoy drafting one, if not more Falcons on your fantasy squad every year.
However coming off of a disastrous 2013 campaign many fantasy players and Falcons fans alike are not sure what to expect from the Falcons offense. Julio Jones is coming off of a foot injury that sidelined him for 11 games, Roddy White was sidelined for the first time in his career and behind perhaps the worst offensive line in the NFL last year, Steven Jackson failed to rush for 1,000 yards for the first time since his rookie season. Jackson was held to a mere 543 yards and 3.5 yards per carry, both career lows.
But now, the Falcons have revamped the offensive line with free agent signing Jon Asamoah and first round draft pick Jake Matthews and ideally that will translate to not only real life success, but success on the fantasy stat sheet as well.
Contrary to popular belief, quarterback Matt Ryan, who will never be a fantasy stud, really wasn’t any different than 2012, the year that saw him shatter team records left and right. He just wasn’t aided by the long bombs to Julio Jones from 2012 that made him seem more appealing from a fantasy angle and thusly he is being severely undervalued (I have seen him go as late as the 10th round as a QB2).
The aforementioned Jones is really the only Falcon who is viewed as a fantasy superstar and if you look at his 2013 numbers you could see why. He caught 41 passes for 580 yards and two touchdowns in five games. If you stretch that out to a full 16 he would have caught over 100 balls for 1,800 yards—both would be career highs. Even if he doesn’t quite reach that level of production, I believe that a 85/1,300/8 final stat line is more than realistic for Julio and would put him among the best fantasy receivers in the NFL.
His running mate on the outside, and fan favorite Roddy White should also provide some nice value in the fifth round in your draft. He is not a fantasy superstar like he once was, but as a WR2 you could do much more than Roddy especially if him working in the slot is more than just a preseason experiment.
But it is not all rainbows and sunshine for the Falcons offense in fantasy. I find it hard to trust any Falcons runner as a consistent Fantasy option, even if the line holds up. Steven Jackson, if healthy should provide some decent value, if for nothing else because of sheer volume. Like was the case with Michael Turner, Jackson should see 15 touches a game, much to the chagrin of many Falcons fans who are salivating over guys like Antone Smith and fourth round pick Devonta Freeman as potential feature backs, which neither of them are and quite frankly if Jackson is to go down I believe that the “lead back” would be fourth-year player and unquestioned backup Jacquizz Rodgers and unless Smith or Freeman immensely improve in pass protection and/or if Rodgers somehow goes missing, in the event of a Steven Jackson injury none of the Falcons backs have much, if any fantasy appeal.
As far as the rest of the roster it is hard to find any player with much, if any fantasy appeal—with the exception of Matt Bryant who continues to be a sneaky good fantasy kicker. Harry Douglas has minimal value unless Julio and/or Roddy go down at some point and with no Tony Gonzalez I would be extremely shocked if the tight end is used minimally in the offense besides the occasional checkdown or red zone look and although Leavine Toiololo is a big target it is naïve to expect him to turn into some Jimmy Graham or Jordan Cameron type of red zone target. I fully expect the second year pro to have two, or three games in which he gets into the endzone multiple times but good luck predicting when those will be and besides those occasional breakouts he will give you a lot of 2 catch, 19 yard performances, he is best left as waiver wire fodder.