2016 Fantasy Football Preview: Atlanta Falcons

2015 Fantasy Recap

Last season the Atlanta Falcons started the season 5 – 0 and things were going great. Devonta Freeman burst onto the scene with 645 total yards, 24 receptions, and 8 TDs. Julio Jones was tearing defenses apart. Matt Ryan was putting up solid QB2 numbers. Even the Falcons defense was playing decent.  Then everything fell apart for the Falcons and they went 3 – 8 the remainder of the season. The Falcons were a very frustrating team last year for fantasy owners. They would be moving the ball all over the place at will. In fact, they were ranked 7th in total yards, but the head scratcher here is they were only ranked 21st in points. It felt like every single interception Ryan threw was in the red zone killing all scoring opportunities. The team clearly lacked the ability to finish, whether it be drives or games.

Key Additions and Losses



QuarterBack Fantasy Outlook

Normally I am high on Matt Ryan. Not because I think he is a top 5 QB, but rather because he can put up low QB1 numbers and you can usually get him very late in drafts. It pains me to say that this is not the case this year. I don’t think Ryan is any worse than previous years, but rather have you seen their schedule. We know they have the Panthers twice because of their division, but their nondivision games are absolutely brutal. They have to go to Denver, Seattle, LA, Oakland and Philly. The home games are not much better either. They have San Diego, Green Bay, Arizona, KC, and SF. To compound things the fantasy playoff schedule is at LA, home for SF and at Carolina. That is just too hard of a schedule for me to count on Ryan this season so I am passing on him. I think finishing in the top 20 QB’s this year will be a challenge for him. Right now I consider him a low QB2 with some slight upside.

Grade:  C –

Running Back Fantasy Outlook

Seems like every day I see a new article warning people to stay away from Devonta Freeman. For the life of me, I do not understand why. Many people seem to forget that going into preseason last year Freeman was the number1. He pulled his hamstring and missed 3 preseason games. Going into the season Tevin Coleman was healthy and got the nod to start. Second game in Coleman gets hurt and gives full-time duties back to Freeman, and he never looked back. Even after Freeman missed mostly 2 games and Coleman did well in those games he still resumed full-time duties when he got back. Do I think Freeman repeats his stats from last year? No, I do not, and nor does he have to in order to remain a top 3 RB. Can he rush for 900 yards, catch 65 balls for 550 yards and score 8 TD’s? Yes, he can, and based on last seasons results that leaves him just 8 points out of second among RB’s in PPR formats. The only thing that I think hurts Freeman this year is his schedule because it is not easy. That said I would still draft Freeman within the top 5 RB’s without hesitation. As far as Coleman goes he is nothing more than a handcuff for me at this point. I think he will have a bigger role this year, but not enough to elevates his status past handcuff.

Grade:  A-

Wide Receiver Fantasy Outlook

Julio Jones is in the middle of his prime. With a slash line of 136/1871/8 and think we can safely assume those number a very repeatable. In any format, Jones is a top 3 pick for me. The early knock on Jones was his ability to stay healthy, but in the last 2 seasons, he has only missed 1 game. He was not always healthy, but he fought hard to get ready to play every week. I would draft him with no concerns. Now that Roddy White has been allowed to walk, who plays opposite Jones this season? The Falcons brought in Mohamed Samu via free agency. I suspect it’s Sanu’s job to lose. I would even go as far to call Sanu a sleeper this season. Sanu has strong hands, he runs the reverse as well as anyone, and can even line up at QB and run or throw for a TD. Think about that, if Sanu throws a TD to Jones he could be the only player to throw a TD to the two best receivers from the 2011 draft. Also, Jones will obviously draw a lot of attention every week leaving Sanu the ability to work one on one. Sanu is currently list as a WR4/5 as he should be, but I think there is room to grow as high as a WR3. The only other receiver worth mentioning on this roster is Justin Hardy. An injury or a strong preseason could move him up the sleeper status, but as of right now I am not drafting him.

Grade:  A

Tight End Fantasy Outlook

Jacob Tamme cannot catch a break. Every time it looks like Tamme might actually get carve out a role on a team a new tight end comes in a takes it away from him. It happened with the Colts, Broncos, and now the Falcons. Tamme actually had a decent season last year, he finished with 59/657/1. The 1 TD hurt, but if he turns that into 4 or 5 he becomes a low-end TE1. In response to his solid year, the Falcons went and drafted Austin Hooper immediately making both guys unusable. Rookie tight ends rarely make an impact and in this case, the only impact Hooper likely makes is keeping Tamme from being a TE2, let alone a TE1. If one of these guys gets injured it could cause an uptick to TE2 for one of them, but that seems like a stretch at this point. Neither guy is worth drafting right now in PPR or standard leagues, but there is a strong case for drafting Hooper in dynasty formats.

Grade:  D

Defensive Fantasy Outlook

Regarding the defense of the Falcons I recommend you use the same approach as me, avoid them. Yes, the Falcons made some additions on the defensive side of the ball to add depth, but they were not enough to move them into the top 20. Again the Falcons have a brutal schedule this season and with the minor improvements, they made I see no way the D is worth using. If you are lucky enough to be still playing during week 15, the Falcons have a game against the 49ers and that could be the one time you could consider starting them, but chances are you have a good team and that’s why you are playing in week 15 and you won’t need them.

Grade: F

Article originally posted on Going For 2 on July 12th, 2016.

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