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2017 NFL Team Outlook - Atlanta Falcons


The Atlanta Falcons came together perfectly last season. Everything seemed to be going their way, both on the actual gridiron and in fantasy football. After scoring the seventh-most points in league history, the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl, only to collapse at the last second thanks to everybody’s least favorite team, the New England Patriots.

Almost every option that the Falcons provided for fantasy football enthusiasts was a player that owners desperately wanted. Even Matt Bryant finished as the top-scoring kicker last season. Hell, there were even two fantasy-viable running backs that both finished as top-20 options.

That being said, everyone expects some regression from this team as a fantasy force. Even with some expected regression and the changing of their offensive coordinator, the Falcons have maintained most of their group and strengthened their defense and therefore still should be considered a top-tier fantasy force.

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Atlanta Falcons 2017 Outlook

Offseason Moves

Notable Acquisitions: DT Dontari Poe, DE Jack Crawford, OG Hugh Thornton, DE Takkarist McKinley, LB Duke Riley, RB Brian Hill

Notable Losses: DE Dwight Freeney, FB Patrick DiMarco

 

Quarterback

In a move that seemingly came out of nowhere, “Matty Ice” was fantasy’s second ranked quarterback in 2016. After throwing for almost 5000 yards as well as almost 40 touchdowns, Ryan had a quarterback rating of 117.7, which led the league. Even though the offense is supposed to stay the same for next season, it is unrealistic to assume Ryan will match this total considering he has only thrown for more than 30 touchdowns once in his career before this year.

Nevertheless, Ryan should be considered a mid-tier QB1 as a result of his fantastic weapons that has been stayed in place around him.

 

Running Back

Last season, Devonta Freeman finished as a top-10 running back and become the only running back to have a 1,000 yard rushing season in both 2015 and 2016, proving that he is more than just a one-year wonder. Even though the offense may regress in terms of points scored, the Falcons defense has arguably improved on paper which should open up even more positive game scripts for Freeman to be involved in. Therefore, Freeman should continue his reign as one of the elite rushers in the NFL, especially after his new contract made him the highest paid running back in the league.

There is also receiving back Tevin Coleman to factor in. Coleman scored 11 touchdowns to Devonta’s 13 and had around half of Freeman’s rushing yards and around the same total of receiving yards. Despite his skill on the football field, the largest regression outside of Matt Ryan could come in the shape of Tevin Coleman not being as successful as the second running back of the team. However, he still has standalone value, especially in PPR leagues.

That being said, Coleman is just an injury away from being a featured back in one of the highest scoring offenses in the league.

 

Wide Receiver

In terms of pure talent, Julio Jones may be the best wide receiver in the NFL. In terms of fantasy, he is one of the elite skill position players and is a lock to be a first round pick in every fantasy draft. With talk by his new offensive coordinator that he will be utilized more in the red zone, Jones’ value could skyrocket if he is able to maintain his week-winning ability. As long as he stays off the injury report, Jones is a must-own receiver that any fantasy owner should be happy with.

After Jones, two players worth mentioning are Mohamed Sanu Sr. and Taylor Gabriel. Gabriel had a freakishly-good scoring percentage last year; although he should be an interesting gadget player for his coach, it is unlikely he will repeat his performances from the 2016 season. Sanu Sr. has always been a reliable second receiver throughout his career, but he cannot be expected to have a fantasy relevant part of the offense except in deeper leagues as a result of the presence of Julio Jones in the receiving core.

 

Tight End

After the departure of Jacob Tamme, second-year pro Austin Hooper appears ready to take the reigns as the top tight end for the Falcons. However, tight ends have not traditionally received large market shares for the team, so Hooper should be viewed as nothing more than a deep sleeper in most fantasy leagues.

 

Kicker

Matt Bryant has returned for another season with the team. Because the Falcons are still projected to be an elite NFL offense, it is assumed that Bryant will maintain his place in the upper level of kickers.

 

Defense/Special Teams

Perhaps the largest change in the Falcons offseason came in their additions to their defense. After failing to finish as a top-12 defense in 2016, the Falcons have upgraded parts of their front seven with the additions of tackle Dontari Poe and edge rusher Takkarist McKinley. With these additions and the return of star players like Keanu Neal and Desmond Trufant, the unit should move into the upper tier of defenses and can be considered a late round option for fantasy owners.

 

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