Sunday, June 10, 2012

32 in 32: Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons had an extremely productive offense last season, and the defense was able to generate enough turnovers to help them reach the playoffs. Unfortunately, this team just cannot win a playoff game, and fans are starting to show their frustrations. For the most part, the Falcons can help you win your fantasy league, assuming the pieces come at the right price.

The receiving corps will undoubtedly be the most valuable portion of this team for most fantasy owners. This team boasts a great group of receivers who proved that they can work well together. Honestly, that should bump them up the draft board. I have no idea if guys like Meachem, Garcon, etc. are going to play well next season, but the Falcons are bringing the same basic group of receivers over from last season. That makes Roddy White a true WR1 in fantasy football. White has 5 consecutive seasons of over 1,100 yards and has averaged just over 8 touchdowns per season in that span. His touchdown numbers should continue to climb slightly while his yardage totals decrease as he becomes a more crafty receiver with age. I am somewhat worried that Julio Jones is going to take some looks away from him, though. The more I think about it, though, the more I think that Jones is just going to be more productive than White this season. A.J. Green gets all the credit, but in 13 games last season Julio Jones had 959 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. This kid is probably worth a 3rd round pick, but he will fall back towards the 4th-6th round. I really thing Jones has too much potential and work ethic to have a sophomore slump, so feel free to grab him early. Tony Gonzalez is still defying Father Time and had another good season last year. Good, but certainly not great. Honestly, at 36 years old I'm not drafting this guy. Just like NFL GMs don't pick up old free agents, I try to avoid picking up old players for my fantasy teams. I really don't think Gonzalez has the upside to justify him being picked where he will be picked in most drafts. You will get the same or better production from most of the TEs drafted after him, so just wipe away that tear as you pass on an NFL legend and grab Pettigrew (Lions) or Cook (Titans).

Another aging player with questionable value is Michael Turner. Turner was far from explosive last season, but he tended to be very consistent. He will probably be a weak RB1 or a strong RB2 for you, but if you can match this guy with Chris Johnson or Ryan Matthews you'd be unstoppable at the running back position. At 30 years old, he probably won't have the same 1,300 yard season that he had in 2011, but I fully expect him to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark with another 10 touchdowns this year. He spent his first 4 NFL seasons as a back up in San Diego, so he still has some tread on his tires, and I am not really worried about him catching the injury bug after a 301 carry season. Don't hold any reservations about drafting this guy, as he will probably come in just shy of the top-10 RBs next season. There isn't really anyone worth owning behind him on the depth chart, so he should see plenty of carries this season. Unfortunately, he doesn't really catch the ball, with last season's 17 receptions being a career high. Draft him and expect him to be a consistent and strong RB2.

Matt Ryan is going to fall just outside of the starting QBs in fantasy football again. He is definitely good enough to back up most fantasy QBs, and if you have a Mike Vick as your starter, drafting him would be a good investment. As long as Vick is healthy you probably won't be tempted to make a switch, but you should feel comfortable passing your team over to Ryan with all of his weapons, should Vick (or another starter) go down.If you, like me, are not convinced by this whole "draft a QB as early as you can" crap that has been going around, you might get stuck drafting Matt Ryan in the 7th or 8th round. Don't think of that as a loss, because that means there were 12-14 QBs drafted already and that you got a lot of good players early. Ryan isn't going to be a bust, but he isn't going to win you many fantasy games. If you have a great early draft, his consistency might actually make him better than Vick or Netwon.

This defense should probably be drafted in most leagues. They keep adding nice pieces, and they do generate plenty of turnovers. I don't expect them to be great, but they should be good enough to play. Matt Bryant is very much the same.

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