What changed for the Falcons? Click here
Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub :
Matt Ryan, at 31 years old this season is in the prime of his professional career. He has great size, a live arm and the knowledge to be one of the best quarterbacks in the game today. However last season was not his best effort despite throwing for 4591 yards. That was the fourth consecutive season he threw for over 4500 yards on the season. He had a pedestrian 21 touchdown passes against 16 interceptions and never really got on track. In fact he tossed five fewer touchdowns than he had in any of the past four years. His 303 fantasy points last year was only good enough for 18th at the quarterback position.
Ryan is in a good place to rebound this season. Prior to last year, he had spend four years as a top-ten fantasy quarterback and with good weapons surrounding him, expect a return to the 4500 yard and 26+ touchdowns of past seasons. He may not be an elite fantasy option but he is not far off.
Matt Schaub brings plenty of experience and knowledge to the field as a backup quarterback. At 35 years old, he has been the starter for many years, had had significant NFL success and can step in and help a team win. His last strong campaign was back in 2012 when he threw for 4000 yards and tossed 22 touchdowns. If called upon, there is no reason to significantly downplay the skilled players around him. He can get them the ball.
Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman
Devonta Freeman had an exceptional fantasy season in 2015. How exceptional? Well, in PPR (points per reception) leagues, Freeman finished as the top fantasy running back in all of the NFL. He rushed for 1056 yards, caught 73 passes and scored 14 touchdowns. He reminded me of a poor man's Marshall Faulk with his ability to get the ball in his hands and find the endzone. At just 24 years old this season, the sky is the limit for this budding superstar. Don't be surprised to see his numbers elevate even more as his confidence soars.
The Falcons and fantasy pundits everywhere had high hopes for speedy rookie Tevin Coleman last year. The first year player from Indiana did carry the ball 87 times for 392 yards on the year but he was clearly the second option behind the star effort of Devonta Freeman. Coleman has a sensational burst and actually plays the game at two high of a tempo. He would benefit from slowing down a bit and allowing the blocking to set up in front of him. He has legitimate potential but the emergence of Freeman may ultimately slow down Coleman's progression.
Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Eric Weems, Nick Williams, Aldrick Robinson, Devin Fuller:
If there was any doubt that Julio Jones was a top fantasy receiver heading into last year he completely eradicated that doubt by season end. Jones caught a staggering 136 passes on the season for 1871 yards. Just amazing output that rivals the best seasons ever recorded for the position. In fact, he has caught 240 passes over the past two seasons. If there was a downside, he only found the endzone 8 times in 2015 but that is really nitpicking. He is blessed with elite speed, quickness, has good vision and has a running back frame and ability once the ball is in his hands. He is in his prime at 27-years of age and while 136 receptions once again is a lot to ask, 100+ receptions feels likely. He is a legitimate first round fantasy pick in any league.
Mohamed Sanu signed a surprisingly big deal to join the Atlanta Falcons this season. Don't get me wrong. I love the passion and ability Sanu brings to the field week in and week out. He works hard, does multiple things very well and will not disappoint with effort. That said his best season came in 2014 when he caught 56 passes for 790 yards and 5 scores. He followed that up last year with only 33 receptions for 394 yards and no scores. Sure you can say he was buried a bit in the Bengals depth chart but 33 catches and no touchdowns results in a huge payday? I don't know if that makes much sense. The Falcons lost veteran receiver Roddy White to retirement so they did well to bring in a proven veteran even if the dollars spent seems a little crazy. Sanu will fill the roll well for the Falcons as long as expectations created by salary are kept in check.
Hardy had a quiet rookie campaign with only 21 receptions for 194 yards but many receivers have started slowly in their first couple of seasons to catch fire later. That said I don't see anything really special in regards to Hardy. He has average size and speed but does have good instincts for the game and a nose for the football. He is a very strong blocking receiver though so battles hard every play.
Jacob Tamme, Levine Toilolo Austin Hooper
The Falcons picked up Jacob Tamme last season and the 8-year NFL veteran had a good season in many ways for the club. He caught 59 passes on the season for 657 yards and gave the Falcons a strong presence at the tight end spot. Unfortunately, his fantasy worth was limited thanks to only 1 touchdown on the season. The question is for 2016 is whether that single score was a fluke or was it a sign quarterback Matt Ryan is not comfortable with Tamme in the redzone. Tough to tell for sure but I am confident in saying if Tamme catches 59 passes again this season he will finish with at least a few touchdowns. At 31-years old, he should be in the prime of his career so expect another solid season.
Toilolo is a huge mountain of a man at 6'8 and 260 pounds but he is a run blocking specialist with the Atlanta Falcons. Look elsewhere for your fantasy tight ends unless you get points for pancakes.
Hooper is a very intriguing third-round pick for the Falcons. He is very tough in traffic and will make very difficult catches. He needs to improve his focus and his quickness in and out of breaks but he is an all-around tight end that can block very well. We will likely have minimal work this year but he is a player to watch.
Projected Starters: LT Jake Matthews, LG Andy Levitre, C Alex Mack, RG Chris Chester, RT Ryan Schraeder
Key Backups: Mike Person, James Stone, Tom Compton
The Falcons offensive line is certainly trending in the right direction. Blessed with two talented tackles who battle hard and consistently perform the Falcons offensive line could be outstanding in 2016. Ryan Schraeder is an interesting story as the formerly undrafted lineman from Valdosta State has become on of the best right tackles in football. At 28 years old he is in the prime of his career. Jake Matthews was the Falcons 2014 6th overall pick and he is elevating towards the top of his position. Adding Alex Mack this season could very well push the Falcons from good to great this year as the veteran center should solidify the interior of this group. Both Andy Levitre and Chris Chester are veteran, solid linemen who are not flashy but get the job done at guard. Put it all together and the Falcons could become one of the best lines in football this season.
Matt Bryant, Shayne Graham: