The Atlanta Falcons have consistently been a top fantasy producing offense in the NFL. An inconsistent 2018 along with an offseason filled with changes has fantasy football owners scratching their head when it comes to what to expect from the Falcons this season.
Dirk Koetter is back as offensive coordinator replacing Steve Sarkisian, who the team could not part with soon enough for many Falcons fans. Koetter spent three seasons in the same position from 2012-2014 and the Falcons ranked 12th in points per game and eighth in total yards during his last season in Atlanta.
It may surprise you to learn that the Bucs were third in yards per game last season averaging 415 yards each contest. The Falcons give Koetter more offensive weapons to play with as the team looks to get back to being a more consistent unit. Sarkisian received plenty of criticism for the Falcons offense, but Atlanta finished in the top ten for both total yards and points.
Having attended several training camp practices just north of Atlanta, the number of offensive options at Matt Ryan’s disposal is staggering. Koetter has had the offense playing with tempo and running no-huddle at times. It remains to be seen if this will become a regular part of the team’s playcalling or something the Falcons are emphasizing for specific game situations.
Sarkisian may have received a lot of the blame, but it was the Falcons offensive line that became a stumbling block throughout the season. The Falcons signed James Carpenter, Jamon Brown and Adam Gettis during the offseason to help provide depth on the line, per USA Today.
Let’s take a look at the Falcons top offensive options and what fantasy owners can expect this season.
Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley & Mohamed Sanu Form a Three-Headed Monster at Wide Receiver
Julio Jones is going just outside the first round in early fantasy drafts at No. 13 as the fourth wide receiver off the board, per Fantasy Pros. Jones is going to be what you expect, a top-flight WR1 again this season. The bigger question is who emerges as the Falcons WR2, and just as we were ready to anoint Calvin Ridley there goes Mohamed Sanu making another crazy grab at training camp.
Sanu is still going to have his games and is being drastically under-drafted at No. 205. That said, Ridley’s upside is too much to pass up with an ADP of 56. Ridley’s 10 touchdowns may be hard to replicate, and we could see some end zone regression from the former Alabama receiver. Ridley also only had one game with more than 100 receiving yards in 2018. The good news for Ridley truthers is that the receiver had 92 targets and already built a connection with Ryan during his rookie season.
With so much talent at receiver, we are going to see some variance in fantasy from game to game. I feel more confident targeting Ridley in dynasty formats as he comes with a much cheaper price tag than Jones. It is important to also factor in the emergence of tight end Austin Hooper. All this likely means Ridley falls into the WR2/WR3 category but has WR1 upside from game to game.
The Falcons Running Back Room Has Lots of Uncertainty with the Return of Devonta Freeman & the Loss of Tevin Coleman
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn spoke glowingly about the team’s group of running backs after Monday’s practice. Quinn indicated it was unlikely we would see the kind of split in touches we saw between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. After Freeman, this makes for a clouded picture with Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner and Brian Hill. With Freeman and Coleman, the Falcons consistently offered two fantasy-relevant backs.
With a crowded running back room, it is hard to have faith in anyone outside of Freeman. Quinn noted during the first week of camp that Freeman looked like the elite back fans are used to seeing.
“He looks exactly as we remember him in his best space,” Quinn noted.
Freeman has a reputation for consistently dealing with injuries, but last season was the first year the Falcons running back missed significant time. Prior to 2018, Freeman played in all 16 games twice in his five-year career and missed a combined three games in the other two seasons. Assuming Freeman can stay healthy, it is hard for me to imagine the Atlanta running back not finishing as an RB1 which would be good value with his current ADP of 33.
While the other backs will get touches, Coleman is no longer in Atlanta to eat into Freeman’s workload. It makes more sense that the running back group will be used to spell Freeman rather than having a back that will take away carries from the veteran rusher. It will be interesting to see how the preseason plays out as it is hard for running backs to separate themselves without the live-action of games.
If I had to take a flyer on a second Falcons running back, it would be Smith, but I would not use a lot of draft capital on him unless it becomes clear in August that he is going to get significant work. Early indications are the Falcons are going to use multiple backs to give Freeman a breather rather than just one.
Overall, I am buying the Falcons offense for 2019, but the number of weapons on the roster could lead to some frustrating weeks for fantasy owners. Look for Freeman to be the most consistent fantasy producer in Atlanta this season, but I am still open to snagging Ridley and Jones when it makes sense.