As the eve of the 2012 NFL season approaches, the Atlanta Falcons have once again demonstrated the potential for an explosive offense. Many Atlanta players will have Fantasy Football relevance this year, and there are some that should be specifically targeted in drafts and even from the waiver wire. Here they are, in alphabetical order, with ESPN Average Draft Position (ADP):
Atlanta Defense/Special Teams (142.0 ADP, 14th Round) – The Falcons have some play makers on defense, but, in all likelihood, Atlanta defense/special teams will not finish as a top ten play for the season and should be avoided.
Matt Bryant (153.8 ADP, 15th Round) – Given Atlanta’s explosive scoring offense, Bryant has the potential to be a top ten kicker. Although Bryant is 37 years old, he has hit over 90% of his field goals since joining the Falcons in 2009, and his leg still has the range to hit from past 50 yards. Given the unpredictable predictability of Fantasy kickers, it is typically never wise to take one before the last round, but Bryant could be a good selection if he is still available.
Harry Douglas (Outside top 200 ADP) – Douglas grabbed almost 40 balls and amassed nearly 500 yards last season, and he is a good bet to repeat those accomplishments this year. He will likely even add a couple of scores to these numbers. However, Douglas securely ranks as the Falcons’ third wide receiver option and has a very low ceiling. He will probably not have fantasy relevance this season, without serious injury to either White or Jones. Douglas should be avoided except as a flier in very deep leagues.
Tony Gonzalez (78.3 ADP, 7th Round) – Last season, Gonzalez caught 80 balls, gained 875 yards, and scored seven touchdowns. These totals were good enough for 4th among tight ends. Although Gonzalez is 36 years old and nearing the end of his career, he continues to be productive and will likely be a consistent performer again this season. He probably won’t repeat last year’s stellar performance, but Gonzalez is still a very good bet to finish as a top ten TE. In leagues that require a TE, Gonzalez is a very good option, although managers can probably get better value by adding RB or WR depth, and still find players with higher upsides to fill the spot later in the draft.
Julio Jones (31.3 ADP, 3rd Round) – There is probably no Falcon currently generating more Fantasy buzz than Jones. Despite missing three games, Jones was sparkling during his rookie season, racking up 54 catches, nearly 1,000 yards, and eight touchdowns. This was good enough for a top twenty finish at his position, but as his chemistry with Matt Ryan continues to grow, most people see him as a solid top ten option. A great pick in the third round, there is an excellent chance that 2012 will see Jones surpass teammate Roddy White as the leading wide receiver stud in Atlanta.
Jacquizz Rodgers (144.6 ADP, 14th Round) – Rodgers has not yet had sufficient opportunity in Atlanta to showcase his unique talents. He gained 200 yards on the ground as a change of pace back, but his real ability is his pass catching. As Turner slows down with age, Rodgers will emerge as an interesting option, especially as the Falcons turn more and more to the passing game. Rodgers could be a sneaky late round flier, especially in points per receptions (PPR) leagues.
Matt Ryan (62.1 ADP, 6th Round) – Ryan is the lynch pin of Atlanta’s dynamic offense. With five years of experience, he continues to improve, as head coach Mike Smith leans on him more and more. Last year, he set personal bests with over 4,000 passing yards and nearly 30 touchdowns, and he could certainly extend those marks this season. Barring injury, Ryan is a dead lock as a top ten QB, and with some luck, he could finish as high as the top five. If he is still available in the early middle rounds, Ryan is a steal.
Michael Turner (35.6 ADP, 3rd Round) – Turner has been the Falcons bell cow running back for four seasons. During that time, he has averaged more than 1,300 yards a season, and scored double digit touchdowns each year. By all accounts, this is very solid production, however there are signs that the 30 year old Turner is slowing down. Turner will probably finish as a top 20 RB by the end of the season, but given his ADP, a top tier receiver might be a better option.
Roddy White (20.2 ADP, 2nd Round) – Without question, White has been a Fantasy stud for the past five years. He is the model of consistency, averaging more than 94 catches and 1,200 yards during this stretch, and he has never missed a single game in his NFL career. Because of his sparkling history, White gets drafted very early, typically as the first Falcon off the board. Although Jones has a higher upside this season, White is a very strong pick, and, depending on draft position, is likely the safer pick.