|By Matt De Lima, Monday, October 21, 2013|
QB Matt Ryan - Stud (low risk)
Matt Ryan really came into his own last season. He enjoyed career highs in completions, attempts, completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns. The addition of Julio Jones a couple seasons ago has obviously panned out and Roddy White can still get it done at the age of 31. Bringing in Steven Jackson should only help matters. Michael Turner was a glorified goal-line back last season, while SJax can also catch passes and play on all three downs. Tony Gonzalez is back too for one more run at a title. The point in mentioning Ryan's supporting cast is to illustrate how well Atlanta has surrounded their quarterback with great talent. Ryan should enjoy another big season, although he might not top 2012 statistically.
RB Steven Jackson - Solid/Safe Pick
UPDATE (10/21): S-Jax hasn't played since Sept. 15th and yesterday, FOX's Jay Glazer reported the 30-year-old runner had suffered a setback in his return. There is no definitive timetable for his return. Jacquizz Rodgers is the back to own and Jason Snelling is also rosterable in deeper formats.
The youth movement going on with the St. Louis Rams was the writing on the wall for Steven Jackson. The 10-year vet has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons. He's been surprisingly durable given his big workloads, having only missed two games over the last four seasons. Jackson will turn 30 in late July and everyone knows there might not be much tread left on his tires. Even so, the Falcons have enough playmakers on hand to spell SJax when need be. Jacquizz Rodgers figures to be a change of pace backup and it is unlikely he takes anything more than a pittance away from Jackson's production.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers - Quality Backup
UPDATE (10/21): Due to Steven Jackson's lingering injury, Rodgers has stepped up for the Falcons as both a runner and receiver. Most recently, he rushed for just 16 yards, but also added eight receptions for 46 yards and two TDs. He's a fringe backup or starter depending on the matchup.
Although Steven Jackson's durability hasn't been a concern in a number of years, he will be 30 this season and every back at that age probably heals and recovers differently than they did earlier in their career. Jacquizz Rodgers isn't built to be a full-time featured back, but he can do so in a pinch. In PPR leagues, he should already been on your radar as a deep-league backup or bench player to stash. The Falcons are so productive on offense that fantasy points can come from anywhere.
RB Jason Snelling - Not Draft Worthy
UPDATE (10/21): Atlanta was using something close to a split backfield after Steven Jackson's injury. Snelling is in a timeshare with Jacquizz Rodgers, but Snelling is on the short end of the deal. Rodgers and Snelling share something close to a 60-40 split so in most weeks, Snelling doesn't have enough opportunities to score many fantasy points. He should only be rostered in deeper PPR leagues.
About five years ago, Jason Snelling never quite established himself as the heir apparent to Warrick Dunn (remember him?). Atlanta went in another direction and since then, he's toiled deep on the depth chart and played various minimal roles as a scat back and special teams player. He has no meaningful fantasy value.
WR Julio Jones - Stud (low risk)
UPDATE (10/21): Jones is now on injured reserve, ending his 2013 season. He underwent successful foot surgery. The former Bama star remains an excellent keeper and dynasty choice.
Back when Alabama first recruited Julio Jones, everyone knew he would be special. He put up big numbers then and he will continue to do so for his entire career. Speed, power, hands, leaping ability and strength; Jones is the total package. The 24-year-old could put up Calvin Johnson numbers if not for the presence of Roddy White. Jones does have some small flaws (like lapses in his focus) which lead to the occasional drop. His big play ability and tendency to score points in bunches should be too much to pass up. Jones will be locked in as your WR1, so draft him if you can.Injury Status: Injured Reserve
WR Roddy White - Stud (low risk)
UPDATE (10/21): White begrudgingly rested in Week 7. Injuries to his ankle and hamstring finally caught up to the former UAB wideout. This caused him to miss a game for the first time ever in his career, ending his streak of consecutive games played. Once he returns to the starting lineup, fantasy owners should give him a shot to start as well.
It's not everyday that a team can be so prolific in their passing game as to support two Top 10 fantasy wide receivers. In some games, Roddy White will be the star of the show and in some other, he will step aside for Julio Jones or maybe even Tony Gonzalez. That's the rub with White. On the bright side, he has been one of the most consistently dominant and durable receivers in the last decade. He has never missed a game, and White has at least 83 receptions, 1,150 yards and six touchdowns in each of the last six seasons. The nine-year vet did see a big drop in his targets from 2011 to 2012 because of Jones, but the Falcons throw the ball enough where that shouldn't devalue White significantly.
WR Harry Douglas - Deep-league Only
UPDATE (10/21): With so many injuries up ahead of him on the depth chart, Douglas had an excellent game last week. He hauled in seven passes for 149 yards and a TD. Since Julio Jones is out for the season, Douglas is probably worth a roster spot in deeper formats. If White is also out in any given week, Douglas can be a legit WR2 for your fantasy squad.
Every offseason, a wide receiver receives an inordinate amount of attention as a potential breakout star despite having accomplished little to nothing to merit such praise. That has been Harry Douglas for multiple years. Julio Jones makes Douglas' ascension into fantasy relevance very unlikely. He has never caught more than 40 passes or gained more than 500 receiving yards. He's a good, young player, but there just isn't enough offense to go around for him with Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez hogging all the points.
WR Drew Davis - Dynasty Only
If Drew Davis can push Harry Douglas for that No. 3 receiver spot on the depth chart, he becomes very relevant in dynasty leagues. This offseason will be key for this second-year receiver from the University of Oregon. If he does remain at WR4, he has no immediate fantasy value.
TE Tony Gonzalez - Stud (low risk)
How about one for the road? Tony Gonzalez is back again and really, he played too well to retire in 2012. The Falcons were very close to reaching the Super Bowl and expectations are championship-caliber once again. Gonzalez may not be much of an after-the-catch threat with the ball in his hands, but he certainly sees plenty of targets and receptions. Gonzo is a sure thing at a position that is lacking in that department. There will be high upside options available later in the draft and a bevy of sleepers; however this future Hall of Famer is a lock to be your starter all year long.
TE Chase Coffman - Not Draft Worthy
Chase Coffman was never really brought on to be the eventual successor to Tony Gonzalez. He's a solid blocker with a big frame and so-so athleticism. He's an in-line blocker and not much else. New rookie Levine Toilolo could be the future.
PK Matt Bryant - Stud (low risk)
Due to the Patriots losing playmakers on offense, Matt Bryant is one of the new favorites to unseat Stephen Gostkowski as fantasy's go-to No. 1 kicker. This is for good reason considering the Falcons were scoring machines in 2012 during a peach of a season by Matt Ryan. Bryant is an accurate veteran and kicks in a dome. Even if he mostly converts more extra points than field goals, Bryant has a great shot to finish among fantasy's best kickers.
Atlanta Defense - Bye Week Fill-in
The big question for Atlanta is where will the pass rush come from? They brought in 31-year-old Osi Umenyiora from the New York Giants, but his sack totals have decreased in each of the last two seasons. The Falcons will need to break in first-round pick Desmond Trufant at corner and are still ironing out who will be the extra corners in nickel and dime scenarios. With new players transitioning into an already mediocre defense, the Falcons have a fantasy defense to avoid.