These Falcons will soar into your 2017 fantasy rosters.
Despite their crushing Super Bowl LI loss, the Atlanta Falcons had the league’s most potent offense, scoring nearly five more points per game on average than any other team, per Team Rankings. The Falcons are deep, but also have top ranked talent across the field as Julio Jones (WR), Devonta Freeman (RB), Matt Ryan (QB) and Matt Bryant (K), all finished sixth or better in fantasy points at their respective positions in 2016.
This weekly series of columns will focus on one to two teams and their fantasy-relevant players heading into next season. Player rankings are broken up into three tiers: ‘Start ‘Em’, ‘Flex or Stream ‘Em’, and ‘Pick ‘Em Up’. Any free agents a team may have will be written about as if they are resigned. Notable Falcons free agents include tight ends Jacob Tamme and Levine Toilolo, wide receiver Aldrick Robinson and fullback Patrick DiMarco. All fantasy rankings are from Pro Football Reference.
Julio Jones, WR
Jones has played in 14 or more games in four of his six NFL seasons. In each of those, he has been no worse than ninth in fantasy points at wide receiver. He is a quintessential number one option and will be a first round pick in every format in 2017 drafts. He will vie for being the first receiver off the board with the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown.
Devonta Freeman, RB
In 2016, Freeman proved that his 2015 season was not a fluke, scoring the same amount of rushing touchdowns (11) while upping his yards per rush from 4 to 4.8. The only concern with Freeman is the continually growing role of fellow runner Tevin Coleman. Despite Coleman’s increasing production, Freeman still finished as the sixth ranked running back in fantasy and should be picked up toward the beginning of the second round.
Tevin Coleman, RB
It’s not often that the number two running back on a team is fantasy relevant, but Coleman is a special case. The backup to Freeman still finished 2016 as the 17th ranked runner with 11 total touchdowns on the season (8 rushing, 3 receiving). He did all that in just 13 games played. Coleman should be scooped up in rounds 4-5 of most drafts as an RB2.
Matt Ryan, QB
The league’s MVP finished with career-highs in yards (4,944), touchdowns (38), yards per attempt (9.3) and quarterback rating (117.1). He also finished as the second ranked quarterback in fantasy behind Aaron Rodgers. Losing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to the 49ers may hurt his production slightly, but Ryan was a machine week-in and week-out last season. He is in the mix with Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Rodgers as one of the first four passers off the board in drafts next season.
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Matt Bryant, K
Bryant was the number one kicker in fantasy in 2016, going 34-37 in field goal attempts, including making six from 50 yards or further. While Baltimore’s Justin Tucker made the most field goals of any kicker, Bryant made 29 more extra points than Tucker, pushing him to the top spot. The soon-to-be 42-year-old is getting better with age and should be owned in all leagues next season.
Flex or Stream ‘Em
Mohamed Sanu, WR
Sanu was an admirable second option in Atlanta behind Julio Jones, catching 59 passes for 653 yards and four touchdowns. His role should grow with a second year alongside Matt Ryan. If he takes the next step, he could be a viable WR3 option in 2017. For now, Sanu is a weekly flex play, especially in PPR leagues.
Jacob Tamme, TE
The veteran tight end finished the 2015 season with the second-best fantasy season of his career, finishing 16th at the position with 657 yards on 59 catches. His 2016 season was injury-plagued, but if he is re-signed, he will remain the top tight end target for the highest-scoring offense in the league. Tamme will not be a top option at his position, but will be a trusted fill-in throughout the season.
Pick ‘Em Up
Austin Hooper, TE
If Tamme is not re-signed, the rookie out of Stanford is next in line. Hooper shined brightest during the Super Bowl, where he connected with Ryan on a 19-yard touchdown reception. The fate of Tamme with the Falcons will be the deciding factor on how much Hooper contributes in 2017, but he is a player to keep an eye on as a potential pickup.
Taylor Gabriel, WR
Known for his small 5’8” frame, Gabriel excelled in his role as the slot receiver for the Falcons. From Weeks 6-13, before a foot injury, the free-agent signee caught 27 passes for 472 yards and six touchdowns. The life of a slot receiver can be boom or bust, and as the third receiver on the team, he is not a starting option yet. However, he has a high ceiling as an end-of-the-draft pickup for your team.
The Falcons’ fantasy options are loaded at the top, with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and the duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman anchoring the team. They also feature incredible depth with the likes of Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. Owning any contributing Falcon in 2017 is sure to be a plus for any fantasy team.
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