Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Atlanta Falcons

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

In a season where the Falcons were predicted to contend for the Super Bowl, they finished 4-12.

Many will attribute that to the loss of receiver Julio Jones, but there were more reasons than that. The offensive line was awful and hindered both the run and pass games. The defense couldn't put up much of a fight (the Falcons ranked 29th in sacks with 32 and 29th in interceptions with 10). And close games were not helpful -- of the Falcons' 12 losses, eight were by 7 points or less.

The Falcons reacted accordingly this offseason, revamping the defense to be more reliant on a 3-4 scheme. To that end, two new defensive linemen were signed -- nose tackle Paul Soliai and big defensive end Tyson Jackson -- and drafted Ra'Shede Hageman with a second-round choice. That should help them control the line of scrimmage better, but they made similar enhancements offensively. First-round pick Jake Matthews bulks up an offensive line that added guard Jon Asamoah in free agency.

Such moves are positive steps for a team that still has Super Bowl aspirations, though losing a future Hall of Famer tends to set teams like this back. That's another factor working against the Falcons this year as Tony Gonzalez has called it a career. The legendary tight end, productive down to his final season, has left the Falcons with a bit of a quagmire: They've been a potent offense for the years they had him, but can they do it without him? Mike Smith believes moving to a three-receiver base formation that puts Harry Douglas on the field more often will keep the points coming.

If Douglas works out then he'll be a key part of an offense loaded with names well known in the Fantasy community. Jones' return is on schedule, Roddy White is healthy compared to where he was and Steven Jackson, for all of the concerns about him breaking down, is in good shape heading into camp. Surrounded by this talent and an improved O-line, Matt Ryan is in a position to make people forget about last season. The Falcons seemingly already have.

Don't sleep on ... Roddy White

For many Falcons, 2013 was a wash. That's definitely the case for White, who struggled to play through a high-ankle sprain for most of the season. His receiving average was at a career-worst 11.3 yards, he had under 80 catches for the first time in seven seasons and had just three touchdowns, half as many as his worst year since becoming a full-time starter in 2007.

You should absolutely expect a bounce-back campaign, as White is healthy and should be a regular participant in training camp. Moreover, with Gonzalez retiring, there will be plenty of targets up for grabs. White might not have the speed and quickness to round up close to 20 catches of 20-plus yards, so he'll need to convert his targets into receptions and use that volume to produce Fantasy points like he did to end last season. We think he'll get back to the 1,000-yard, seven-touchdown plateau, so long as he doesn't get banged up again.

Bust ... Steven Jackson

It's painful to call any long-standing, successful Fantasy rusher a bust, but Jackson has all the red flags of a player who shouldn't be counted on in 2014.

He has 2,571 carries over his career (including postseason work), he missed four games last season with an injury, he hasn't had more than six rushing touchdowns in a season since 2008, his rushing and receiving averaged dropped in 2013 and the Falcons added another running back in Devonta Freeman to help ease Jackson's workload. Jacquizz Rodgers also is in the mix.

Maybe we'll be wrong and Jackson will rebound to post exciting numbers in his 11th NFL season behind an improved but still suspect offensive line. But we wouldn't bet on it. Even with a nice finish last season (nine-plus Fantasy points in five of his final six games), Jackson is a risky pick, even if it's in Round 5 or 6 when the running back pool becomes uncomfortably shallow.

Late-rounder/dynasty target ... Devonta Freeman

2013 Touches Leaders
766 total touches
Steven Jackson 190 (157 car., 33 rec.) 24.8%
Jacquizz Rodgers 148 (96 car., 52 rec.) 19.3%
Harry Douglas 85 rec. 11.1%
Tony Gonzalez 83 rec. 10.8%
Jason Snelling 73 (44 car., 29 rec.) 9.5%
Roddy White 63 rec. 8.2%
Julio Jones 42 (41 rec., 1 car.) 5.5%
All others 82 10.7%

Maybe one of the reasons why we're not buying Jackson is because we are buying Freeman.

Though he's not as massive as Jackson, the 5-foot-8, 206-pound Freeman can run inside, hit the edges, catch passes and speed away from defenders. Though his pass protection skills were questioned by coach Mike Smith in early June, there's time for him to round into form and be a contributor for the Falcons, especially for when Jackson breaks down or needs some time on the sideline.

At Florida State, Freeman scored 21 total times over 404 carries in three seasons, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and totaling over 2,700 total yards. Freeman is an absolute must in Round 10 or so if you draft Jackson, or even if you don't. He'll go a bit earlier than that in dynasty/keeper leagues. In rookie-only drafts we've come around so much on Freeman that we think he's worth a pick as soon as 15th overall.

Schedule analysis

If you're wondering where the challenging pass defenses are for the Falcons' offense, you'll be pleased to know that they're not common on the schedule. The Bengals, Bears, Cardinals and maybe the Browns are the only ones that might actually put a challenge into Atlanta's receivers. The Buccaneers and Panthers both finished as Top 10 units against the pass last year, but both lost quality cornerbacks this spring, making them suspect. The catch is, many of the Falcons opponents have good pass rushers, so it will be imperative for their O-line to be ready, including right from the jump against the Saints in Week 1. It kind of stinks that the Falcons will begin the year with three games in their first 11 days, and it doesn't help that their first seven road games are outdoors (two on grass), but overall it's not bad for the offense.

Training camp battles

What's the pecking order at running back? So long as he's able, Jackson will start. How the reps behind him get divided remains to be seen. Jacquizz Rodgers has been a stable -- albeit underwhelming -- backup for the last two seasons. Freeman has potential to either replace Jackson in case of injury or replace Rodgers as the passing downs back. How much Freeman pushes to get work in camp is something worth keeping track of, since he has far more upside than Rodgers at this point.

Is Levine Toilolo going to matter? When asked about the second-year tight end this offseason, head coach Mike Smith referred to Toilolo as an "assist man" rather than a "scorer" for the Falcons. That suggests that while Toilolo could play a lot and maybe get involved near the goal line, chances are he won't be even half as productive as Gonzalez was for the team. Training camp will be Toilolo's time to change that thinking.

Who's rushing the passer? The Falcons might open camp with Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi as their primary outside linebackers. Massaquoi had four sacks last year and Biermann didn't have any -- thanks to a torn Achilles suffered in Week 2 -- but has never had more than five sacks in a season. Can last year's team sack leader Osi Umenyiora (7.5) make the transition to a stand-up rusher?

Bold prediction

When Matt Ryan had Julio Jones for five games last season, he averaged 23.2 Fantasy points per game and had at least 22 points in four of those five games (and 19 in the other). Without him he averaged 15.9 Fantasy points per game over 11 games with three matchups resulting in 20-plus points (none with 19).

Jones himself had at least nine Fantasy points in every game he played last year before messing up his foot. This one's simple: Jones will live up to the hype and finish the season as an elite Fantasy receiver, and Ryan will help him do that en route to being a Top 10 quarterback, even without Gonzalez.

Ryan's numbers might have slid last year without Jones but don't lose sight of his accuracy -- an extremely respectable 67.4 pct. with about 200 fewer passing yards. Proof that he wasn't the problem with the team last year. Jones is worth a pick as soon as Round 2 while Ryan will provide insane value as a Round 5 pick.

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
49ers S Eric Reid (concussion) will not return Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:58 pm ET) 49ers safety Eric Reid suffered a concussion in the first half of Saturday's Week 16 game against the Chargers and will not return, the team announced.

The concussion is Reid's third in the last two seasons. He'll have to pass concussion protocol before being allowed back on the practice field or back in the lineup in Week 17.


RG3 on Trent Williams: He played through 'pretty significant' injury
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:19 pm ET) Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III told reporters tackle Trent Williams played through a "pretty significant injury" during Saturday's win over the Eagles in Week 16, per the Washington Times.

"Trent played through a pretty significant injury, and that's what you want out of your leaders," Griffin said.

Williams absorbed a hit from Connor Barwin while blocking another defensive lineman, aggravating a shoulder injury. He missed a few plays on offensive in the fourth quarter while he was being tended to by team trainers. He returned to plat the final four minutes of the game.


Redskins K Kai Forbath drills game-winner to edge Eagles
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:13 pm ET) Redskins kicker Kai Forbath knocked down a 26-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in the game to secure a 27-24 victory over the Eagles in Week 16.

Forbath also converted a 25-yard field goal in the opening quarter and finished 2 for 2 with three extra points. He has converted 23 of 26 field goals this season.


Redskins get contributions from several role players Week 16
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:11 pm ET) The Redskins received contributions from several role players during Saturday's win over Philadelphia.

Andre Roberts lost a fumble in the third quarter and finished with only one catch for 14 yards. Tight ends Logan Paulsen and Jordan Reed combined for three catches for 11 yards. Reed came down with two receptions for 5 yards, while Paulsen caught his lone target for a gain of 6 yards. Chris Thompson caught all three passes thrown in his direction for 5 yards. Silas Redd took his lone handoff for a gain of 4 yards in the third quarter.


49ers S Eric Reid (head) questionable to return vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:06 pm ET) 49ers safety Eric Reid is questionable to return to Saturday's game against the Chargers due to a head injury, the team announced.

Reid suffered two concussions in his rookie season last year. He has played in all 14 games this season, racking up 42 tackles, three interceptions and seven passes defensed.


Redskins WR Pierre Garcon racks up 61 yards in win over Eagles
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:06 pm ET) Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon was held to only four grabs for the second consecutive game, in his team's 27-24 victory over the Eagles in Week 16.

Garcon came down with a 12-yard grab in the second quarter for his only catch of the first half. After halftime, he hauled in passes of 17, 9 and 23 yards. He was targeted five times and finished with four grabs for 61 yards. He has 66 catches for 699 yards and three scores this season.

Washington will host Dallas in Week 17.


Chargers C Chris Watt (ankle) questionable to return vs. 49ers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:01 pm ET) Chargers center Chris Watt came out of Saturday's Week 16 matchup with the 49ers with an left ankle injury and has been ruled questionable to return by the team.

Watt had to be carted back to the locker room to have his ankle examined. He was the team's fourth different starter at center this season. Watt was replaced by Trevor Robinson at the position.


Redskins' DeSean Jackson goes off for 126 yards vs. former club
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:59 pm ET) Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson turned in an impressive performance against his former club, registering his sixth 100-yard game of the season in Saturday's 27-24 victory over Philadelphia.

Jackson came down with a 51-yard reception in the first quarter and a 55-yard grab in the third quarter. Both catches came while being covered by Bradley Fletcher. He was targeted six times and finished with four catches for 126 yards. Jackson surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth time in his career. He has 54 catches for 1,083 and five touchdowns this season. 

Washington will face Dallas in Week 17.


Redskins FB Darrel Young scores twice in home win vs. Eagles
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:53 pm ET) Redskins fullback Darrel Young only carried the ball twice, but capitalized on each occasion. Young scored twice from 1-yard out in the third quarter, leading his team to a 27-24 victory over Philadelphia in Week 16. He finished the game with two carries for 2 yards and two scores. He also caught one pass for 3 yards.

Redskins RB Alfred Morris eclipses 1,000-yard mark for third time
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:50 pm ET) Redskins running back Alfred Morris scored his eighth touchdown of the season and surpassed the 1,000-yard threshold during Saturday's Week 16 win over the Eagles.

Morris barreled into the end zone from 28 yards out in the first quarter. Morris nearly had a chance at a three-touchdown game, but coach Jay Gruden opted to use fullback Darrel Young, who capitalized twice from inside the 1-yard line.

Morris took 21 handoffs for 83 yards and a score. He has rushed for 1,031 yards and eight touchdowns on 243 carries this season. Morris has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in each of his first three seasons in the league.

Washington will face Dallas in Week 17.


 
 
 
Rankings