Falcons 2018 atlanta falcons Fantasy Preview

After Kyle Shanahan took the 49ers coaching job last offseason, the Falcons hired Steve Sarkisian to run the offense. It seemed like a simple task. The Falcons scored a league-high 540 points in 2016 and were loaded with weapons. Under Sarkisian, however, the Matt Ryan-led offense only put up 353 points. Numbers were down across the board. Ryan, the 2016 league MVP, dropped from 38 touchdowns to just 20. The QB2 in 2016, Ryan finished in the middle of the pack in 2017 (QB15). Running back Devonta Freeman also took a step back under Sarkisian. Sarkisian chose to split Freeman's carries with Tevin Coleman more evenly in 2017, which limited both of their value. Freeman finished as the RB13 after scoring as RB1 and RB6 in the two years prior. He still had a productive year, but was better served as an RB2 in most leagues. Coleman was the RB22 and had solid flex value, especially as a second-string back. Star receiver Julio Jones had one of the worst seasons of his career, but was still a WR1 in any league. Jones' 163.9 fantasy points were the third-lowest of his career, and his lowest since an injury-plagued 2013 season. Third-string wideout Taylor Gabriel saw his touchdowns drop from six to one in 2017. The only receiver that improved his numbers was Mohamed Sanu (WR34). From 2016 to 2017, Sanu increased his receptions (59 to 67), receiving yards (653 to 703) and receiving touchdowns (four to five). At tight end, second-year pro Austin Hooper was expected to fill the void left by the retired Jacob Tamme. He was a top 20 tight end going into the season, but finished with just 49 catches for 526 yards and three touchdowns. On the bright side, the Atlanta defense was much-improved, jumping from the 27th scoring defense in 2016 to eighth last season.

24

Devonta
Freeman

RB - Falcons

FACT: In 2017, Freeman had three-year lows in rushing yards (865), rushing touchdowns (seven), pass targets (47), receptions (36) and receiving touchdowns (one). Despite the dip in production, Freeman still had a huge impact on winning, as the Falcons went 6-1 when he found the endzone.
Offseason Moves

It was a relatively quiet offseason in Atlanta. The team lost two starting defenders (Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn) and their third-string receiver (Taylor Gabriel), but none of these moves should have much fantasy impact. In the first round of April's draft, the Falcons took wideout Calvin Ridley, who could compete for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. Last year at Alabama, Ridley had 63 catches for 967 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games for the national champions. Ridley begins training camp as the No. 3 receiver behind Jones and Sanu. The Falcons also drafted running back Ito Smith in the fourth round. He is the third-string running back and shouldn't get many touches barring injury to Freeman or Coleman.

Sleepers & Busts

Two-back systems are no fun for fantasy owners. Is my guy going to get enough touches? If the other guy gets going early, will my guy even play? The Falcons two-headed monster is one you can trust because of the talent. Devonta Freeman has been the No. 1 back for the past three seasons, but Tevin Coleman's number of carries have crept up each year. Last season, Coleman only got 40 fewer carries than Freeman, the smallest carry differential of Coleman's three-year career. Expect Coleman to tighten that gap even further in 2018, and breakout as a low-RB2 or high-flex play each week. Coleman didn't quite match his 2016 touchdown total (11) in 2017 (eight), but that was a result of the offense struggling as a whole. The rest of his numbers were up across the board. A career-high 156 rushing attempts and 628 rushing yards headlined Coleman's best year on the ground. Expect Coleman to be even better this year as he becomes more accustomed to Sarkisian's offense.

A potential bust in Atlanta is Mohamed Sanu. This isn't a detraction of Sanu's abilities, but more of a connecting of the dots. The Falcons took Calvin Ridley 26th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. Drafting a wide receiver in the first round is usually a commitment to get that guy reps. Julio Jones isn't losing any snaps, that's for sure. Sanu is the preseason WR52 to Ridley's WR58. Neither have great value in standard leagues, but Sanu was a solid flex option last year (WR34). His production will dip as Ridley takes more of a role in the offense and Jones makes an anticipated improvement after a down disappointing year. Avoid Sanu on draft day.

Fantasy Depth Chart
POSFIRSTSECONDTHIRDOTHER
QB Matt Ryan Matt Schaub
RB Devonta Freeman Tevin Coleman Ito Smith
WR Julio Jones Mohamed Sanu Calvin Ridley Justin Hardy
TE Austin Hooper Logan Paulsen
K Matt Bryant