The Falcons passing offense once again offered another very friendly fantasy season at the hands of Matt Ryan. Julio Jones and Roddy White were able to stay healthy for most of the season, White missed two games, but both turned in big seasons.
Despite the great aerial attack, ever since Steven Jackson arrived to save the running game, he’s done everything but that. With Jackson out of the picture, will the running game improve and will Matt Ryan be his normal self in 2015? Let’s find out.
Matt Ryan: Like I said, the Falcons passing game was business as usual in 2014 with Ryan posting 4,694 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. Though Ryan did have three games with two or more interceptions, it was still an improvement over his 2013 numbers.
Ryan is going to be a top 10 quarterback in 2015, just like he has been for the past five years.
The offense has remained largely the same, except for the loss of Steven Jackson which was probably for the better. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman are younger, faster, and more elusive than the crotchety Jackson.
Also, Harry Douglas is now on the Titans, but he has been replaced with the similarly skilled Justin Hardy.
The only issue for Ryan in 2015 is how is the offensive line going to hold up? Ryan has been sacked 75 times over the past two years, and without any major upgrade it’s likely he finds himself getting helped up off the ground from very large defensive lineman.
Regardless, the line issues won’t hurt Ryan enough to really hurt his fantasy value, he’s still one of the best.
Tevin Coleman: Despite drafting Devonta Freeman a year ago, he just doesn’t offer the same potential or skill-set as Coleman.
During his final year at Indiana, Coleman rushed for over 2,000 and piled up 15 touchdowns. Unlike Freeman, he also has the size at 5’11, 200 pounds, and the 4.4 speed.
It’s quite possible that it will take some time for Coleman to adjust to the NFL, and his offensive line won’t do him any favors, but he has the tools to be a feature NFL running back. In the early stages, Freeman may see more snaps, but by midseason he should revert back to a change-of-pace role.
Coleman is currently our 32nd ranked running back, but he is someone that should be targeted in fantasy drafts. He offers big time potential at a considerably cheap price.
Devonta Freeman: As I just said, Freeman isn’t probably going to hold onto the Falcons lead running back job for much longer. He’s been getting number one reps in OTA’s, but that most likely has to do with him being the ‘veteran’ of the bunch.
Freeman has a very ‘muscle hamster’ build at only 5’8, 206 pounds, but he isn’t very fast either, only running a 4.58 at the combine.
Freeman had the opportunity to surprise people in 2014 due to Steven Jackson horribleness, but nothing ever materialized.
It seems to be assumed that Freeman is going to be the pass-catching, third-down back, but that isn’t going to lead to any fantasy value.
The Falcons never really featured a pass-catching running back a la Darren Sproles, Jacquizz Rodgers did catch 52 passes in 2013, but only registered 6.6 yards per catch. However, Roy Helu did catch 42 passes in Kyle Shannahan’s offense in Washington in 2014.
It is possible that Freeman carves out a role or even runs with the starting job, but I just don’t see it happening.
The only problem was the lack of touchdowns, only six, but he should be much closer to 10 in 2015.
Jones is a top five receiver, and will likely be drafted in the late first or early second in your league.
However, this could be White’s last shot at a solid season. The Falcons have a new offensive coordinator, Kyle Shannahan, and according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN, the offense will most likely phase out White and feature even more Julio Jones.
Also, Leonard Hankerson was brought in during free agency and could steal snaps from White. Not to mention, the Falcons also drafted the NCAA all-time reception lead, Justin Hardy. The loss of Harry Douglas does open up quite a few targets, but there are plenty of youngsters nipping at White’s heels for targets.
Roddy White could be a valuable late-round target considering most owners will write him off because of his age but don’t go reaching for him.
Justin Hardy: Hardy isn’t particularly fast, strong, or big, but he simply gets the job done. He’s the NCAA’s all-time reception leader and that has to at least count for something.
Hardy may not be featured much in his rookie year, but the departure of Harry Douglas opens up an opportunity for some targets.
If he can snag the starting job in the slot it’s possible a 50 to 60 catch season could be in the mix. Also, Roddy White and Julio Jones have dealt with some injuries the past three years, so there could be quite a bit of playing time in his future.
Leonard Hankerson: I wasn’t expecting to write about Hankerson, but according to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, Hankerson has ‘really jumped out.’
Regardless, Hankerson still boasts decent measurables at 6’2, 211, with 4.4 speed. Do I think Hankerson is going to be useful in 2015? No, but according to reports he at least deserves a spot on your watchlist.
Tight End: Like the Arizona Cardinals team report, there just isn’t any reason to draft a tight end from the Falcons. Jacob Tamme was brought on but hasn’t done much since owners rushed to the waiver wire to add him when Dallas Clark got hurt in 2010.
Also, Levine Toilolo is 6’8 but just hasn’t turned his size into a useable fantasy weapon. If you move fast enough you can see that Yahoo messed up his picture, and he’s currently someone from the Ravens.
Nevertheless, avoid Falcons tight ends.