Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Michael Turner are just a few names out of Atlanta that are on everyone's fantasy radar each and every season, but what many may not know is how their contributions to the 2012 fantasy football season could change—much for the betterment of fantasy owners.
The Falcons have always been a team that has favored the pass over the run, but it isn't the team's favoritism towards that approach that you should be aware of, rather it is the change in the team's approach you should be monitoring as preseason keeps rolling.
Ready to see who benefits from this "change"? Perhaps you are interested in who may suffer from it? Let's take a look at what things may come from Atlanta in 2012.
Matt Ryan, QB:
The obvious mention to first focus on is Matt Ryan's future in 2012. While this future is NOT foreseeable, it is sort of predictable. Each year we can pretty much predict that Matt Ryan will throw about 25 TDs and roughly 10 or 11 INTs while averaging out at about 3,800 yards passing.
These are actually very conservative numbers for a guy who has a career 60.8 completion percentage, but you can expect Ryan to sway more towards an unrestrained version of himself in 2012.
In other words, Ryan is being primed to have a breakout season—the kid gloves are off.
The Falcons ran three-wide sets, but never featured them. The Falcons passed more than they ran, but never truly "aired things out"—two main aspects that will change under new coordinator Dirk Koetter's system.
The Falcons want to primarily feature the three-wide set and they are already implementing a new up-tempo pass heavy attack. This sort of change is almost guaranteed to positively affect a QB, but just imagine what it is going to do to Matt Ryan's collective fantasy statistical line.
I like Matt Ryan more than his current fifth round rank, but because he is currently a fifth rounder, I also now see him as a certified steal, given the potential on the table here.
Honestly it probably isn't going to matter, but if must choose just one, I'd go with Jones.
This new aggressive pass-first attack Koetter is installing will obviously affect both players positively, but the idea here is that Julio Jones' role will increase while White's will decrease.
Roddy White caught 100 balls or more the past two years for Atlanta...that won't happen this season. Again, White has made it clear that he does not want to be the main offensive focus because of the talent level in Atlanta, and he is right to make such a demand.
Julio Jones caught 54 balls for 959 yards with five 100+ yard games and 8 TDs in his rookie debut last season. These numbers are sure to climb, and because of which, Jones is not only the receiver to own out of Atlanta, he is flirting with a breakout season as well ( seeing a running theme yet?), given his talent and the offensive change in Atlanta.
The other receiver to keep an eye on is Harry Douglas who is expected to man the slot. Douglas hasn't been able to stay healthy, but when he is on the field, he has the potential to become an impact slot receiver. He may have some hidden back-end value for those of you in PPR leagues looking for a late-tier slot receiver.
The Running Backs:
Sometimes change hurts. In fantasy football it happens every year, and this year I believe the offensive change is going to hurt Michael Turner's overall fantasy ceiling more than help it.Michael Turner is a solid runner. he is better suited in a north-south orientation, rather than the outside-the-tackles approach that better suits speedy backs.
But the Falcons are going to need a flashy speedy back who can not only run, but contribute in a big way in the passing game, and that is where Jacquizz Rodgers is expected to come in.
Ya gotta remember, we as fantasy owners are at the mercy of a team's offensive approach. The Falcons know that when they do feature a two-back look, they are going to utilize both backs in according situations.
Turner is old, slow and not the guy the Falcons need to perform at top speed. Rodgers, on the other hand, has a clear chance of significantly cutting into Turners workload. From my point of view, I really don't believe either of these backs are worth the ownership consider how many other better options will be available in your draft.
If you have to own one, I would target another marquee RB early, then perhaps back-fill with Rodgers....but only if you hit a jam.
Tony Gonzalez, TE:
Tony Gonzalez has always been a major component in this offense. Under Mularkey, Gonzalez was one of the most targeted TEs in the game. Conversely, under Koetter's system in Jacksonville, Marcedes Lewis wasn't targeted all that much which suggests that Gonzalez may lose a few looks.
I think that Gonzalez will be fine. Like I said, he's always been an integral part of this offense, and in a pass-heavy attack, the TE is usually used quite a bit.
Last season Gonzalez caught 80 balls for 875 yards and 7 TDs. This season I believe he may regress just a bit, considering there will be more mouths to feed through the air, so expect a line more similar to 70 balls for 694 yards and 6 TDs.