We are officially through week 1 of the 2019 NFL preseason, which means fantasy football is right around the corner. August is the season of “big boards,” as you prepare to make a run at your ever-elusive league title. Heading into the 2019 season; the Atlanta Falcons return a bevy of fantasy impact players. The offense is expected to, once again, carry this team, and they could do the same for your fantasy roster behind a revamped offensive line.
Matt Ryan is coming off one of his best statistical seasons yet, throwing for 4,924 yards and 35 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions. This 2018 resumé allowed Ryan to boast the second-best season point total of 354, behind only MVP Patrick Mahomes. Let’s not forget his stat line came behind what many would consider a depleted offensive line and with a second string running back lining up beside him all year.
That should not be the case in 2019. The Falcons spent plenty of resources on insuring that Ryan will have plenty of time to seek out his plethora of weapons. Devonta Freeman is also set to return, and according to coaches, is looking as strong as ever. Ryan is primed to have another career year – much like he did in 2016 under Kyle Shanahan.
Freeman is an interesting player to look at in your draft because he has RB1 upside. Now, for Freeman to be a substantial fantasy contributor, his potential must turn into production. The mainstay concern is his ability to stay healthy. Coming off a 2018 campaign in which he played only two games and a 2017 season in which he played in 14 of 18 games (playoffs) while dealing with several nagging injuries; fantasy footballers should be cautious when selecting Freeman.
Look, I am not going to tell you to take Freeman with your first or second-round pick, but anywhere past the second round in your draft, he should be considered a steal. With the ability to make plays in both the running and passing game, Freeman is a solid RB2 with RB1 upside. If he stays healthy and catches the ball out of the backfield like we expect him to; he could be a top-five player at his position.
For some reason we can’t figure out, the narrative around Julio Jones’ fantasy outlook is his lack of touchdown production. Don’t get me wrong, us Falcons fans would not mind seeing him get in the end-zone a bit more, but from a fantasy perspective; it’s hardly a concern. With consistent top-eight and often top-five fantasy finishes at WR over his career; Jones will continue to offer a sturdy WR1 for your team. And as Matt Ryan continues his greatness behind this improved offensive line; so will Julio Jones. He is a no-doubt first-round draft pick with guaranteed production if healthy.
Calvin Ridley burst on the scene in his rookie season for the Atlanta Falcons and his fantasy owners. His ten touchdowns set a new franchise rookie record. While that number may be difficult to duplicate with all of the weapons Atlanta has on their roster; Ridley will see his fair share of targets and catches in this offense.
Most Falcons fans would be willing to agree that Ridley has overtaken Mohamed Sanu as the number 2 receiver for this team. Well, under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s past 7 seasons, his WR2’s have been targeted an average of 7.0 times a game. That is quite a bit more than Ridley’s 5.8 targets per game last season. The second-year receiver has WR1 upside with a floor of a reliable flex option.
At the top-heavy tight end position in fantasy football; it can be hard to find a reasonably consistent player to start week-to-week, especially if you don’t spend an early draft pick on one of those 2-3 top tier guys. Austin Hooper is a prime example of this. Although Hooper finished as a top-six fantasy tight end last year; his overall ranking was held up by a few exceptional performances rather than week-to-week consistency.
Looking ahead to 2019, Hooper appears to be in line for a similar role. After yesterday’s trade of tight end, Eric Saubert; he will have little competition for targets at his position. But the Falcons have so many other weapons; it will be challenging to gauge his production each week. Much of Hooper’s fantasy ceiling and floor will depend on his red-zone usage.
As I explained in a previous article; I am holding this Falcons defense to a higher standard than most. With playmaking ability returning from injury in the forms of Keanu Neal and Deion Jones; this unit has the core needed to perform at a high level. If players like Takk McKinley, Vic Beasley, and ball-hawk Damontae Kazee can play up to their potential; few rosters have the talent that this defense does. With Dan Quinn calling the shots; the Falcons can create turnovers in bunches. Starting this unit against the right opponents might give you the boost you need to earn a critical victory.
If you have played fantasy football at all; you understand the importance of a kicker. You have to find a leg that can give you consistent production each week. The Atlanta Falcons have a new kicker this season for the first time in a decade. And while he is the new starter; he did get some experience last year amidst Matt Bryant’s injury struggles. Tavecchio went 5-5, showing off his range with two kicks over 50 yards. Because Atlanta’s offense should be at or around the red-zone often, Tavecchio will have plenty of opportunities to rack up points for your fantasy team.