Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In the next edition of the series, we head back to the NFC South and check out the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons were 9-7, finishing second in the division to New Orleans with an offense that ranked 13th among 32 teams. They scored 22.7 ppg (down from 24.4 the previous season) while their defense yielded 20.3 ppg (14th).
Matt Ryan - After Ryan's rookie season and with the addition of an All-Pro tight end in Tony Gonzalez, much was expect from the Falcons quarterback. Though he threw six more touchdowns than in the previous season, his numbers didn't improve significantly, and in fact, we saw his QB rating drop from 87.7 to 80.9. His ADP has dropped slightly, from 65 to 72, but he continues to be the ninth quarterback off the board just as he was last year. However. assuming that running back Michael Turner is healthy again, I think the team will return to the ground game and there will be better values than Ryan available in the sixth round. In current drafts, both Brett Favre and Kevin Kolb are being selected behind Ryan and both should have better fantasy statistics.
Michael Turner - The dreaded "Rule of 370" struck Michael Turner in 2009. Hard! For those who aren't familiar," the "Rule of 370" according to a study by Football Outsiders, states that a running back who carries the ball 370 times or-more in the regular season, or 390 times including playoffs, will see a 35% drop in rushing yards. Turner had 376 carries in 2008 and 18 more in a playoff loss. So he "qualified" under the theory. And fall off he did. He suffered a high ankle sprain on November 15th against Carolina and was never the same. Turner finished the year with 828 fewer rushing yards and seven fewer touchdowns and instead of being one of the two best running backs in fantasy football, finished around 24th. It's seven months later and Turner still says he's not 100% yet, but he's getting close. Fantasy owners are obviously concerned, because Turner is only the sixth running back off the board. I too am concerned, but not enough to bypass Turner with any first-round pick after No.6. His current ADP is No.8.
Jerious Norwood - Norwood is a talented running back, who just can't seem to stay healthy. He should have gotten his opportunity to shine last year when Turner went down, but he too was injured. He's a great change-of-pace back, but can't "carry" an offense because he has trouble staying on the field. Should Turner go down, Jason Snelling would likely have as many carries as Norwood. For that reason it's tough to recommend Norwood even as an "insurance policy." Current ADP has Norwood at around 215.
Jason Snelling - When Turner and Norwood were hurt last year, it was Snelling (ADP 209) who stepped up and carried the offense. But with limited opportunity and skills, his 2010 value is only as "insurance."
Roddy White - White started last season slowly, with just 15 catches and 119 yards over the first four weeks (three games and a bye). That led to the perception that he had a down season, but he finished the year with 85 receptions for 1,153 yards and a career-high 11 touchdowns. White finished No.7 among receivers in fantasy scoring, he was just inconsistent. His ADP has improved in early mock drafts and he's the sixth receiver off the board and No.19 overall. Beware, with the red zone passing combination of Ryan-to- Gonzalez settling in for a second season, White's touchdown total might drop a bit in 2010 as he had six touchdown passes of 12 yards-or-less in 2009.
Michael Jenkins - Jenkins is the best of the remaining Falcons receivers, but he's never been a valuable fantasy property. He had 50 receptions for the third consecutive season in 2009, but hasn't scored more than four touchdowns since 2006. His ADP of 250 is indicative that he's the distant third option behind White and Gonzalez. None of the other options; Harry Douglas, Eric Weems, Troy Bergeron or rookie Kerry Meier appear to have any fantasy value in 2010.
Tony Gonzalez - In his first season in Atlanta, Gonzalez was solid, but unspectacular. He didn't post a 100-yard receiving day after doing it three times in 2008 and his touchdown total dropped from 10 to six, but he still hauled in 83 balls for 867 yards. Gonzalez and Ryan hooked up for five red zone touchdowns and given another year of familiarity that number could rise. He's the sixth tight end off the board behind Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis, Jason Witten and Jermichael Finley and at that price he could be a bargain.
Matt Bryant - Bryant will likely have to win the job in preseason, but even at that, he's not going to have much fantasy value. There are better and safer options available.
The Falcons finished 25th among fantasy defenses with just 102 points. A low sack total of 28 and no kick returns for touchdowns limited their scoring total. They did, however, emphasize the defensive front seven on Draft Day with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon from Missouri and defensive tackle Corey Peters from Kentucky and signed veteran free agent Dunta Robinson to bolster the secondary. The Falcons are not currently being drafted in the top-15 among defenses and until they prove they can rush the passer better will likely not be worth a draft pick.