After their 13-3 season in 2012, the Atlanta Falcons seemed ready to make a solid postseason run. They made it to NFC Championship Game but we all know how it ended. As they kicked off the 2013 season on Sunday, they lost 23-17 to their NFC South division foe, the New Orleans Saints.
The season is young and the Falcons are still very much a contender for the division championship. A lot of the same team has returned and some would say this is a pretty complete group. But are they the most complete fantasy football team?
With a solid quarterback, a running back upgrade, a great wide receiver duo, one of the league’s all-time greatest tight ends and a defense that gets it done, the answer could be yes.
Quarterback: Matt Ryan
Entering his sixth season, Ryan his 56 wins–the most of all time for five NFL seasons. He has 127 career touchdown passes and five career rushing touchdowns. Each year, his passing yards and touchdown total per season rises and according to Profootballfocus.com, Ryan has sat as a Top 5 quarterback in the last three years.
Since he came to the NFL in 2008, the quarterback’s fantasy production per game has jumped 12% on average annually, reported Rotopost.com. Should he continue this improvement, he could score approximately 340 fantasy points this year.
The Falcons are s a pass-first team and in 2012, Ryan had 615 pass attempts–a career high. Some of this came from a weak running game as they ran for 1,397 yards (3.7 yards per carry as a team). This had them as the league’s fourth-worst but this could change with the addition of Steven Jackson.
2013 Week 1: 25 for 38, 304 yards, two touchdowns and one interception (23 fantasy points)
Running backs: Steven Jackson
In the offseason, the Falcons bid goodbye to Michael Turner and traded up by grabbing versatile former St. Louis Rams running back, Jackson. His 2012 stats line included 257 carries for 1,042 yards (4.1 yards per carry), four touchdowns, 38 catches for 321 yards and no fumbles.
In a career that started in 2004, Jackson has 2,802 career touches and since 2008, he hasn’t been absent for more than one game.
Looking at his previous production, Jackson could have approximately 250 carries with 40 receptions or more, 1,000 rushing yards, 300-plus receiving yards and a total of 10 total touchdowns in 2013.
2013 Week 1: 11 carries for 77 yards (includes a 50-yard run) and five receptions for 45 yards (11 fantasy points)
Wide Receivers: Julio Jones and Roddy White
Last year, Jones had 79 receptions for 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns, while White grabbed 92 catches for 1,351 yards and seven touchdowns. Fantasy football owners have a No. 1 receiver in both players.
Will one player excel as the top dog this year?
In 2012, White had a slight edge as a fantasy player with his 143 targets versus Jones’ 129. He also had almost 200 more yards but with Jones beginning year No. 3–typically a charm for receivers–he could really take it up a notch this season. As for White, he’ll turn 32 in the middle of the season, which isn’t in his favor but he’s a consistent player with his 94 catches for 1,296 yards and eight touchdown average from the last six seasons.
Many think it’s only time before Jones surpasses him–maybe it will be in 2013.
2013 Week 1 for White: 2 for 19 yards (1 fantasy point)
2013 Week 1 for Jones: 7 for 76 yards, one touchdown and one fumble (11 fantasy points)
2013 Week 1 for Harry Douglas: 4 for 93 yards (9 fantasy points)
Tight end: Tony Gonzalez
What can you say about Gonzalez? In 12 years, he’s been a Top 5 fantasy tight end including three times as a Falcon. In the past, age hasn’t been a problem but it’s starting to catch up for the player.
In the last three seasons, Gonzalez has statistically increased his production and could have a 2013 season with 700 yards and around seven touchdowns. This is most likely his last NFL season and in addition to playing for a Super Bowl trip, he’ll also want to expand his position in the record books.
2013 Week 1: 3 for 36 yards, one touchdown (9 fantasy points)
Last season, the Falcons defense was No. 24 for total defense while giving up the fifth-fewest points in the NFL. They also had 31 takeaways–the sixth highest in the league. They were challenged by rushing the passer and only had 29 sacks.
To improve this, they added former New York Giant defensive end Osi Umenyiora. He is a nice addition to the middle, joining Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry. Starting linebackers Akeem Dent, Stephen Nicholas and Sean Witherspoon from 2012 will all return and with Umenyiora he may spur this group to play at a higher level.
Cornerback Asante Samuel has slowed down but still had five interceptions in 2012 and this season, he’ll get some help with rookies Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford.
In the last four seasons, the defense has only finished in the Top 10 once. They don’t have a ton of talent to change this for 2013.
So to answer the question, do the Falcons have the most complete fantasy team? Not so much this week but the verdict is still out. The team could face challenges by players from the Denver Broncos, the Green Bay Packers and possibly the New Orleans Saints to take his honor.