The NFC South made a lot of noise this off-season, but the Atlanta Falcons didn’t change much. What do they have to offer this upcoming season?
When looking at fantasy players – or anything, really – we tend to look at them in isolation. We see something, focus on it and think of it in a vacuum. However, plenty of insight can be gained by looking at a player’s supporting cast and the infrastructure around them. Here at DynastyFootballDigest.com, we’re taking a team-by-team look at impactful fantasy players. In these season previews, you can expect to see:
• Top performer – The player I project to finish the highest at their position on the team.
• Biggest bust potential – Who is most likely to fall short of expectations this season?
• Sleeper to watch – This player, whether a rookie or an unheralded veteran, has a shot to make a splash in 2020.
• Stash for the future – One dart-throw to hold onto for future seasons. Relatively low cost, potentially high reward.
Without further ado, let’s dig into one of 2020’s most explosive fantasy offenses, the Atlanta Falcons.
Top Performers – Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, WR
An abdominal injury slowed what many considered to be a breakout season for Ridley, who was actually outscoring Julio Jones 14 weeks into the season. Jones, ranked WR17 in half-ppr leagues at the time of Ridley’s injury, skyrocketed up the rankings as a result, finishing as the WR3.
Ridley, on the other hand, was WR13 through 14 weeks, which is a solid sample size. Entering this season, both Jones and Ridley should see a decent number of targets. Mohammed Sanu is no longer in the fold. Hayden Hurst should slide in and see the targets Austin Hooper is leaving behind. The remaining options? Russell Gage, Laquon Treadwell and Christian Blake, among others. Not exactly an inspiring group.
Although I don’t expect Julio Jones to hit the 157-target mark he reached last season, I still have him down for a healthy 142. I have Ridley getting 118 targets, which is slightly higher than the 16-game pace he set last season.
2020 projections – Julio Jones | 142 targets, 92 receptions, 1,312 yards 7 TDs — 219.43 points.
2020 projections – Calvin Ridley | 118 targets, 83 receptions, 1,115 yards, 7 TDs — 194.77 points.
I don’t think many people would claim these numbers are unreasonable or unattainable. With these projections, Julio would finish as the WR5, and Ridley would finish as the WR14. While the former is locked in as a WR1, I think Ridley has a shot to finish in that territory, as well. The Atlanta Falcons shouldn’t be much better on defense than they were last year, and their WR group is thinner than it was at this point last year. Julio is an amazing buy for contenders, and Ridley’s a quality buy regardless of team makeup. However, his buy window is closing quickly.
(Honorable mention: Matt Ryan)
Biggest Bust Potential – Todd Gurley, RB
Gurley is one of fantasy’s most volatile plays for 2020. His talent is immense, and when he’s received the majority of the work, he has produced. Even last year with a career-low 3.84 yards per carry, he reached 14 touchdowns for the third season in a row.
Much like the argument made for Ridley and Jones, Gurley doesn’t have imposing competition in the backfield. He’ll vie for attempts alongside Brian Hill, Ito Smith and Qadree Wilson. Gurley should dominate that group in terms of touches, and he’s entering a prove-it season. He has clear top-8 potential if things go right, but there’s a handful of factors that could get in the way.
Much has been made of his health, particularly his left knee. He has never missed more than three games in a season, but the end of the 2018 playoff run, as well as his less-than-efficient 2019, is leaving owners skeptical. We can’t pretend to know exactly how he’ll perform this season, but we have to know the risk is there. High touchdown totals are not easily repeated.
Gurley lands as the team’s biggest bust potential because of that wide range of outcomes. Your predictions for him depend almost entirely on whether you think he still has it. If you do, you draft him hoping for top-12 numbers. If not, you let someone else take him at his current price of RB19 and go with a guy like David Montgomery or J.K. Dobbins instead.
Sleeper to watch – LaQuon Treadwell, WR
I can already hear the screams of agony after reading this name. Most of you associate LaQuon Treadwell with the searing pain of wasting a first-round rookie pick. We’ve all been there. It hurts. But Treadwell should have an opportunity to compete for touches in the passing game, which is always valuable in a high-volume offense. That’s exactly what the Atlanta Falcons will have in 2020.
The bad news: He has 147.1 fantasy points … throughout his whole career (PPR).
The good news: He’s entirely free.
Russell Gage didn’t exactly set the world on fire when Ridley went down (49 catches on 74 targets, 446 yards and a TD). If Julio or Ridley were to go down, there’s a good chance Treadwell would get a sizable target share, or at least a handful of end-zone targets toward that athletic, 6-foot-2 frame. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and sometimes it’s better to be good than lucky. If you’re at the end of a deep draft and don’t like any of your options available, scroll down your queue. Keep scrolling. Almost there. Cool. Now select Treadwell and see if he can redeem even a smidge of the disappointment he left you with in 2016.
Stash for the future – Olamide Zaccheaus, WR
Now we’re getting into the deep sleepers. I’m talking about the guzzle-a-whole-bottle-of-NyQuil deep (please don’t do this). I didn’t wanna go the easy route by saying “Hayden Hurst” as your sleeper to watch, and I’m gonna go an even more ambitious route with this sleeper.
Outside of having a spectacular name, the following facts are true about Mr. Olamide (which is what I’ll be calling him from now on):
• He is Virginia’s all-time receptions leader.
• He turns 23 on Thursday.
• He totaled 551 yards on 72 rushes throughout his collegiate career.
• He had the longest reception of any player in 2019.
Olamide Zaccheaus 93-yard TD was the #1 fantasy play of the 2019 season
Just as we all expected 🤭
Here are the Top 5 ⬇️⬇️pic.twitter.com/vFAI1R7ukW
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) June 19, 2020
• He also showed he has more than just speed.
Olamide Zaccheaus somehow got two feet down 😤😤 pic.twitter.com/399ztGjElw
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) August 9, 2019
Look, the dude is coming off a rookie season where he had five targets. I get it. He’s probably not going to turn into anything special. But, most sleepers don’t. With a thin receiving corps (at least at the top of the depth chart) I expect plenty of the Atlanta Falcons’ depth pieces to get a chance in 2020. Mr. Olamide is one of them.