Time to pour one out for the once great Atlanta Falcons offense. There used to be two elite receivers here. People were excited about Matt Ryan. Harry Douglas was a good bye week flex option as defenses honed in on Roddy and Julio. Steven Jackson was revived from the dead and put in a couple decent seasons. Tony Gonzalez was one of the most reliable tight ends in the league. Now we have Julio, the artist formerly known as Roddy White, a rookie running back, and we seem to have misplaced a starting tight end. Now instead of being excited about the offense, we’re excited about Julio and we accept Ryan, Roddy, and Tevin Coleman.
Bustworthy Beauty: Tevin Coleman, RB
I don’t trust rookie running backs. They get drafted with hype and most of the time they just can’t handle the transition to the professional game. People are sold on him to take over as the lead back here but Devonta Freeman didn’t die. He’s a second year running back and the Falcons shouldn’t be giving up on him yet. Tevin Coleman is fast. And that’s… it. He literally runs full speed straight up the field on every carry. He’s not all there instinctively and looks impatient. Also, his NFL comparison is Darren McFadden. When was the last time you heard a good thing about him?
Sleeping Sweetheart: Jacob Tamme, TE
No one is paying attention to Jacob Tamme. He’s not a very good football player but he is still the projected starting tight end for this Falcons offense. 75 Harry Douglas targets are gone. I don’t think they’re all going to Tamme, but Matt Ryan does like throwing to the tight end in the red zone (Toilolo in the last couple years and of course many years of Tony Gonzalez). Would it be crazy to think that Tamme takes some of those targets this year? Roddy White is another year older so his targets may decrease and Tamme might turn in a quiet, effective season. I could very well see a 45 catch, 450 yard season with four scores and that’s definitely rosterable.
PPR Princess: Roddy White, WR
Roddy White was an elite fantasy receiver for a very long time. I owned him three straight years in his prime (2010-2012) and I was always pleased with his production. He’s not a threat to make huge plays anymore and has slotted into a possession receiver role (much like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Reggie Wayne have in recent times) Even last year with some injury issues and obviously playing second fiddle to Julio, he still got targeted 122 times and had 80 catches. I think Roddy has gas left in the tank for one more good season if he can stay healthy. He won’t get drafted highly, nor should he, but he’s good value as a WR3 option and people may be undervaluing him in drafts. If he falls, gamble and you won’t be sorry. Matt Ryan knows Roddy White better than any receiver on the roster and he will be the safety valve for Ryan when he can’t find Julio downfield for at least one more year.
Dynasty Darling: Julio Jones, WR
I think Julio Jones could catch 800 yards and 6 touchdowns with me throwing the ball up in his general direction. He’s THAT good. Top five receiver? No question. Top pick in a dynasty draft? Not sold, personally I wouldn’t, but I can’t argue about it. I read an interesting analysis choosing between Brandon Marshall and Julio Jones. Last year, they were positioned at similar ADPs in standard redraft leagues (Around 17th overall). There was a discussion about how Julio exploded and Marshall died, an “unexpected” result. On paper, maybe it was unexpected. Marshall has had years of an elite track record and played with a gunslinging quarterback. Julio had some injury concerns and hadn’t sold everyone yet. This is something many fantasy owners fail to do. We’re so caught up in numbers, poring over rankings, listening to other people’s opinions, we forget to make our own. It’s still a sport played on a field. We need to take the time to WATCH the sport. Personally, I get so excited on Sundays that I turn on every game any of my players is playing in and try to watch them simultaneously. I’m extreme, but it’s important to watch your players on the field. Julio eye tests better than almost any other receiver. I had Julio above Marshall on every board because I’ve seen Julio Jones play and he is GREAT. At this stage of their careers, it was no contest. He’s a home run.
Carolina’s offense is missing something. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Or anything on it because it flew way over my head. Cam Newton needs to drive this offense and for that his main concern is working on accuracy. His upside provides upside to this offense, but he’s 26 and no longer a young talent. His upside needs to become nowside so they can truly break into the upper echelon of teams. Also, I’m not sold on their fluid running back situation this year. Technically Jonathan Stewart should carry the load, but we’ve seen injury issues in the past and the Panthers drafted Cameron Artis-Payne as a safety net who could receive regular touches as well.
Bustworthy Beauty: Kelvin Benjamin, WR
Unfortunately, Cam Newton thinks Kelvin is 7’10”. Kelvin was targeted 146 times last year. He had 73 catches. Many times Cam overthrew him long or high and that is unfathomable to me. The dude is 6’5″ with great leaping ability HOW DO YOU THROW IT OVER HIS HEAD? I was able to obtain him in the 11th round last year and laugh my way to the bank, but now that he’s a top-20 receiver I think people are too excited. Our sleeping sweetheart will have something to say about it, and with lingering hamstring issues and weight concerns, we may not see the jump we expect.
Sleeping Sweetheart: Devin Funchess, WR
This pick wasn’t made because Kelvin Benjamin isn’t good enough. Kelvin is plenty good, but he and Greg Olsen were the only threats in the passing game and the Panthers needed some help. Well, help has arrived and I think that will cut into Benjamin’s production more so than Greg Olsen. Olsen is a tried and true veteran who knows the game. Kelvin is a second year receiver with a lot of talent but also a few question marks. Funchess is a good late flier looking for upside as a WR5 and provides another big receiver for Cam Newton to overthrow.
PPR Princess: Greg Olsen, TE
It’s rare for a tight end to catch 84 passes. It’s rare for a tight end to lead a team in receiving yards (1008). It’s rare for a tight end to be this consistent and reliable in fantasy. Tight end is the forgotten stepsister of skill positions because most of the time it’s not flashy and at best the fourth option on the team after the two main receivers and the running back. Unless he’s one of the elite options (Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen) it’s an afterthought on a lot of times. Greg Olsen is the number one option in Carolina. He has a great rapport with Cam and you know what you’re getting with Greg Olsen. He will catch for 800 yards and catch six touchdowns, runs well, blocks well, and has great hands. Be safe, not sorry.
Dynasty Darling: Cam Newton, QB
Cam Newton is a freak athlete. I wasn’t sure he’d succeed in the NFL given his running nature and his read-option offense in college (We’ve seen quite a few running quarterbacks struggle in the NFL: RGIII, Kaepernick, Michael Vick: post prison, Tim Tebow, etc.) and I thought Newt0n was more athlete than quarterback. It looks like I might be wrong. He has a lot to learn and needs to stop overthrowing his wide receivers, but he can make every throw on the field. His mobility is a huge bonus and I expect him to blossom into an elite quarterback in this new generation of signal callers.
This division used to be great. The Saints and Falcons both crashed down to Earth after years of success and are looking for a new identity. The Saints, surprisingly, are further along in that process. The Falcons are treading water with mediocre talent on both sides of the ball. The Saints seem to be transitioning to a traditional 50/50 run/pass offense and it may be time to wean themselves off of Drew Brees. Brees is showing his age and it’s good to see the team taking some initiative to make changes after a disappointing 2014.
Bustworthy Beauty: Drew Brees, QB
Drew Brees will not be a 4,800 yard passer anymore. He just won’t be. There isn’t enough receiving talent on the team to reach that number. Jimmy Graham was a HUGE part of this offense and I am still shocked they let him go. Let’s assign some yardage totals to the main targets in this offense: Let’s say Brandin Cooks catches for 1,200 yards. Let’s say Josh Hill catches for 600 yards, Ben Watson for 400, Colston catches for 1,000, and Spiller catches for 800. These numbers are all generous, and that gives us… 4,000 yards. Ingram won’t factor in the passing game, and our other options here are Nick Toon, Josh Morgan, and maybe Seantavious Jones. They’re not catching 800 yards combined. I expect all these guys to fall short of those numbers, meaning Brees will fall short of 4,800. I think 4,200 is a safe bet, which is still good but isn’t the elite quarterback we’ve come to know and love. Over the last few years the interceptions are up and he doesn’t have the highflying weapons he used to have. A 36 year old Drew Brees tells everyone to breathe and think before jumping back on the bandwagon.
Sleeping Sweetheart: Mark Ingram, RB
Since we project Drew Brees to drop off significantly, at least some of that yardage has to go somewhere. We’re saying that somewhere is to Mark Ingram. The Saints acquired Max Unger in the Jimmy Graham trade and drafted OT Andrus Peat to shore up the line. I expect the Saints to decrease the load on Brees and put it on Ingram to enforce a power running style. I don’t expect Ingram to be on the field every down, they will need to bring Spiller out there on passing downs and put him in motion to add flavor to the offense, but I think the Saints switch over to a ground and pound game and give Ingram the ball 20 times a game with unadulterated goal line touches. He’s going late in the third or early in the fourth right now in standard league drafts, but I would say he should be going a round earlier at least. I’d take him over guys like Lamar Miller, Alfred Morris, Justin Forsett, and Melvin Gordon without hesitation.
PPR Princess: C.J. Spiller, RB
Darren Sproles is reincarnated in New Orleans and I’m excited. In PPR leagues I am all over Spiller. Forcing Spiller to be a three down back between the tackles failed miserably. He’s not big and strong enough to take an NFL beating. He was forced to run inside the tackles for way too long in Buffalo and he is just not fit for that role. This is a make or break season for Spiller, since another failure will cement him as a one-year wonder so he’ll be playing with a chip on his shoulder. We saw the value of Sproles in this Saints offense and Spiller figures to fall neatly into that role in Sean Payton’s offense. In a standard league, he’s not worth more than a borderline flex play, but we could see 70 catches coming his way making him a solid RB2 in PPR leagues. Tread with caution, though, because the injury risk is there with Spiller. I’m not sure how many open field hits he’ll have to take, but I’d prefer it to be very few.
Dynasty Darling: Brandin Cooks, WR
I admit to not being a Brandin Cooks fan. He’s a good athlete that can make big plays in space but he’s being overdrafted right now even as the premier option for a Drew Brees offense. He’s small. I don’t know if he’ll be able to take all the hits. He actually projects similarly to Spiller, lacking some explosiveness but with a similar size profile. Both he and Spiller will end up being used in catch and run situations frequently, and that’s fine, but the lack of downfield volume will limit consistency. Both of these guys are good upside plays as “one play to rule the week” options, but I don’t know how much I could rely on Cooks week in and week out. He may end up being the best long term prospect on this roster, but that’s mainly because I don’t see much else that will stick for a long time.
But what if Jameisn’t? The Bucs defense is good. Mike Evans is good. Vincent Jackson is proven. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins WILL be good. The running backs are… rostered. It comes down to whether Jameis Winston is the answer at quarterback for this team. I think he actually might be, but what if he isn’t? It’ll mean another year in the cellar for this team, but if he does come on strong, this team can contend for a playoff berth given the weakness of the division as a whole.
Bustworthy Beauty: Mike Evans, WR
Are we worried about Mike Evans as a talent? Not at all. Are we worried about Mike Evans as a talent in dynasty perspective? Not at all. Are we worried about the fact that his quarterback is a rookie? Actually, surprisingly, not at all. Are we worried that Vincent Jackson takes away too many looks? Not at all. Actually, having a deep threat like that on the other side is probably a benefit to Evans. Then what the hell are we worried about? Well, I’m worried about 12 touchdowns. I’m not sure 12 touchdowns are there again this year. I don’t think he’ll lose targets to Vincent Jackson. In fact, I think he’ll get more. Vincent Jackson had 143 targets last season and Mike Evans got 124. But VJax only caught two touchdowns. I don’t think that happens again. As Jameis learns the game, he may lean on the more experienced receiver and will look to him in the end zone more frequently. Right now, Mike Evans is going as a top-12 receiver, just ahead of Emmanuel Sanders is, and I think he’ll be good, but I’m thinking 75 catches, 1,200 yards, and seven touchdowns.
Sleeping Sweetheart: Vincent Jackson, WR
Honestly, I don’t expect VJax to be much worse than Mike Evans this year. He’s the far greater value five rounds later. Jackson is proven as an elite deep option and was heavily targeted last year, more so than Mike Evans. Jameis Winston is already a better quarterback than the scarily inefficient Josh McCown/Mike Glennon combination. I expect a REALLY big year from VJax given his price, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he surpasses Mike Evans in catches, yards, AND touchdowns. Obviously in a dynasty league, Mike Evans is far and away the better value, but in a redraft, I would take the chance on Jackson.
PPR Princess: Bobby Rainey, RB
I am blatantly guessing here. The Bucs don’t have any high target receivers who will reel in 90+ catches. Also, this is my endorsement of Bobby Rainey as an “If I HAVE to pick a Buccaneers running back, it’s him.” You have to pay nothing to acquire him and I’d rather have him riding my bench as a “maybe” than drafting Doug Martin or Charles Sims as an RB3 or even RB4 and hoping I grabbed the right one. Rainey had 33 catches on 45 targets and limited work last year. Look, Lovie hates running the ball anyway. Once they realize Doug Martin is bad and Charles Sims would die if he touched the ball 20 times, someone will have to be on the field, and maybe Rainey figures as a dump off option for a young quarterback.
Dynasty Darling: Jameis Winston, QB
Why do I like Jameis Winston and dislike Mariota? As weird as it feels to say it because at the college level I was very pro-Mariota and very anti-Winston. Mariota was a picture of excellence from start to finish and Jameis Winston was a crab thief. Mariota got accused of being too athletic for his own good, Jameis got accused of rape. Even on the field, Mariota is more explosive and more “exciting”, why do we like Jameis? Because explosive and exciting don’t always work out in the National Football League. Winston is the more polished passer, and he has real weapons to work with. Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter don’t count as weapons. Mike Evans is on his way to being a top ten wide receiver in the NFL, Vincent Jackson is one of the best deep ball threats in the game, and our other contender for the dynasty darling, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, WILL be good someday and that is a promise.
Yesterday: NFC North
Check in tomorrow for our NFC West Breakdown.
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