The Falcons are going into this season ranked as my 23rd best team. I have them winning 7 games this year and finishing 3rd in the NFC South and 11th in the NFC. Below is my in-depth breakdown of the team by position, staff, and fantasy worth.
Coaching: C-; Ever since Shannahan left, Dan Quinn has been a very below average coach. I wonder why… I feel Dan Quinn has been a very poor defensive coach, and I think that the secondary has hurt because of that. I don’t know what was going on with the falcons secondary last season, but it looked more like bad technique and poor coaching than lack of skill. If you are more interested in that topic, Brett Kollman has a great film analysis video on it on youtube that I would check out if I were you. He doesn a lot of great videos on youtube. Anyway, Quinn is definitely on the hot seat, and if he doesn’t compete for the playoffs this year, I think we could see a new coach in Atlanta.
QB: B+; I feel Matt Ryan is one of the most underrated players in the league. He has a very solid arm, experience, great vision, and he is good pre-snap. I don’t understand why people knock on his skills so often. He was an MVP a few years ago. I feel he has struggled more with poor team play, but when he has a good cast around him, he gets rolling.
RB: B-; Todd Gurley can play like an MVP when he is healthy and has the right pieces around him. The only problem is I don’t think the Falcons have those pieces. I don’t think that Gurley will produce numbers anywhere near what he did a few years ago, but you never know really. Behind Gurley, Ito Smith will most likely be the backup running back. Not exactly the greatest depth piece in the world. There is not much that anyone has seen of Ito because he only had 112 carries over the past two seasons, but I think it’s safe to say he is no superstar.
WR: B+; If you only look at the first two guys on the depth chart, this wide receiver group seems elite. Julio Jones is the best receiver in the NFL all around. He has every physical tool needed 50 times over. Calvin Ridley has also been a very solid number 2 option for the Falcons. In 13 games last year, he had 866 yards and 7 touchdowns while backing up Julio. He is one of my candidates for a huge breakout year. He was the 26th overall pick just two years ago by the way. Besides the starting two wide receivers, this group has no depth. The 3rd best receiver on the depth chart is Russell Gage. If you’re not a huge falcons fan you probably had to look him up.
TE: C+; I like the potential with Hayden Hurst. He is a great blocker and he should be more active in the receiving game now that he will be the starter. As of now, he is no star. And there aren’t really any great tight ends under him in the depth chart. I think that he could develop well, but right now he isn’t the best tight end option. It should be a major downgrade from Austin Hooper.
O-line: D+; The offensive line has seen notable regression since about two years ago. Alex Mack has been on a steady decline that comes with age. Jake Mathews is still a solid tackle, but he is far from great. Other than those two, not many players really stand out on this line. It’s really sad that the Falcons haven’t prioritized the offensive line knowing that it is crucial to an offense’s success. Matt Ryan won’t be putting up MVP numbers when he has defenders in his face all the time.
D-line: C+; I like the addition of Dante Fowler Jr. He is a very solid player who can get you double digit sacks. Last year he had 11.5 sacks across two teams (the Rams and the Jaguars). Takkarist McKinley hasn’t shown much in his first 3 seasons. He’s not exactly a bust, but he just isn’t very impressive. The most sacks he’s had in a season is 7 in 2018. Last year, he only had 3.5 sacks and 7 tackles for a loss in the 14 games that he played. Definitely not 1st round pick worthy stats. I won’t rule him out for a breakout year, but right now, it seems unlikely. Aside from them, Grady Jarret is definitely a great inside piece for the line. He has seen solid production and made his first pro bowl last season. He is definitely the best on the line. There isn’t a lot of depth here, and I’m not in love with all the starters anyway, so I don’t think this line deserves to be higher than a C+.
LB: C-; I think Deion Jones is ok, but he’s really nothing special. I feel he has been a little overrated since his rookie season. He really can help in the pass game, but he’s not a great field general and run stuffer. He also misses his fair share of tackles with 10.6% of his tackles not connecting. At strong side linebacker, Foysade Oluokon is a below average player. He isn’t great at rushing the passer or stuffing runs. There’s not much to say about him except he is below average.
DB: C-; I like the pickup of AJ Terrell in the draft. He wasn’t the cornerback that I would have taken, but at least they addressed a position of need. Letting Desmond Trufant go was also a good idea as he has fallen off a cliff production-wise. I was a huge fan of Isaiah Oliver when he was coming out of Colorado. He had an incredible wingspan, speed, tracking ability, and his technique was off the charts. I thought that he would easily translate into a good cornerback, but I haven’t seen much out of him. I am hoping for a breakout year, but I am unsure if that will happen. Keanu Neil has been an overall solid safety throughout his short career. He is pretty quick and can get around the field well. Damontae Kazee is my favorite player in the secondary. He has been terrific and underappreciated in his first two years. I don’t know how high his ceiling is, but he seems to have been progressing really well. Overall I don’t like the Falcons' secondary for now, especially at the cornerback position due to its inexperience,but it has a decent amount of potential, so I will give it a C-.
Overall: B-; The team is definitely not bad, but it is far from good. In order to beat good teams you need more than just flashy players. You need to win in the trenches. The Falcons haven’t prioritized the trenches, and the lack of talent and depth will show during the season. The Defense is still poor overall, and needs major revamps before the Falcons will be ready to contend. This team has a lot of young players that might develop really well, so it has potential to be a better team than it is now, but I can’t rank it higher than 23rd overall right now. There are just far more well rounded, more experienced, and better coached teams above them.
Fantasy Value: I like Matt Ryan as a decent fantasy quarterback. He will put up fine numbers again this year. I wouldn’t take him unless you can get him at a high value because he comes with some risk. He is behind a pretty poor line and could be subject to either poor play or injury if he gets hit too often. Obviously Julio Jones will be great in fantasy, but he wouldn’t be my first choice over other receivers due to an increase in skill position talent on the Falcons. My sleeper this year would be Calvin Ridley. I think he will be subject to a breakout year. I wouldn’t draft Gurley or Hurst because I really don’t know what I will get out of them. I’d rather safer bets than them.