Hope and then slightly above average – that seems to be the mantra surrounding the Atlanta Falcons. Each of the past few seasons has started with high hopes that have translated to mild success on the field in Atlanta and in Fantasy Football circles. That could change to "Hope and Win" during the 2012 NFL season.
Falcons Quarterback Fantasy Options
NFL 2011 projected to be the Year of the Matts at the quarterback position in Fantasy football. Matt Stafford, Matt Schaub, Matt Cassel, along with Matt Ryan of the Falcons, were all highly touted pivots on draft day. Two of the big four Matts did not disappoint.
Ryan was one field general that didn't disappoint as he passed for a career high 29 touchdowns, ran for another two, and had 4,177 passing yards. Entering his fifth NFL season (and having lots of weapons at his disposal), the Falcons' Matt Ryan will be a solid starting fantasy QB during the 2012 season.
Falcons Running Back Fantasy Options
Having just hit the dreaded 30-something wall, Falcons running back Michael Turner had a solid (though not spectacular) 2011 season. Mirroring his 2010 production, the Burner compiled 1,508 total yards to go with eleven touchdowns on the ground last season. Turner's receiving yards, while still disappointing, went from 85 in 2010 to 168, but he still hasn't caught a TD pass in his seven-year career – anyone else find that to be a weird stat?
While the addition of scatback Jacquizz Rodgers cut into his touches somewhat, Turner was still second in carries with 301, behind Maurice Jones-Drew (343) in Jacksonville. Though it is something to be considered, we aren't too concerned about the 30 Factor playing much of role in 2012. We expect another productive upper tier season ahead for Turner in 2012.
Falcons Wide Receiver Fantasy Options
One of the most unheralded wide receivers in the NFL, Roddy White finished as a top-seven fantasy receiver for the fourth year in a row. The numbers would have been even better had he not dropped a league high 15 passes during the 2011 NFL season. Rowdy Roddy also had over 1,200 receiving yards for a fifth consecutive season as he finished 2011 with 1,296 yards and eight touchdowns.
Atlanta unloaded a Brinks truck worth of draft picks to grab WR Julio Jones with the sixth pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Double J was slowed a little with a hamstring injury during his rookie season, but he certainly showed why the Falcons were so high on him. On just 54 catches, the dynamic Jones accumulated 959 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games played. Jones will polish into more than just a "boom or bust" receiver moving forward.
For a club touted as a power run team, the Falcons air it out plenty as they attempted the seventh most pass attempts (566) last season. Expect more of the same in 2012 as Atlanta has one of the best one-two punches in the league at the wide receiver position.
Falcons Tight End Fantasy Options
Having just completed his twelfth NFL season, future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez improved on his 2009 and 2010 stats during the 2011 season. While his days of 1,000-yard seasons are behind him, Gonzo was a solid fourth best TE with 875 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season.
With so many big names on the board at the TE position, it is difficult to pump this 12-time Pro Bowler up too high. Gonzo recently announced that his 13th year will be his final season in the NFL. Whether that is in fact true or not remains to be seen. If it is true, taking a chance on Gonzalez going out with a bang is a fairly safe bet..
Falcons Place Kicker Fantasy Options
Playing on a team expected to put a lot of points on the board, Falcons place kicker Matt Bryant was a bit of a disappointment during the NFL 2012 season. Bryant's good days were solid as he posted double digit scoring six times last season. It was the bad days that send up a red flag however, as Bryant scored seven or less points in nine contests.
That said, Bryant was a very solid 27 of 29 on field goals and he nailed all of his 45 point after attempts. We expect the Falcons will score even more than the 406 points they posted in 2011, making Bryant a solid starting PK as a result.
Much like several of the Baltimore Ravens players, the Super Bowl window is closing -- rather than opening -- for some of the Falcons. This team is built to win over the next couple of seasons and selecting their stars on Draft Day 2012 will help Fantasy Owners win as well.