Every year there are many coaching changes in the NFL. It does not have to be a Head Coach for it to make a difference; it can also be a coordinator or position coach that can have an influence on how the game is played. Many times a change can also happen out of necessity, as is the case in Atlanta this year. Atlanta has been the host of a playoff game the past two years and has lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions both years. This year Atlanta has a new offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter and he is instituting more of a no-huddle type of offense. I will go through and look at what it means for the key players on offense.
There is no denying that Matt Ryan had a great season last year. He threw for 4,177 yards and 29 touchdowns while achieving top 7 fantasy quarterback status. Matt has always looked comfortable in the no-huddle offense and has stated that he prefers to run the offense in this manner. A comfortable and confident quarterback can be a very good thing. He has great tools around him in Roddy White , Julio Jones , & Tony Gonzalez to spread the ball around and they all have a specific area of strength to combat any type of defensive alignment. New OC Dirk Koetter has also stated that the Falcons will try and preserve Michael Turner a little and run more screen passes. That means that Jacquizz Rodgers will be on the field more. If the Falcons do indeed run the no-huddle offense more, expect career high marks for Matt Ryan.
It is evident that Michael Turner wore down at the end of last year when he averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in 5 of the final 6 games last season. Turner has always had a huge workload in Atlanta and has gone over 300 carries in 3 of the past 4 seasons. Turner also turned 30 this year, the normal age that running backs start to break down. Atlanta will try and keep Turner fresher and healthier this year by running him less and using more screen passes; that will take Turner off the field. The Falcons have hopes of at least one home playoff games (maybe more), and will want to use Turner more in those games. Expect a drop in carries and yards from Turner.
Because the Falcons have used Michael Turner so much, Jacquizz Rodgers has not been used a great deal. That will most certainly change this year with the promise of a no-huddle offense and more screen passes. Rodgers has a smallish frame, but his quickness and ball receiving skills have always showed great promise. In the no-huddle offense he can run the ball more or go out on swing or screen passes. In the open field he can be very dangerous. Can he become this year's Darren Sproles?? Remember, just like the Saints, the Falcons have weapons all over the field. If he can get into space ala Sproles, I can see a huge year for Rodgers.
Quick, name the only wide receiver that has been in the top 7 in fantasy scoring in each of the past 4 years?? That's right, it is Roddy White. All he did last year was be 1st in the NFL in targets with 179 and 2nd in catches with 100. He also has averaged just under 10 touchdowns a year and over 1,200 yards. Now picture what he might do in an offense that will pass the ball more. The numbers can be down right scary. White has the hand strength to fight off tough defenders and still catch the ball in tight spots and is the trusted favorite target of Matt Ryan. Roddy should once again be targeted often again this year and should also be found near the top of the wide receivers in fantasy points.
The Falcons found their partner for Roddy White in the passing game last year when they moved up in the NFL Draft to select Julio Jones. He posted a very solid 54 catches for 959 yards and 8 touchdowns in his rookie campaign. In fact, he even missed 4 games. Did you know that Julio Jones averaged more yards, touchdowns, and fantasy points per game then Roddy White did?? It is true, look it up. Now picture what he can do in a no-huddle offense if he can stay healthy all year. The Falcons love his game-breaking ability and will try and find a way to get him the ball often. Expect his numbers to rival Roddy White and to be a #1 wide receiver in fantasy.
Not bad for a guy who seems to be 100. Tony finished as the #3 tight end in fantasy at the age of 35 with 80 catches for 875 yards and 7 touchdowns. He has not lost much in his 13 years and has only missed 3 games in his career. There is no denying his great hands and work ethic. He just goes out every year and proves everyone wrong. He is also a reliable target in the middle of the field that Matt Ryan can trust. Tony is also very good at spotting weak spots in the zone that is a very good thing for Ryan. Tony still has some left in the tank folks!!
The Falcons' weak spot on offense last season was the offensive line. Atlanta tried to improve that through the NFL draft by taking offensive lineman with their first 2 picks and then selecting a blocking fullback with their 3rd pick. That should mean better protection for Ryan. I think they are gearing up to throw the ball often this year and it looks like they have many players who deserve to be on your radar when you have your fantasy drafts.