Atlanta was part of the greatest collapse in Super Bowl history in 2016. Heading into 2017, Atlanta was looking to bounce back. Matt Ryan and the offense was put under the control of new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. The hope was that the offense could take a step forward and the Falcons could return to the Super Bowl. The result was quite the opposite, however. The falcons never seemed to be completely comfortable in Sarkisian’s system, and they were eliminated in the divisional round of the playoffs by the Eagles. Heading into 2018, the Falcons look to reload and make another run at the title that eluded them.
Another year in the offensive system should help, as well as the addition and maturation of key offensive pieces. Let us now take a look at some of the lesser known pieces and see how they can help both the falcons and you in your fantasy leagues.
Unearthed series Atlanta Falcons 2018
by Dan Turner
RB Ito Smith
The Falcons used a fourth round pick on RB Ito Smith, out of the University of Southern Miss. many were surprised at the selection, as Smith had been pegged as a 7th round selection at best heading into the draft. He was deemed as a great fit for Steve Sarkisian’s offense, however, and the move was made to snatch him early. Smith was an offensive dynamo while at Southern Miss, racking up over 1000 yards rushing and 40 catches his last three years in school. He also was used in the kick return game.
Standing in front of Smith is an interesting situation. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are firmly entrenched. How will Smith get on the field and see snaps? A closer look will show that coleman is in the final year of his deal and will not be resigned. Starting next year, Smith could be a good flex play in PPR and one injury away from full RB duties in Atlanta. I suggest scooping him up this year if you have space in keeper or dynasty leagues, and pay attention in redraft, as he could be a priority addition if one of the two backs ahead of him get hurt.
WR Mohamed Sanu
You have to feel bad for Sanu. The past couple of years, he has posted solid numbers on his way to an average WR3 finish in fantasy. While not spectacular, he has been the model of consistency that has a good rapport with Matt Ryan. While not the most physically gifted player ever, he knows the offense and does a good job catching the ball. All of a sudden, the Falcons use a draft pick on Calvin Ridley, and Sanu was then regulated to the scrap heap.
There is no doubt the Ridley is the higher ceiling play, but Sanu is the high floor guy that no one ever takes that you can snag and might help you win a week or 2. While there is no way that he is seeing 96 targets again, I believe that he can snag about 70 targets this year as Ridley is acclimating to the NFL grind. Take advantage of the fact that people are completely ignoring him, and snag him late. Hell, he might even throw a TD pass or 2 to boost your scoring.
TE Austin Hooper
In an offense as prolific as Atlanta’s has been the past couple years, you would expect that the guy manning the starting TE position would be among the top points producers. In fact, that was exactly what happened when Tony Gonzalez started a couple years ago. Since his retirement, the TE for the Falcons has been a fantasy afterthought. Obviously, Hooper is nowhere near the talent that Gonzalez was, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a consistent producer. He set career highs last year in catches and yards, and is looking to build on that for 2018. People are understandably down on Hooper, as the addition of Calvin Ridley will most certainly take away some of his targets from last year.
If Hooper can make more out of his opportunities, and Ryan looks at him a bit more in the red zone, as he did this past week in the preseason, Hooper could end up surprising this year. Hooper was already in TE2 territory last year, and I believe that he can remain there as an upside play. If you are looking for a good backup, or can start 2 TEs on your roster, you can’t go wrong on Hooper. He will be largely ignored in most drafts, so you can snag him late.