Falcons Fantasy News

Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 1:50am

Atlanta Journal Constitution - [Full Article]

Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who left the field clutching onto wide receiver Julio Jones, ruptured his Achilles tendon Tuesday while working out with the training staff.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 5:18pm

Atlanta Falcons - [Full Article]

Meeting and film rooms have brought Falcons QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones together as they scour hours of game and practice film, look over and study the playbook, and work to understand and rediscover each other's on-field tendencies.

"Julio's been in this building pretty much every day this offseason and, while he hasn't been able to be out on the practice field with us yet, we've communicated a lot," Ryan said Tuesday. "We've talked a lot — certainly, (we) have watched film together and tried to work on things in the classroom so that, when we do get the opportunity to be out on the field, we can hit the ground running."

That time inside Falcons headquarters, Ryan said, is what leads him to think that any rhythm that's been lost by being off the same field for nearly a year will quickly return once Jones returns to practice.

"I certainly think, when he gets back, whenever that is, as we get closer to training camp, we're going to have plenty of time to gel up and make sure that we're on the same page," Ryan said.

Smith: Antone Smith has earned an 'expanded role'

Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 4:06pm

Atlanta Falcons - [Full Article]

Asked about the running back position, Falcons HC Mike Smith mentioned that Josh Vaughn — a former practice squad back who made the 53-man roster last season — and Antone Smith as players who have caught his eye. Mike Smith specifically said that Antone Smith has earned an "expanded role" this offseason. "When Antone had opportunities last year, he made the most of them and we want to give them opportunities moving forward," Mike Smith said. Antone Smith carried the ball five times in 2013 for 145 yards and two touchdowns with a 29-yards-per-carry average. Ryan also mentioned Antone Smith as doing a great job for the Falcons in OTAs.

Fantasy Impact:
Smith is competing with Devonta Freeman for carries behind Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers. Smith was impressive in 2013.

Julio Jones targeting a Week 1 return

Monday, June 9, 2014, 7:32pm

NFL.com - [Full Article]

Although Falcons WR Julio Jones has been ahead of schedule in his recovery, he only recently graduated to running and cutting.

He will not participate in mandatory minicamp next week. In fact, Jones told USA Today's Lindsay Jones on Monday that his goal is to be back on the field by Week 1.

"It is a serious injury, and knowing that I broke the same bone in a different spot over the course of two years," Jones said. "So it's a very serious matter, and we're not trying to play with it.

"We're taking all the precautions before throwing me back out there and just saying, 'He's ready to go,'" the wide receiver continued. "I feel great, I feel good, but at the same time, we have to take it slow because the season is still far away."

Fantasy Impact:
It's a bit concerning that Jones is targeting Week 1 since a setback might cause him to miss regular season games. Jones was on pace for 131-1856-6.4 prior to his foot injury in Week 5. He has the potential to be the most productive receiver in the league, but the foot injury is a worry, especially since it’s a broken bone in the same location as his pre-Draft injury. If he plays a full season, he’ll very likely finish in the top 5.

Falcons hope offensive line is improved

Monday, June 9, 2014, 11:43am

USA Today - [Full Article]

On the topic of the Falcons' offensive line...

How bad was this group? The Falcons used their first-round draft pick here and hired a new coach just to address the unit's poor play. Atlanta hopes rookie tackle Jake Matthews and new position coach Mike Tice, a former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, can fix a porous line that helped limit the Falcons to a league-worst 77 yards a game on the ground last year. They also signed guard Jon Asamoah from the Kansas City Chiefs to add toughness. Baker's health is the key here; if he can hold down the left side, Matthews can adjust to the NFL on the right side, where he figures to be above average from the start.

Fantasy Impact:
The upgrades along the line will go a long way to determining what type of season Steven Jackson has. Jackson pulled his hamstring last season, which was just one of the many injuries that plagued the Falcons in 2013. However, his FP/touch of 0.607 was not far off his career average of 0.617 prior to arriving in Atlanta. So while he was on the field, Jackson was pretty much himself. He’s no longer a 1st/2nd round pick, but with his ADP down in the 6th/7th round, he’s shaping up to be a good value as the clear RB1 for the Falcons.

Titans likely to utilize shotgun formation

Friday, June 6, 2014, 2:10pm

The Tennesseean - [Full Article]

Don't be surprised to see the Titans make more extensive use of the shotgun formation this season – based on Ken Whisenhunt's recent track record and Jake Locker's success out of the formation in 2013.

When Whisenhunt was offensive coordinator for the Chargers last year, quarterback Philip Rivers threw 499 passes out of the shotgun, the fourth-highest figure in the league behind Peyton Manning (566), Matt Stafford (541) and Matt Ryan (504).

In 2013, Locker connected on 88-of-138 attempts while in the shotgun (63.8 percent), totaling 964 passing yards, seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. His 95.2 passer rating while in the shotgun was the eighth-best figure in the league, just three notches below that of Rivers.

Fantasy Impact:
Locker has averaged 15.1 FP in 16 career starts. That extrapolates to 241 points over a 16-game season, or about what Ryan Tannehill scored as the #16 QB in 2013. Health has been his biggest problem, but if he can stay upright, he could grow in Ken Whisenhunt’s offense.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 6:19pm

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - [Full Article]

Running back Devonta Freeman, a fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State, was back at practice after missing last week to attend a mandatory rookie symposium in California. Mike Smith on Freeman: “He’s doing a nice job. He’s got great vision, he’s got great stop-and-start ability. The big thing that he needs to work on is the ability to work in pass protection because we ask our backs to do a lot.”

Fantasy Impact:
Pass protection is key for rookie running backs. The faster Freeman can catch on the better off he'll be. We're expecting Freeman to learn behind Steven Jackson for at least one season.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 6:17pm

Atlanta Falcons - [Full Article]

TE Mickey Shuler, a member of the practice squad last season, ran some plays with the first-team offense as the Falcons worked on their running game. With the retirement of Tony Gonzalez, a prolific pass-catcher, the Falcons will more often line up their tight ends tight to the formation as blockers. “We have got to create a position that plays to their strengths and they are different than Tony Gonzalez,” Smith said. “Levine Toilolo is more of a ‘Y’ (inline) tight end that has some ability to play some ‘F’ (spread). Mickey is a tough guy who was on our practice squad last year and he’s getting an opportunity to play. We added Bear Pascoe he’s got a lot of starts underneath his belt.”

Fantasy Impact:
Don't expect Toilolo (or any other Falcons TE) to step into the pass-catching role vacated by Tony Gonzalez.

Julio Jones (foot) cutting at practice

Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 2:18pm

Vaughn McClure, Twitter - [Full Article]

Falcons WR Julio Jones did some cutting on the field today. Great sign.

Fantasy Impact:
Jones was on pace for 131-1856-6.4 prior to his foot injury in Week 5. He has the potential to be the most productive receiver in the league, but the foot injury is a bit concerning, especially since it’s a broken bone in the same location as his pre-Draft injury. If he plays a full season, he’ll very likely finish in the top 5.

Falcons 'cautiously optimistic' about Julio Jones

Monday, June 2, 2014, 10:56am

ESPN - [Full Article]

Falcons wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie is cautiously optimistic about Julio Jones' return, although not seeing the receiver do any type of on-field work at this point would appear to be a cause for concern.

"The day I can see him come out and just run and practice at full speed, practice all day and get up the next day and practice again, certainly then I'm going to feel he's back,'' Robiskie said. "I think every day, we'll be out there with him with caution. We'll be watching him a little bit kind of standing on pins and needles. I think if he jumps in the air to catch the ball, if he jumps on top of some [defensive back] and some DB is under him, you're nervous.

"But again, I don't know if it's necessarily that I'm nervous that Julio is jumping in the air catching the ball. You're just nervous when one of your guys is jumping up to catch the ball. ... You're nervous about two guys and their feet getting tangled up. You're nervous about their knees getting [knocked].''

Fantasy Impact:
Jones was on pace for 131-1856-6.4 prior to his foot injury in Week 5. He has the potential to be the most productive receiver in the league, but the foot injury is a bit concerning, especially since it’s a broken bone in the same location as his pre-Draft injury. If he plays a full season, he’ll very likely finish in the top 5.

Devonta Freeman turning heads at Falcons minicamp

Monday, May 19, 2014, 11:15am

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - [Full Article]

Falcons beat writer D. Orlando Ledbetter: Running back Devonta Freeman is a keeper. He caught the ball with his hands and showed a great burst of speed. “Devonta is a fast and quick guy,” HC Mike Smith said. “He has very good vision and he’s able to stick his foot in the ground and transition into a different direction.”

Fantasy Impact:
Freeman will compete with Jaquizz Rodgers for snaps behind Steven Jackson, and could graduate to a larger role if Jackson doesn't bounce back from a supbar season in 2013.

Julio Jones won't participate in OTAs/minicamp

Sunday, May 18, 2014, 10:27pm

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - [Full Article]

Falcons HC Mike Smith said Juio Jones (foot) wouldn't be “doing a whole lot” in the offseason conditioning program or the full-team minicamp scheduled to begin later this month.

“Our focus is strictly on getting [Jones] ready to go for training camp” in late July, Smith said.

Jones suffered an injury to his left foot in Week 5 last season and missed the rest of the season after undergoing surgery. Jones also had surgery in March 2011 to insert a screw in the foot to repair a stress fracture.

Fantasy Impact:
Jones finished #17 among WRs as a rookie and #9 as a sophomore before injuring his foot in his third season. Through five games, he was on pace for 131 catches for 1,856 yards. He has top 5 potential if he's fully healthy.

Thursday, May 15, 2014, 1:32pm

ESPN - [Full Article]

The Bills traded up to select Sammy Watkins fourth overall last week, but Football Outsiders assistant editor Scott Kacsmar believes Watkins' success at the college level may not translate to the NFL.

Here's what Kacsmar writes on Watkins:

"To spend a top-five pick (and then some) on a wide receiver, he'd better be a special player. Watkins is not the type of athletic freak like Calvin Johnson capable of catching a jump ball in triple coverage, but who is? Watkins is not as polished with his route running or sure-handedness as Torry Holt or Larry Fitzgerald. Watkins is not an all-around threat like A.J. Green and Julio Jones. Those are most of the receivers who were worth a top pick."

Watkins gained 71.3 percent of his receiving yards after the catch at Clemson, numbers that Kascmar says compare to receivers like Tavon Austin or Percy Harvin -- talented in the short game and after the catch, but not necessarily big-play threats.

Fantasy Impact:
Watkins is a talented receiver, but he's no Calvin Johnson. He's joining a run-heavy offense with E.J. Manuel as his quarterback, so we're not terribly bullish on his potential production in 2014. He's currently going in the 6th round, which is a high price to pay for an unproven receiver in a run-first offense.

Falcons won't utilize a 'move' TE in 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014, 3:12pm

The Atlanta Journal Constitution - [Full Article]

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said there weren’t many "move" tight ends in the draft, and the Falcons will use more of a traditional player at the position. The transition fits with the team’s desire to be more physical on the line of scrimmage.

“There’ll be a change in the type of tight end we’ll have on our roster,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We’ll have a ‘Y’ tight end, where he’ll be an inline player (lined up tight to the formation). They won’t be moving around nearly as much as what we call a ‘F.’ Tony Gonzalez was more of a ‘F’ tight end than a ‘Y’ tight end.”

Levine Toilolo, one of the Falcons’ third-round draft picks in 2013, is the presumed starter at tight end for 2014. He played in all 16 games as a rookie (198 snaps) and had 11 catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns.

Fantasy Impact:
Toilolo is an interesting sleeper at TE, though anyone expecting him to step into Gonzo's role will be disappointed. Harry Douglas figures to be used heavily in the slot, but he's not going to get the same workload that he saw last season with Julio Jones out and Roddy White gimpy.

Julio Jones to be limited in early workouts

Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 4:06pm

ESPN - [Full Article]

Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith said Julio Jones' participation in offseason workouts will be limited as the team continues to monitor the wide receiver's status coming off foot surgery.

"Julio is participating with our athletic performance department,'' Smith said Tuesday. "He will be able to get out on the field and do some walkthrough stuff with us when we start going. Our focus on Julio is one thing, and that's having him prepared for our opener. ... He's progressing well. We're not going to do anything to hinder his timeframe in terms of getting back to work with us."

Jones injured his foot in Week 5 of last season and missed the remainder of the 2013 campaign. Smith previously said Jones was ahead of schedule in his recovery, but the coach never put a timetable on when Jones would start running routes again.

Fantasy Impact:
Jones has the potential to be one of the most productive receivers in the league, but the foot injury is a bit concerning, especially since it’s a broken bone in the same location as his pre-Draft injury. If he plays a full season, he’ll very likely finish in the top 5. He's currently the #6 WR off the board in the early 2nd round.