Similar to the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons’ Super Bowl hangover still lingers. The team finally showed signs of growing offensively in the post-Shanahan era, but the pass-heavy offense of 2018 was a result of circumstance rather than choice. The Falcons offensive line was downright terrible and Devonta Freeman missed most of the season. Heading into the 2019 season, the offensive line has experienced a complete makeover and Freeman is healthy. Will the offense again return to a more balanced force?

Team Preview

Key Departures:

Telvin Coleman, RB From a wins and losses perspective, Tevin Coleman’s decision to sign with the 49ers hurts the Falcons. From a fantasy perspective, it makes life easier. The two-headed monster of Tevin Coleman and DeVonta Freeman often rendered both unplayable. A Falcons backfield solely piloted by a healthy Devonta Freeman should mark his return as a 1,000-yard rusher and a 50-plus reception dual-threat back.

Key Acquisitions:

Chris Lindstrom, OL; Kaleb McGary, OL; James Carpenter, OL; Jamon Brown, OL The Falcons front office were clearly groomed for their positions by Madden Franchise Mode. The tried and true approach to building a dynasty is to invest heavily in the offensive line via the draft and free agency. That is exactly what the Falcons did in the offseason. They drafted offensive linemen Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary in the first round, but they did not stop there. Through free agency, the Falcons brought on four additional offensive linemen (thank you, Matt Ryan, for taking a pay cut), two of which, James Carpenter and Jamon Brown, are expected to compete for starting positions. Obviously, offensive line play was an issue last season for the Falcons, and these additions should improve the fantasy production across the board.

2019 Fantasy MVP

Matt Ryan, QB

Statistically, Ryan had the greatest season of his career in 2018. He was just shy of 5,000 yards passing and tossed a career-high 35 touchdown passes. Much of this was due to a bad defense (31st) and a rushing attack that ranked 22nd. Still, the numbers say that he’s still got it, and he achieved the numbers behind a weak offensive line. The real change moving forward is the offensive gameplan. During Matt Ryan’s previous career-high watermark, Kyle Shanahan called the plays and Julio Jones was targeted an inconceivable 203 times. After a significant decline in target in 2016 and 2017, the Falcons returned to the simple plan of forcing the ball to Julio (170 targets). Matt and Julio are going to play catch, and they dare anyone to try and stop them.

2019 Fantasy LVP

Mohamed Sanu, WR

The Falcons attempted to trade Sanu before the draft but were unable to obtain a suitable return. It does not appear that Sanu will be a big part of this team moving forward. Sanu will definitely help the Falcons win games, but he will not be a significant source of offensive production. The emergence of Calvin Ridley has all but eliminated Sanu’s fantasy prospects. Sanu will remain a quality receiver, but it is unlikely that he will replicate his typical 60 reception and 700-yard season while playing for the Falcons.

2019 Breakout Player

Calvin Ridley, WR

The argument against Ridley is that his 2018 stat line is heavily influenced by several big games. That’s a fair criticism, but Ridley was a rookie playing beside Jones and his 170 targets. If the critics expected a Randy Moss type of rookie season, then they’re right, he’s not Randy Moss. Ridley’s 64 receptions, 821 yards and 10 touchdowns still goes into the stat book the same regardless of how he achieved those numbers. He earned every one of those stats, and in his second season, he’ll likely replicate, if not improve those numbers. The lofty touchdown mark seems untenable in 2019, but this is a Falcons team that is allergic to throwing the football to Jones in the red zone. In year two, Ridley’s rapport with Ryan should improve along with his familiarity with the offense, and he stands to gain from the possibility of a diminished role for Sanu.

Final Thoughts:

The Falcons had an explosive offense in 2018 (sixth in yards per game and ninth in points per game), and that should not change in 2019. Ryan and Jones showed no signs of slowing down last season. Freeman will be back and Ridley should continue to improve throughout the season. Although the Falcons invested in improving the offensive line, it may take time for this unit to gel. That being said, the Falcons were a top offense last season with a below average offensive line.

Be sure to check out the rest of our team previews for the NFC South:
New Orleans Saints
Carolina Panthers
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers, July 4

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