Early 2016 Projections: The Atlanta Falcons
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Now that the draft is over we can starting doing some early 2016 fantasy football projections. Today: The Atlanta Falcons.

First things first, using our staff projection machine I set some baseline team-wide assumptions:

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I just went with the league median for average scoring margin as I don’t project the 2016 Falcons to be a particularly good or bad team. For pass tendency (how often they passed relative to expectations) and pace tendency (how many plays they executed relative to expectations) I just went with their 2015 numbers as not a whole lot has changed.

Next up, quarterback Matt Ryan:

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Ryan’s projection is primarily informed by setting a sack rate and interception rate, as well as projections for the various receivers. I set Ryan’s sack rate and interception rate to his career rates. The passing yardage would be the most of Ryan’s career, coming from the second highest total of pass attempts. But you can see his touchdown-to-interception ratio isn’t very good, which is primarily because of his receivers. Ryan hasn’t had a better than 2:1 TD:INT ratio in any of his last three seasons. Ryan is currently being drafted as the QB19 in best ball leagues, and this projection suggests that he is a bargain at that price. In more traditional redraft leagues, he may not be worth bothering with as he seems to have fairly low upside.

Onto the wide receivers:

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For Julio Jones yards per target and catch rate, I just went with his 2015 numbers. I adjusted his target market share down to 31.5 percent, which is less than his 2015 share of 33 percent while also being more than past shares of 28 and 29 percent. That’s to reflect that it’s hard to sustain a 33 percent target share, but there’s a still a lack of competition for targets, so it’s hard to see it decreasing too much. His overall PPR scoring is almost identical to 2015 though because I set his TD rate to his career rate, which results in about two more TDs than he had in 2015. Jones is still an incredibly safe pick at WR.

I set Mohamed Sanu’s target market share to the league median for a WR2. I believe Sanu is a below-average WR2 but he also has below-average competition for targets, so that seemed a reasonable compromise. For catch rate, yards per target, and TD rate, I averaged his 2015 season with Roddy White’s 2015 season. This projection would have made him WR51 on a per game basis last season. That may sound very conservative, but keep in mind that White was only the WR88 and Sanu himself was the WR108.

I set Justin Hardy as the WR3 but I don’t have very high expectations for him at all. I set his catch rate, yards per target, and target share to the medians for a WR3. I set his TD rate to the 25th percentile league-wide mark as Hardy is a smaller WR at 5-feet-10-inches and just 192 pounds.

The tight ends:

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Fun fact: Jacob Tamme has only had more than two TDs in a season once before. I just set all of his inputs to their 2015 levels.

A lot of people are bullish on Austin Hooper given his favorable landing spot in Atlanta, but it’s important to remember that rookie TEs rarely provide meaningful production. I set his catch rate and yards per target to league medians for TE2s. To get a sense of realistic target market share, I looked at recent rookie TEs like Clive Walford, Jesse James, Richard Rodgers, and Crockett Gillmore. That led me to believe a 6.75 percent target market share was reasonable. I set Hooper’s TD rate to the 75th percentile mark because I expect him to disproportionately play snaps when the team is in the red zone.

Running backs:

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You can quickly see where I stand on the “will Tevin Coleman supplant Devonta Freeman” question. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but I am certainly not projecting it to. As I’ve explained before, Coleman was miserable as a receiver as a rookie and only saw 23 total carries in games where Freeman was healthy after Freeman emerged as the lead back.

For their shares of the rushing attempts, I just went with the shares the two RBs had between Week 3 and Week 9 last season. That chunk of time was after Freeman had emerged as the lead back but before he got hurt against Indianapolis. Note that does include some games where Coleman was hurt, but that fact does not deflate Coleman’s usage or inflate Freeman’s usage.1 I set Freeman’s yards per rushing attempt to the league median and Coleman’s to his 2015 rate of 4.5 yards per attempt. I set Freeman’s rushing TD rate to the 75th percentile mark, as the Falcons don’t have many good red zone scoring options.

On the receiving end, I again went with the two RBs shares from Week 3 to Week 9. I set Freeman’s yards per target and catch rate to his 2015 numbers. I set Coleman’s to the league medians for a RB2.

This projection has Freeman scoring 22.4 PPR fantasy points per game. That’s more than the 21.4 FPPG  he had last season. But in a very real sense, that’s actually expecting a change for the worse. If you remove Week 1 (before he had emerged as the starter) and the game against Indianapolis where he got injured, Freeman averaged 23.8 FPPG last season. So this seems to be a reasonable estimate.

  1. The games where Coleman was hurt don’t show up in his own shares and Freeman’s share was actually higher from weeks 5-9 than weeks 3-9.  (back)
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