Are the 2020 Atlanta Falcons poised to have four players with a top-10 fantasy finish?

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The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the eventual start of the 2020 draft season. Here, we’ll tackle pressing fantasy questions, #FantasyHotTaeks, and team win totals. Next up, the Atlanta Falcons.

Can Calvin Ridley be a top-15 WR with Julio Jones ahead of him in the pecking order?

Scott: Absolutely. The Falcons have the most vacated targets in the league and a defense that could force regular shootouts. Ridley is also entering his third season, which used to be the targeted breakout year. We prefer our young wideouts to come to the league ready to go, and Ridley did, but he looks like a destination player in 2020. A proven veteran quarterback and some indoor dome cooking, those are also good things.

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Liz: YUP. Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper’s respective exits have undeniably elevated Ridley’s profile and subsequent opportunities. That trend started as early as Week 8 last year, with his targets increasing by nearly 10 percent after Sanu was traded to New England. Hooper’s departure frees up another 95+ looks. A player with Ridley’s draft pedigree, technical ability, and nose for the end zone (top-15 in back-to-back seasons) figures to ascend. 

Matt: Based on the receiver work I do with Reception Perception, we should completely expect a breakout season from Ridley. He has the talent and is a devastating route-runner. With Sanu and Hooper replaced by lesser players for 2020, Ridley is ready to step into a 1B role alongside Julio Jones. Make no mistake, he’s that kind of player. The Falcons offense should be throwing often this season given the subpar defense they’re saddled with. There’s more than enough to go around for Jones to still pay-off his top-five wide receiver ADP and have Ridley finish as a high-end WR2.

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Does volume and a fresh start change the Todd Gurley narrative, or are you fading at any cost?

Matt: Remove the name on the back of the jersey. “Falcons starting running back” is a great fantasy asset. The player should have little to no competition for touches, as no tangible competition was brought in via the draft. The player should have a passing game role. The player will find himself attached to a proven quarterback who should be at the controls of a high-octane offense. That is exactly what you want in fantasy back.

The problem is, you can’t take the name off the back of the jersey. This is Todd Gurley. Risk comes with this territory. If you want to be risk-tolerant and select Gurley, you need to just insulate the rest of your roster from that trouble. I personally wouldn’t take him as anything more than an RB3 in a running back-heavy start.

Scott: Unless the price is dirt cheap, I’ll sit this one out. Very early in a running back’s career, it can be too late. Gurley doesn’t turn 26 until August, but his body has been through a car wash of injuries and mileage. For my sure-thing starter running backs, I want someone with a neutral or up-facing arrow. Gurley’s obviously headed in the wrong direction.

Liz: BUYING. I’m definitely a sucker for an underdog … but is Gurley really a longshot to replicate what he did in 2019 (1,064 total yards and 14 TDs) and thus finish just inside of the top-15 fantasy RBs? He could absolutely be washed. Heck, his own OC doesn’t know the condition of his knees. But he is also a player with a known body of work, who is attached to a potent offense, and figures to work as the team’s undisputed RB1.

The options provided by the running back landscape are far from bountiful. Rather than holding on to strong absolutes about players being “washed” and therefore needing to fade them “at all costs” I’d rather lean into volume and value. Right now Gurley is coming off the board at the end of the seventh round, which is where guys like Sony Michel and Ronald Jones are also being selected. Y’all can keep your #burnt takes and I’ll draft the RB likely to see at least 15 touches per contest.

Is Hayden Hurst 2019’s version of Austin Hooper — a tight end going after pick-100 with top-10 upside?

Scott: In a normal preseason, I’d likely say yes. But in the Year of Continuity, I’ll remain agnostic. I see the case for Hurst, but he’s a neither proactive or reactive pick for me. Blake Jarwin, Mike Gesicki, and Jonnu Smith are all cheaper than Hurst in current Yahoo ADP if you’re eager for a tight-end lottery ticket.

Matt: The upside for a top-10 finish is certainly there. The target volume will be there and Hurst flashed some ability during his time in Baltimore. He was just outshined by and made expendable due to the presence of a better player in Mark Andrews. I’d rank Hurst much lower than top-10. However, the back-half of the TE1 ranks are murky enough that Hurst could sneak in there. He makes for a fine dart throw, but not likely a priority target. 

[2020 Draft Rankings: Overall | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DST | Kickers]

Liz: Hurst has all of the tools necessary to fill the void left by Hooper. That’s why the Falcons traded for him. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to immediately ROI … not in an offseason with so many obstacles. If Hurst’s ADP were to stay static (which is highly unlikely after being pummeled by high-quality but still intensely optimistic offseason pieces) then I’d warm to the idea of drafting him. Assuming it starts to climb throughout the summer, however, I’d feel better about nabbing breakout candidates like Mike Gesicki or Jonnu Smith, whose respective stocks are similarly priced and offer seemingly less risk.

Atlanta Falcons projected 2020 lineup.
Atlanta Falcons projected 2020 lineup.

#FantasyHotTaek

Matt: Atlanta is a tough team to have a true hot take for because their players are pretty straight-forward. Still, the Falcons will have four players finish within the top-10 of their positional scoring. The passing game is good enough to be productive enough to support a high-end QB1 finish from Matt Ryan, an elite WR1 season from Julio Jones, and a low-end WR1 breakout for Calvin Ridley. And I’ll take the cop-out and say either Todd Gurley or Hayden Hurst scores enough touchdowns to sneak into their respective top-10’s.

OVER/UNDER on 7.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Scott: If there’s reason for Atlanta optimism, I’ve completely missed it. The division looks nasty — the Saints might be the NFC’s most complete team, Tampa obviously looks improved, and Carolina likely can’t be worse than 2019. The other games are no bargain, either; the Falcons face the toughest schedule in the league. Atlanta returns a defense that was below average last year, and even offensive stalwarts Matt Ryan and Julio Jones might be an eyelash past their peak. I can only go UNDER on the Falcons.

Follow Matt: @MattHarmon_BYB

Follow Scott: @scott_pianowski

Follow Liz: @LizLoza_FF

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