As per last year, I’ll be sharing projections for every team in the NFL. I use past production in specific roles for each team’s scheme to work out realistic production profiles. You can see how accurate I was in 2017 in my IDP Projection Marking series.
The Falcons have an extremely settled defense now. They added some fantastic talent to it between 2015-2017 and Dan Quinn has put together a fast, aggressive unit. He’s a prime Pete Carroll over/under 4-3 front and Cover 1/Cover 3 disciple so the roles are very clearly defined on the team.
2017 was predictably a big step down for the whole team from the spectacular 2016 nearly season but the Falcons still have a group of very good players. I expect them to be impressive.
Grady Jarrett is a big name in the NFL and played pretty well in 2017. But he’s not one of those players who can realistically hope to rack up serious interior pressure. He finished 15th amongst interior defenders last season but required high volume to do that. He actually only recorded pressure on 8.3% of his pass rush snaps, which is low. He’s ranked 16th.
I expect Senat to play quite a lot as a rookie but it’s not a productive role. He’s currently ranked 34th amongst tackles.
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Vic Beasley is officially moving back to end this season. That’ll help him of course but it’s also unrealistic to think he can put up another 15-sack season like he managed back in 2016. Double digits is within reach though, which would make him a top ten pass rusher. The issue here is tackle numbers. A top DE needs to be looking at 40 or more solos. The low number there drops Beasley down to DE3 numbers.
Takkarist McKinley looks like a disappointment here. I actually really like him as a player – but he’ll need a lot more playing time to put together a good season. He’s a player I like as depth but don’t want to rely on as a starter.
If you read the DE section and wondered “why are the tackles so low?” this is the answer. Deion Jones going to suck them up and is very likely to be a top ten LB as a result. He’s the poster child for modern NFL linebackers and is a top IDP asset.
After Jones, De’Vondre Campbell was an excellent option last season whilst Duke Riley struggled a little in his limited opportunities. I expect the same hierarchy in 208 but the two of them to share playing time a little bit more.
Cornerback is a nightmare to predict but the situation in Atlanta actually looks relatively clear (there’s a statement that will come back to bite me!).
Alford and Trufant should both be locked in as starters but are unlikely to be IDP stars. The problem being they’re both quite good at real football which will limit their tackle production. Elite corners need to have at least 55 solos and preferably 60 or over. That’s not going to happen in Atlanta.
Brian Poole is off the radar for me. I just don’t expect him to be on the field enough to compile the necessary statistics
Keanu Neal is a red-hot prospect going into his third season. He has 153 solo tackles through his first two seasons which is firmly top-tier production. He tackles like a missile and although he’s stayed healthy so far, at some point he’s going to get hurt – but that’s true for every IDP. He’s sitting as the number two ranked safety here.
Ricardo Allen is the free safety in Atlanta. He put up good IDP seasons in 2015 and 2016 but with the play-makers in front of him (primarily Jones and Neal), he’s not needed to do as much as he was. I expect him to be a fourth-tier player and unstartable in most leagues.
I can’t look past Keanu Neal here. He’s demonstrated his production levels in the past, his style is fantastically suited to individual success, and he has no threats to playing time around him. He’s locked in as an elite option. However he is a safety, so take that with a pinch of salt, as it’s generally not that valuable a position in IDP. I certainly don’t advocate going out and paying high prices to obtain him. But if you’re lucky enough to own Neal, he’s going to be good for you.
Vic Beasley. I see a so-so pass rusher who happened to have one excellent season. Yes, he led the league in sacks in that season but his total of 15.5 was the joint-lowest leader total since 1994. On top of that, he compiled them because he had a ridiculously high sack:pressure ratio. Now that’s to his credit – he did convert those opportunities and he did record the sacks. But it’s not very repeatable as he showed in 2017.
I think he’ll be unimpressive in 2018. If I owned any shares at all, I’d be selling on name value and position-change hype now.
Takk McKinley. I’ve given him pedestrian numbers here, but I really like him as a player. I thought he was probably the best rookie DE in 2017 and he could easily step up a level. Him producing better than Vic Beasley is entirely possible.
I’m not confident enough in him to think that a top-20 season is that strong a possibility but he certainly has the opportunity to improve greatly on his ranking here.
This is an impressive group of players. Deion Jones and Keanu Neal are elite IDPs. De’Vondre Campbell, Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley and Grady Jarrett are all valuable too. The team will live and die based on how efficient the pass rushers can be so that’s the biggest issue facing them for me.
Thanks for reading.