In NFL terms, the Falcons weren't a special defense a year ago. Only seven teams allowed more yards, and only five allowed more points. But the Falcons had a quality group in most fantasy scoring systems a year ago, and should in 2017, too.
In standard scoring (1 point for sacks, 2 for turnovers, 6 for all touchdowns), Atlanta had the league's 10th-ranked fantasy defense (after four straight years of finishing outside the top 20). They were top-1o in both fumble recoveries and touchdowns, and at least average in both sacks and total takeaways (16th). They should be a little better in both areas this year, and again finish as a top-1o fantasy defense.
Mostly it's because of the way they've drafted. Nine of their 11 starters this season will be players they've selected in the last four drafts, and three of those -- three of the best ones -- were taken last April.
Last year's picks -- first-round safety Keanu Neal, second-round linebacker Deion Jones and fourth-round linebacker DeVondre Campbell -- all impressed as rookies. Neal and Jones were selected to the 2016 All-Rookie Team. Altanta's first-round pick the previous season, Vic Beasley, led the league with 15.5 sacks. And 2013 first-rounder Desmond Trufant was having a strong season until getting hurt.
Just two projected defensive starters who aren't homegrown in 2017, and they're both former first-rounders, too. And who knows: 2017 first-round defensive end Takkarist McKinley should also be a factor in this defense; maybe he pushes to start right away.
Atlanta allowed 25 points per game last year, and they'll face a lot of good offenses (including probably three in their own division). But with their young talent, good chance they get those yards and points allowed numbers down this season.
In the table below, non-homegrown players are in italics.
|ATLANTA PROJECTED DEFENSIVE STARTERS|