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With the lockout over, camps and pre-season games finally under way all I can say is welcome back NFL. However, with the extended lockout came a free agent signing frenzy like never seen before. Many players have new homes, some in new positions, and some in new schemes. The breakdowns below will help to show who went where and how it will impact their fantasy value as well as who stayed put and what to expect from them too. In addition, many teams have new defensive coordinators and you can read about them in the 2011 Coaching Changes article. If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at email@example.com and you can also follow me on twitter @IDPSteve. Scoring system used for this article: solo tackle (2), assisted tackle (1), sack (3), forced or recovered fumble (3), interception (3) and pass defended (1).
Defensive Line: John Abraham is sort of the Ray Lewis/London Fletcher at DL. By that I mean he continues to defy the advances of age and just keeps producing. A couple of differences is that Lewis and Fletcher are usually top notch #1’s for their fantasy teams while Abraham is a solid #2, just like last year when he ranked 19th in scoring among DL. The other big difference is that you usually cannot draft Lewis or Fletcher at a value but Abraham on the other hand can usually be had at a very good value. This year should be no different, draft him in the DL3/4 range, and ride him to DL2 numbers. If for some reason he does not live up to expectations you still got solid depth. Opposite Abraham at the other starting DE spot is Ray Edwards who signed on with the club during free agency. Edwards will most likely be a value in drafts this year, just like Abraham, but not because of his age and rather due to his very poor year last year. I fully expect we see Edwards bounce back from his poor year last year to post at the very least DL2 numbers. Do not forget that just two years ago he was the #7 overall scoring DL. If you are in a DT mandatory league then Jonathan Babineaux should be on your radar. He ranked 31st among DTs in scoring last year but like most he was very inconsistent, if he can put it all together he could end up as a DL2 with some upside.
Linebacker: At linebacker the Falcons have another older veteran in Mike Peterson and while Peterson still has “NFL” value to the Falcons his time being fantasy relevant is now gone. The reason I bring up Peterson first is not because of a lack of fantasy value but because of how him still being around could continue to hurt the value of second year LB Sean Weatherspoon and veteran Stephan Nicholas. Weatherspoon played sparingly during the middle of the season, due to injury but he did get out of the gate in week 1 and 2 with a 17 PPG average. Weatherspoon still carries some luster from being a rookie that many were expecting good things from so he probably will not come at the best value but I do think he will put up LB2/3 type numbers this year. I do not expect to see Nicholas put up fantasy viable numbers on a consistent basis. Curtis Lofton is not flashy but he puts up solid numbers for fantasy owners. Last year he ranked 13th among LBs in fantasy scoring. It might be hard to believe that a guy like Lofton finished just outside the LB1 group, especially with where he was being drafted last year. I think we see Lofton in the top 15 again just make sure you do not reach to early for him but even if you did he has a very high floor, in that high LB2 area..
Defensive Back: While the Falcons have that, much older vet at both DL and LB they do not at DB. They did but with the departure of Eric Coleman in free agency, they are now looking at Dunta Robinson & Brent Grimes as their starting CBs again, with William Moore (SS) and Thomas DeCoud (FS) as their safeties. I see Moore as a very solid DB2 with plenty of upside this year.
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