The Falcons finished 7-10 in 2021 and were in the bottom third of the league in most defensive categories. They allowed 459 points, 29th in the league, and the rush defense was atrocious. They allowed over 2,200 yards on the ground and were last in sacks (18). On top of that, they were unable to keep their leading tackler from the season. Foyesade Oluokun took off in free agency, taking his 192 tackles to Jacksonville. Their leading pass rusher, Dante Fowler, is also gone.
The team attacked the offense primarily via the draft and added a few solid pieces for the defense. Free agency didn’t bring in much help either. The Falcons’ defense will be bad again, but there are a few IDP options.
Grady Jarrett, DT
If I have to mention anyone on the defensive line, it’s Jarrett, and he’s only a decent option in DT-required leagues. He’s always been a good source of tackles but hasn’t figured in to pass rushing in several years. Jarrett is a stalwart, good defensive tackle to anchor the middle, but realistically, not a great option for IDP.
Best of the Rest
This line is by far the worst in the NFL, and there are not any other viable options for IDP.
Deion Jones, ILB
The good thing with a bad defensive line is loads of tackling opportunities for linebackers. Jones is one of the most consistent middle backers in the NFL. He had 137 tackles, two sacks, six passes deflected, and gets all over the field. His numbers put him in LB2/3 territory, and he’s as steady of a starter as it gets. Jones is on the PUP list currently, and his exact return is not available yet.
Rashaan Evans, ILB
The departure of Oluokun opens up a bevy of tackling opportunities, and Evans could be the one to benefit most. Evans had 111 tackles for the Titans in 2019 and isn’t a stud LB but will be a solid source of tackles for IDP. He’s best in run defense but doesn’t give you much beyond that.
Troy Andersen, ILB – Rookie
The former Montana State linebacker is someone I really like long-term, but he is going to need some time. Andersen ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the combine, showcasing his speed. The speed and how much ground he can cover are impressive when watching his college tape. He played QB in college, too; Andersen is an athlete – but raw and will take some time to improve in tackling and coverage at the NFL level. Stash Andersen, I like his prospects, and the team may move on from Jones due to him being the highest-paid LB in the NFL.
Arnold Ebiketie, OLB – Rookie
Perhaps the best pass-rushing option the Falcons have is now the Penn State rookie. Ebiketie has a phenomenal bend and uses a variety of moves when rushing the QB. He uses his hands well and can convert speed to power in a snap, although his power is inconsistent when engaged. For IDP, Ebiketie is a hold, and I would take him later in rookie drafts. He’s going to hit a few QBs, but his run defense is suspect, and I don’t think he’s going to factor in for many tackles.
Best of the Rest
Mykal Walker is currently listed as the other ILB starter, but I don’t have many expectations for him in IDP. He may have some tackles, but he’s going to show his limitations and inconsistency if thrust into more action. Lorenzo Carter was signed to help the pass rush, but he’s not good enough to be more than just a depth piece for your IDP teams. He should factor in for around 50 tackles and a handful of sacks. Ade Ogundeji and rookie DeAngelo Malone could rotate in for more passing downs, but neither will be much help in IDP.
AJ Terrell, CB
A corner that can tackle is something you really want in CB-required leagues, and Terrell will get you those points. He had 81 tackles in 2021, and I expect the same in 2022. He had three picks and 16 passes defended to get you a few more points. Terrell is good depth even if your league doesn’t require you to start CBs.
Jaylinn Hawkins, SS
The former Cal product Hawkins is in his third season and is currently penciled in to be the starting strong safety. Usually, that’s the position we want in the secondary. But Hawkins isn’t inspiring to me and could end up as a liability. He loves to attack the line of scrimmage and had a strong nose for the ball in college – as far as forcing turnovers. Hawkins is worth an add if he finds his stride, but I’m not targeting him in IDP.
Richie Grant, FS
Grant is the other half of this young duo and, again, not someone I am aggressively targeting for IDP. He’s a bit smaller at 6’0” and 200 lbs., not a typical size for the safety you want in the box.
Best of the Rest
Erik Harris started in 2021 and had 64 tackles in 12 games; he would be on the field if the young duo is unable to play. He is a solid depth piece but not someone you want to start. I don’t care to roster any other secondary players from Atlanta.
There isn’t a whole lot to summarize, and the linebackers are the draw with Atlanta for IDP. Jones is one of “my guys,” but his cost and trade demands may land him with a new team. If they do, this Falcons defense will likely be the worst unit in the NFL. They may still be with him.
The good news is tackle opportunities for all – it’d be like Oprah out here throwing tackles to everyone who can get on the field. The Falcons will struggle to force turnovers, struggle to get to the QB, and allow points to opposing offenses in droves.
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