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Falcons defense fantasy outlook: A unit with upside

A young, ballhawking defense could be a difference maker for your fantasy squad.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons-Training Camp Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons’ defense got pretty good toward the end of the 2016 season and into the postseason, and I don’t know many fans and analysts who aren’t bullish on their chances of getting even better in 2017.

If you’re in the average, standard fantasy league, you’re going to be searching for a competent defense to round out your team on a weekly basis. The question is whether the Falcons will be worth having as that defense, as they’ve so infrequently been in the past. Let’s tackle that question today.

2016 Production

Rank: 9th

Yes, you may be surprised to learn that the Falcons were a top ten fantasy defense last year. They held up solidly in terms of yardage allowed, but more importantly, they had a fair number of sacks and a lot of turnovers. They were well behind the Kansas City Chiefs, last year’s #1 defense, but they were worth having last year.

2017 Outlook

In most leagues, you’re wise to simply stream defenses, but could the Falcons be one of those rare units worth keeping around most or even all of the year in 2017? I think they will be, though they won’t be on the elite level of say the Chiefs or perhaps Rams.

The team’s relative weaknesses for a fantasy defense in 2016 were that they did surrender plenty of points and yardage, and they didn’t have a ton of sacks, though they did have a healthy number. With a better overall unit and some strides forward from second-year players, it’s well within the realm of possibility that the Falcons hit 38-40 sacks and wind up finishing top 15 or so in scoring and yardage allowed, they’ll just need to avoid plummeting the turnover total to be a very useful unit.

If you’re in the last round or two of your draft and searching for a defense, chances are the Falcons will still be there. I’d take the leap.