Taylor Gabriel joined the Falcons midway through the season and proved to be an insane asset for them, showing the kind of speed and gamebreaking ability the Falcons’ offense needed to go from elite to super elite.
He wasn’t the best fantasy asset around a year ago, but he was still an incredibly useful pickup for most teams, and no one doubts his real world value. For all that, and considering he’ll have a full season to wreak havoc this year, you’d think most would be bullish on a productive year from Gabriel.
Not everyone is, though, with one outlet singling Gabriel out as the player to avoid in fantasy from our beloved Atlanta Falcons. Here’s the relevant article from numberFire, plus their reasoning.
Unless you're expecting a historical outlier to happen again, Atlanta's offense won't be as good this season, and a smaller pie means a smaller slice for Gabriel.
Gabriel is due for some regression of his own, too. Last season, he caught 6 touchdowns on just 50 total targets (a 12 percent touchdown rate), but prior to that, he had scored just once on his previous 120 targets.
That 12 percent rate is unsustainable over the long haul. Among all receivers with more than 30 targets, Gabriel had the second-best touchdown rate in 2016. Do we think he's the second best touchdown-scorer in the league? No, we don't.
It’s a dour outlook, but it’s not entirely off-base. Gabriel still needs to compete for targets with Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Austin Hooper, Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, and while the team would be smart to make sure he gets plenty of looks, he may legitimately not score at the same clip this year. While the departures of Aldrick Robinson and Jacob Tamme free up some targets, it’s not hard to imagine Julio getting more targets again this year, and rising second year tight end Hooper soaking up a lot more. Gabriel should be in line for some level of increased production, I’d argue, but he’s the #3 receiver in this offense. You weren’t going to take him that early, anyways.
Gabriel will be a great weapon again in 2017. The question here is whether he will be in fantasy, and the smart move is to scoop him up late if you can.