The Atlanta Falcons' run game will be a chief component of their 2014 fortunes. Steven Jackson looked every bit of his 30 years old last season (3.5 yards per run, four games missed due to a bum hamstring). Weak protection from the offensive line compounded the problem, even as Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers showed fleeting stability.
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The Falcons were weak running to the outside last year but have revamped the right side of their line with first-round OT Jake Matthews and the signing of OG Jon Asamoah. It's logical to think they could run more effectively in the traditional power direction with this tandem in tow.
But will it be S-Jax that reaps the benefits? Devonta Freeman, the Dirty Birds' selection in Round 3 of the 2014 Draft, stands out as the true handcuff and flashed some skills in OTAs. Rodgers merely will compete for third-down duties with Antone Smith. Freeman, a 5-foot-8, 206-pounder, isn't flashy or particularly speedy but runs sturdily and efficiently, thanks to excellent posture and clear vision. (A discount version of S-Jax in his prime, perhaps....)
Atlanta could use someone who doesn't dance and waste much yardage moving laterally. They yearn for someone to chew up yardage that will ease the pain of losing tight end Tony Gonzalez and his frequent chain-moving, dump-off passes.
Freeman deserves RB5 and even frequent RB4 stash attention for potential volume in the instance Jackson, a flex back who'll often perform as a second, hits the sidelines or loses favor. It's hard to count on Freeman early in the season if everyone is healthy, but this is a potential changing of the guard for the middle of the campaign.
If you can take S-Jax in Round 5 of a 12-teamer, that's a decent price to offset the risk. But joining him with Freeman later on is a must if you're placing faith in Jackson as your No. 2.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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