The Atlanta Falcons have struggled and been hit hard by injuries, but they're finally heading in the right direction with the news of Steven Jackson's return. While his return is a huge boost to his team, it also has a large impact on millions of fantasy teams around the world. His comeback will open up the entire offense and should be good for the passing attack.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Jackson plans on playing against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8.
Even if he doesn't make his return this week, his fantasy presence will be felt whenever he steps back on the gridiron and he'll be a solid RB2. Here's how his return affects the fantasy value of his teammates.
Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling: Stock Down
Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling shared the responsibility of filling in for Jackson, with Rodgers getting the larger share of the workload. We've only had one game where all three of them were active so the rotation is still unclear, but Jackson's return most probably makes them both expendable fantasy options.
Snelling may steal some goal-line carries, but his workload will go way down and he won't be worth a roster spot on your fantasy team.
On the other hand, you may want to hold on to Rodgers for a week or two to see whether the Falcons try to ease Jackson back and establish a shared workload. That probably won't be a long-term scenario, but it could give Rodgers some value in the next couple of weeks.
The problem for both running backs is that Steven Jackson is such an excellent all-around back. He is a strong runner near the goal line and he's also a very good receiver out of the backfield.
Moving forward, both Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling should be dropped from your team.
Matt Ryan: Stock Up
Through all the injuries (and there have been a ton), Matt Ryan has been phenomenal. Without Steven Jackson, the Falcons have had no semblance of a running game. They're ranked 30th in rushing—averaging 68.3 yards per game—and are last in the league with under 20 carries per game.
As a result, Matt Ryan is attempting over 40 passes per contest, and he's doing it against defenses that have no reason to respect the run.
They have to respect Steven Jackson.
The effects may not be noticeable in Week 8 while Jackson is still working his way back, but Ryan will have more success in the passing game because of Jackson's presence.
Getting Jackson back should give the offense some balance, and Matt Ryan will benefit greatly from that. The Falcons are still his team, so they're not going to move away from the pass significantly—Jackson's return just opens up the field for Ryan.
Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas: Stock Up
Lost in Jackson's return to the practice field was the fact that Roddy White was not practicing, according to ESPN.
Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White (hamstring/ankle) did not partake in practice Wednesday, Vaughn McClure of http://t.co/Xe1unFH0zP reports.— NFL Fantasy Football (@2013NFLfantasy) October 23, 2013
While White is out, Harry Douglas is an excellent fantasy option and a good WR2 option. Even when White comes back, Ryan likes to spread the ball around and there will still be plenty of targets to feed both of them and Tony Gonzalez.
Just like Jackson's return improves Matt Ryan's fantasy prospects, it will have a similar effect for the Falcons receivers.
Jackson will be a much more effective runner than Rodgers or Snelling have been in his absence. The new-found offensive balance will jump start the Falcons offense and they should go back to being a high-powered unit, even without Julio Jones.
The positive effects of Jackson's return to the passing offense may not be evident in Week 8, but his return bodes well for the fantasy output of the Falcons' passing attack.