This is the sixth installment of my ongoing series Fantasy Hot List, to discuss the players that are not necessarily at the absolute top of most draft boards but could conceivably provide outstanding value for your fantasy football squad.
Being named 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year comes with a lot of recognition, and you'd be hard pressed to find any NFL fan who wasn't greatly impressed by Matt Ryan's first season. His very first professional pass was simply a thing of beauty, a strike to receiver Michael Jenkins in stride en route to a 62-yard touchdown. He went on to lead the Falcons to the playoffs and was an alternate selection for the Pro Bowl.
Many Fantasy Football forecasts expect Matty Ice to still be available after the first nine or ten QBs have been taken. I like him higher than that for these reasons:
1. Atlanta is a playoff team from last year that could get better. Although they lost some key players especially on Defense, they added young talent through the draft and signed LB Mike Peterson. Head coach Mike Smith loved having Peterson while both were in Jacksonville. He is a veteran presence in the locker room and on the field which should benefit the team as a whole.
2. The first year is under Ryan's belt, so there is no learning curve this time around. I believe the coaching staff will let him air it out more. While the Falcons running game is a strength, Ryan can win games all by himself. His has a cannon of an arm, makes smart decisions and has great poise in the pocket.
3. Tony Gonzalez. Arguably the best pass catching TE in NFL history has joined a receiving corps already well stocked with young talent. Roddy White, who had his coming out party last year and was named to his first Pro Bowl, and Michael Jenkins have both developed a solid chemistry with Ryan. Another rookie from last season, Harry Douglas, is a player on the rise. The Falcons like to use Douglas in a variety of packages due to his quickness and I expect his workload to increase. Gonzo meanwhile has been a prime red zone target his entire career, and this year should be no different.
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