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The Sneaky Falcons Receiver No One Is Talking About


ChessPlayer1
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The Atlanta Falcons have an excellent (often underrated) quarterback in Matt Ryan, and one of the leagues top receivers in Juilo Jones, and those are the two players most often considered when looking at the teams fantasy football options. However, due to the offenses talents, the questions at running back, and lack of a dominant tight end, this offense can easily facilitate a second excellent fantasy wide-receiver option. 2015 may be the year that Leonard Hankerson finally emerges as a star player, not only for the Falcons, but for fantasy owners as well.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is coming off of his fourth straight season with at least 4,000 yards passing, his fifth straight season with over 25 touchdowns, and has a career average of 256 yards per game. New Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has never coached a quarterback with the passing ability that Ryan has, but has successfully coached less talented players into productivity (including helping Houstons Matt Schaub to a league-leading 4,770 yards in 2009).

Shanahan is known for taking what is given to him and making the best of it no matter what, as in the last seven seasons he has coached two top-five rushing offenses and three top-10 passing offenses. In Atlanta the running back situation is up in the air and the two contenders for the starting job cant seem to get on the field, and it seems likely that Shanahan will lean heavily on Matt Ryan and the passing attack. Also, with a defense that has struggled lately, the Falcons may need to throw the ball around a bit more to make up for an inability to stop opponents from scoring.

One thing typical of Shanahan offenses is a thriving No. 1 receiver. He helped Andre Johnson, Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon to great years in Houston and Washington. Another feature of his offenses has often been a dominant tight end presence. Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, and Jordan Reed had great years with him in Washington, andOwen Daniels had a few good years with him in Houston.

In Atlanta, Shanahan will certainly turn toJulio Jones as his elite No. 1 receiver. Everyone knows what a weapon Julio is, and he should only see more targets under the new offensive coordinator. At tight end, however, the team does not have a dominant player, with Jacob Tamme, Tony Moeaki, andLevine Toilolo all vying for a role in that position. Matt Ryan may have to turn elsewhere for his No. 2 receiving option.

Initially, that would appear to be Falcons all-time receiving leader Roddy White. The 33 year old has been selected to four Pro-Bowls and had six straight 1,000 yard seasons from 2007-2012. He is getting old, however, and has had some injury issues the last several seasons, missing five games in two years and being slowed down in many more. His days of being a top weapon are likely behind him, and this may be the season he hands the No. 2 role on to someone else.

Its looking like that someone else may just be Leonard Hankerson. Hes currently listed behind Julio Jones on the teams depth chart, but that gives us no real indication as to how much time and how many targets each player is likely to get. Near the start of training camp,Andrew Hirsh of the Atlanta Falcons official website described Hankerson as the best wide receiver at Flowery Branch thus far.

Hankerson managed to play in only one game last season after a nasty knee injury slowed what may have been his true breakout year in 2013. While paired with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Washington in 2012 and 2013, Hankerson had the look of a potential star. He shone in college, even breaking some of Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvins records at Miami.

Hankersons career 13 yards per reception are comparable to Roddy Whites numbers, but White has not reached 12 yards per reception since 2012. Hankerson has also caught roughly 63% of his career targets, a number better than both Jones and White. While it may be a stretch to say that Hankerson is more talented than White, it certainly isnt the case that he doesnt have the abilities to be a solid NFL wideout.

Hankerson is currently the 129th highest taken receiver in ESPN Fantasy Drafts, and is not being drafted in over 99% of leagues. As possibly the third wide receiver on a team with a great passing attack and behind White who has faced injuries recently, and Jones who has not started every game in a season ever in his career, it seems as though this is criminally low.

In Hankersons best season (2012) he scored 84 fantasy points (despite averaging just 3 targets per game). In 2014 that would have put him at No. 58 among wide receivers, and directly above Seattles Percy Harvin and Pittsburghs Markus Wheaton. In 2012 Hankerson managed 53 yards per game when catching at least two passes, and he has only been targeted more than 8 times twice in his entire career.

Yes, that means its tough to know how he would handle a larger workload, but it also means hes done a fairly good job of being successful without getting much of an opportunity, and with far less talented quarterback play than he will have with Matt Ryan in Atlanta.

Due to the fact that Hankerson isnt even being drafted in most leagues, taking him in a 10-team Fantasy Draft may not be the best option, but in deep leagues or leagues with a lot of wide receiver spots, he should certainly be on everyones radar. He also is someone who should be watched closely as the preseason progresses. If he emerges as the teams clear No. 3 guy, or if Jones or White faces another injury, Hankerson deserves a close look.

As anyone who plays fantasy football knows, its often not the top picks that win you your league, but the late-round sleepers or mid-season pickups that you grab. These players sometimes have breakout years or can be used to replace an injured star, and Hankerson certainly has the opportunity to emerge as a decent fantasy play. He should be on everyones list of top fantasy options that nobody is talking about. If youve got a spot open you dont know how to fill, or are scanning the waiver wire mid-season, keep on eye on him in case he ends up being the unexpected star of 2015.

http://nflspinzone.com/2015/08/18/atlanta-falcons-sneaky-fantasy-receiver-nobody-talking/

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Hankerson smash! lol

our receiving group seems a little too good to be true right now.

lol. Hey man i know how good he could truly be. I wouldnt attempt to talk him up for no reason like others do lol.

Thats not to say hes not gonna have his share of mistakes because he will.

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Ive been the main one talking him up since he signed. Gonna stay behind him all the way, even if he catches another bad break

I wanted us to draft him. I don't think he's forgotten, or under the radar etc etc. I think it's mostly a 'wait and see if he can stay healthy this year'. I also believe that is warranted for the most part.

I hope he can stay healthy, and become the heir apparent to take Roddy's place when he retires after we win the SB this year cool.png

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I wanted us to draft him. I don't think he's forgotten, or under the radar etc etc. I think it's mostly a 'wait and see if he can stay healthy this year'. I also believe that is warranted for the most part.

I hope he can stay healthy, and become the heir apparent to take Roddy's place when he retires after we win the SB this year cool.png

i hope he can stay healthy for once as well. Too much potential displayed in college for his career to be a waste due to injuries
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pretty good article. Can't wait to see the guy light some folks up in our division! Then we have Roddy, Hardy & Tamme and two backs who can catch the ball.

We are going to kick some azz.

Ryan has always excelled at ball distribution, he's very good at reading defenses pre-snap and knowing where to go with it. He's had to for survival but he's just good at it anyway.

Now, with all these receiving options including the backs, TEs, WRs, I think Ryan is going to tear it up this year in a way we've yet to see.

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Roddy has not looked good to me. I watched him between drills at TC too. I think I used the word hobbled to describe his movements. When was the last time Roddy was fully healthy?

i d be surprised considering he has played 16 games once in 4 years and double digit games in 2.

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Roddy has not looked good to me. I watched him between drills at TC too. I think I used the word hobbled to describe his movements. When was the last time Roddy was fully healthy?

around the time that hankerson played 16 games as well. roddy has missed 5 games in the last 2 years, the only games he ever missed.

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Roddy is getting old fellas.

I hate it just as much as you guys, he has done a great deal of good, but facts are facts.

He ain't the Roddy White of a few years back, not even close.

Maybe these new guys can be groomed up by RW then he can retire in style, maybe even with a SB ring. We would all be happy with that I think.

Yep. Definitely on the tail end of his career. But I think he can still be a valuable possession/slot guy. He's a great route runner and hasnt relied on his physical tools in quite awhile.

I just hope he can stay healthy. Dude was an iron man for so long.

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Here is my thing with Hankerson.... I'm not going to really care about how good he looks until he can stay on the field. Falcons fans gave Spoon and Julio grief about missing games. Not to mention William Moore. Nobody has missed a greater % of their regular season games than Hankerson. Practice doesn't matter if you can't suite up for the game.

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