The Atlanta Falcons are starting 2014 off on the wrong foot. It was reported yesterday that LB Sean Weatherspoon ruptured his Achilles tendon and will miss the entire 2014 season. It’s disappointing news for a Falcons defense that struggled much of last year, due in part to Weatherspoon’s injuries throughout the 2013 season. Here’s how this injury affects fantasy football players in both IDP and standard leagues.
Atlanta drafted Weatherspoon out of the University of Missouri back in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He broke out during the 2011 season with 115 combined tackles (82 total tackles), four sacks and a fumble recovery, and was a top LB in IDP scoring that year. However, he missed three games in 2012, and most recently in 2013, Weatherspoon was plagued by foot and knee injuries and only played in seven games.
If he could stay healthy and on the field, Weatherspoon’s size and speed would make him one of the most consistent LBs in the league. But with Weatherspoon out for 2014, LB Paul Worrilow is the primary beneficiary in IDP leagues.
As a rookie last season, Worrilow filled in nicely while Weatherspoon was out, racking up 127 combined tackles (79 total tackles), two sacks and a defended pass. He has an opportunity this year to seize a starting job as Weatherspoon’s rookie contract expires after this season. He should only improve upon his 2013 stats this year and will be a great LB to target in the draft.
Joplo Bartu and Akeem Dent seem to be the most likely candidates to fill the other inside LB spot for the Falcons. Neither LB has really stood out thus far in their careers, but they could be interesting in IDP if they step up to the challenge presented to them in 2014. Keep an eye on both during training camp to see who wins the starting job.
As for Atlanta’s offensive players, there is very little change to their fantasy values. The Falcons’ defense signed a few defensive players this offseason and drafted a few more, but whether the moves will materially improve their defensive play is yet to be seen. Atlanta’s defense hasn’t exactly become fearsome during this offseason, and Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White should all still remain viable fantasy options whenever Atlanta is playing from behind.
In summary, with the news of Weatherspoon missing the 2014 season, Worrilow can be drafted with relative confidence to fill a LB spot in any IDP league, and Bartu and Dent are two potential LB options to monitor. The Falcons’ offensive skill players are largely unaffected by Weatherspoon’s injury and haven’t moved in my rankings.