As we've seen during the first two preseason games, Matt Ryan is very simpatico with both Julio Jones and Roddy White. Jones has snagged 9/150/1 receiving over the first two preseason games (including his 6/109/1 vs. Baltimore in the first preseason game) and White has hauled in 7/100/0 so far. They are 1A and 1B on the wide receiver depth chart, and combined with Tony Gonzalez (3/44/0 so far during preseason) the trio gives opposing defenses fits.
A big question for fantasy owners is how thy should proceed on the waiver wire/by pursuing trades in the event that either Jones or White goes down for a significant period of time during regular season. Below are recommendations about which players to pursue, which to hold and which to drop in the event of either Jones or White misses significant time during 2012.
Harry Douglas, WR - Douglas has grown into a solid option over his four years with the Falcons - he's played 16 games in three of those four years, including 32 straight over the past two years. He posted a career high of 39/498/1 receiving during 2011. The news out of training camp/preseason is that new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter likes Douglas so much that the team is instituting the three-wide receiver set as one of it's base formations this year. In the event that either Jones or White were sidelined, Douglas would step in as a key target for Ryan.
Tony Gonzalez, TE - Gonzalez is already a solid fantasy option at tight end. However, if White or Jones were to miss significant time, Ryan would likely lean on Gonzalez even more than usual - especially in the red zone. He'd be worth pursuing as an add to your fantasy team.
Matt Ryan, QB - While losing Jones or White wouldn't be a good thing for Ryan, it wouldn't necessarily cripple the Falcons' passing attack, either. Douglas is a capable receiver who could fill the #2 role, and the team has been happy with Kerry Meier's showing during training camp - though he is primarily a special teamer, Meier would likely be acceptable as a #3 wide receiver and would likely assume Douglas' role if Douglas was forced into the #2 spot. The Falcons have sufficient depth to weather an injury among the wide receivers' corps. A fantasy owner with Ryan on his roster might see a dip in production with Jones or White out, but Ryan would still likely be a top-12 NFL starter - he'd just be nearer #12 than #1.
Michael Turner / Jacquizz Rodgers, RBs - The run/pass ratio and the offensive mix at running back wouldn't be materially affected in this scenario, since the Falcons have enough depth at wide receiver to continue to operate their offense.
Kerry Meier, WR - Meier wouldn't be a fantasy stud as the third option, but he might be worth a bye-week fill-in role for fantasy owners if he were elevated to the #3 wide receiver job during 2012.
Depending on the severity of the problem (injury or suspension) that sidelined White or Jones, it might be advisable to drop them in a standard redraft league. If either were to miss most of the weeks up to week 14, they'd be dead weight on a redraft roster. Dynasty or keeper owners would have a harder decision in those types of leagues.
Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org.