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It's Harry Douglas time in Atlanta

8/9/2010

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Michael Jenkins wasn't ranked anywhere near a selectable spot in a 10-team standard league for this season -- or 12-team or point-per-reception formats, for that matter -- but his weekend shoulder injury, which could cause him to miss some regular-season games, suddenly has me interested. Not in him, of course. But let's just say, after a few ordinary seasons of Jenkins not possessing much fantasy value, I wanted to see what some fresh blood could do for Matt Ryan and the passing offense. Now I say let the Harry Douglas era really begin.

Douglas was supposed to figure into the Falcons' slot receiver role last year, but a torn ACL a year and four days ago ended his campaign before it began. Nothing against the reliable Jenkins, who has reached 50 receptions each of the past three seasons and does yeoman's work as a blocker, but we already have a good idea what he can do, and it isn't much. He has scored eight touchdowns in three seasons. I suppose in deep leagues he's a bye-week fill-in, but not much more. Roddy White is a top-10 fantasy wide receiver and he doesn't miss games, and tight end Tony Gonzalez remains a huge factor, especially near the goal-line, more than nearly every tight end in the league. Despite standing 6-foot-5, Jenkins has rarely been an effective red-zone target. His lone touchdown in 2009 was a 50-yarder.

I'm not the biggest Matt Ryan supporter, and obviously his main weapons in the passing game are White and Gonzalez, but Douglas was an electric playmaker at Louisville, a third-round draft pick in 2008 who really seemed to enter a situation he could contribute to immediately. This could help Ryan, too. There were a few times during Douglas' rookie season I wondered why he wasn't getting more run; in Weeks 11-12, he scored three touchdowns, including one on an end-around run for a 7-yard score and another on a 61-yard punt return. The next week he hauled in a 5-yard-touchdown pass from Ryan.

Fantasy owners often ignore other options when a team has two main receiving threats, and I can understand those who don't see Douglas making much of an impact. But Douglas could flourish as a quick slot receiver, racking up big yards after the catch. While White was 13th in the league in receiving yards, he was 34th in yards after the catch, and Gonzalez was only 14th among tight ends in YAC. The Falcons' offense screams for someone like Douglas to emerge.

I'm going to rank Douglas ahead of Jenkins immediately, showing confidence that the Falcons will see his upside and give him real opportunity to seize the role. Douglas should be nearing 100 percent health by this point since it has been a year since he tore up his knee, and his only competition seems to be Kerry Meier, Eric Weems and Brian Finneran. Ryan praised Douglas recently, noting "[Douglas] has looked really good and really healthy. I've been impressed with his work ethic during the offseason and that has continued throughout training camp."

For now, Douglas moves into my No. 62 wide receiver spot, meaning he's close to being a draft option in 10-team leagues. I could see moving Douglas up my ranks in the coming weeks, past a number of rookies (Demaryius Thomas, Golden Tate) and disappointing veterans (Roy E. Williams, Devin Hester), but for now I'll wait for more clarity on the situation.