"There’ll be a change in the type of tight end we’ll have on our roster," coach Mike Smith said. "We’ll have a ‘Y’ tight end, where he’ll be an inline player (lined up tight to the formation). They won’t be moving around nearly as much as what we call a ‘F.’ Tony Gonzalez was more of a ‘F’ tight end than a ‘Y’ tight end."
The Falcons rarely target the in-line tight end so 6-foot-8 projected starter Levine Toilolo won't be a factor, except in the red zone. Matt Ryan threw to the in-line tight end an NFL-low 3.1 percent of the time last year, per Pro Football Focus.
Atlanta will run mainly three-receiver sets with Jones and White outside and Harry Douglas in the slot.
Playing alongside Gonzalez last year, Jones drew 60 targets in the first five games. He was on pace for 192 targets, a total that would have led the league, before he had foot surgery. If healthy, Jones should hit 200 targets and easily lead the league. Matt Ryan loves throwing high to big receivers, and Jones is the only Falcon who fits the bill.
White got 99 targets in 13 games last year. He was hobbled by injuries until he caught 43 passes for 502 yards and two scores over the final five games. In each of the previous six seasons, White was targeted at least 137 times.
Douglas capitalized on Jones' absence and White's injury problems. He got 133 targets after averaging 58 the previous three years. Although he'll play in base formations, there's no way he'll hit 130 targets if the top two stay healthy.
The final factor to consider is total pass attempts. Atlanta couldn't run the ball last year and played from behind often. Ryan ranked second with 651 pass attempts, eight behind Peyton Manning. The Falcons threw an NFL-high 68.7 percent of the time.
Over the previous three years, Ryan averaged 584 passes. Let's assume some regression and divide the targets based on 600 attempts:
Jones: 200 targets
White: 145 targets
Douglas: 90 targets
Running backs: 135 targets
Others: 30 targets
Dave Richard ranks Jones third among wideouts, while Jamey Eisenberg has Jones fourth. Both rank White 21st. Thanks to Atlanta's offseason decisions, Jones and White both should finish in the Top 12 in targets.