2021 Fantasy Football Atlanta Falcons Team Preview

by Mike LaPlant

Welcome to the 2021 Fantasy Football Atlanta Falcons Team Preview!

Here I will be going to help you break down what kinda offense we're going to get out of the Falcons this year. To find that out we must start out how they finished in 2020, and it was not a pretty season. They finished last in the NFC South with a measly 4-12 record, but there was fantasy gold if you looked in the right place.

Unfortunately, if you invested an early-round pick in Julio Jones you were let down as he only appeared in nine games throughout 2020. Then the addition of Todd Gurley did not pan out how the Falcons thought. He only averaged 9.2 fantasy points a game last year according to Fantasydata.com.

On a positive note, it was Calvin Ridley's breakout year as he finished as WR5 on the year. Thanks to the Falcons shipping away Julio Jones in the offseason to the Tennessee Titans, Ridley is projecting for another great year. Don't forget that the Falcons also invested the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to acquire Kyle Pitts. Making him the highest-drafted TE in NFL history.

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2021 Fantasy Football Atlanta Falcons Team Preview

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There's no question that this team is in win-now mode with Matt Ryan leading the charge. Last year without Julio Jones in seven games Ryan still managed 4,581 passing yards, but only with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Now moving forward that's how it's going to be since Julio Jones is no longer on the team.

When one door closes another one opens and in walks Arthur Smith former offensive coordinator of the Titans. The same Arthur Smith who turned Ryan Tannehill's career around. Last year Tannehill was third in the NFL in touchdown percentage rate with a 7.1%, only behind Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Hopefully, Smith can boost Ryan's average 4.1% touchdown rate as he did with Tannehill.

Did you know that 20 out of 26 of Matt Ryan's touchdowns happened inside the 20-yard line? That was only with a 53.3% completion rating in the red zone too. Meanwhile in Arthur Smith's offense last year Tannehill boasted a 65.3% completion rating according to Fantasydata.com. If Ryan can increase his completion rating by 12% in the red zone he could potentially add another 2-3 touchdowns.

Running Backs

I'm going to be totally transparent with you guys on this one, I love Mike Davis's value this year. The Falcons saw something in Davis last year when he came in to replace Christian McCaffrey for most of the year in 2020. And I'm going to be honest, so did I. He boasted the third-best juke rate percentage with 32.1% behind only Nick Chubb and Alvin Kamara.

He was eighth in the league in evaded tackles with 72 on the year clearly showing he was not able to be taken down by the first defender. The reason I believe Mike Davis will benefit greatly from this offense is all the red zone rushing attempts he will receive. Last year Mike Davis was tied for 16th in the league for attempts inside the 5-yard line with 11 and produced five touchdowns.

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Todd Gurley last year in the Falcons explosive offense had 17 carries inside the 5-yard line and produced six touchdowns, only one more than Davis and he had 6 more attempts. Thank you to Fantasydata.com for that mind-blowing data. I wouldn't be shocked if Mike Davis finished with a double-digit rushing touchdown season.

Last year Davis saw 70 targets in the Panthers offense compared to Todd Gurley's 34 targets in 2020. Knowing Davis is an above-average pass-catcher it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for him to take the majority of the 56 vacated targets left behind from Brian Hill and Ito Smith. Cordarrelle Paterson shouldn't eat too much into Davis's volume barring injuries.

Wide Receivers

Oh boy, it was quite the breakout season for Calvin Ridley last year. He finished as the WR5 in PPR formats with 90 receptions on 143 targets for 1,374 yards and nine receiving touchdowns. Even with Julio Jones riddled with injuries last year he still played in nine games, but in those nine games, Ridley had 64 targets, and 40 receptions for 609 receiving yards, and six touchdowns.

Now, what about the seven games he played without Julio you ask? In two fewer games played without Julio, Ridley exploded with 79 targets, and 50 receptions for 765 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He was targeted an extra 15 times and caught another 10 receptions more than when Julio was off the field. Even though Ridley had three fewer touchdowns, he had 100+ receiving yards in five out of the seven games without Julio.

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Julio leaving in the offseason has freed up 68 extra targets from last year. It's easy to say that those targets will be spread out between Ridley, Russell Gage, and most likely Olamide Zaccheaus. Last year Gage was the Falcon's second-highest targeted player last year with 110 targets and 72 receptions for four touchdowns.

It's possible that Gage will now be the WR2 in this offense like Ridley was to Julio the past couple of years. The only problem with that is that Olamide Zaccheaus showed flashes last year with 20 receptions for 272 receiving yards and a touchdown in 11 games. They also signed Cordarrelle Patterson in the offseason and will likely take a couple of targets here and there.

Let's be honest the biggest threat for stealing those 68 extra targets Julio is leaving behind, is the number four overall draft pick this past year. Kyle Pitts.

Tight Ends

Where do we even begin to start talking about Kyle Pitts? He was a 2020 Consensus All-American in his junior year of college in Florida. He won the 2020 John Mackey Award which is given to the most outstanding tight end in college that year. Some previous John Mackey Award winners that you might have heard of would be T.J. Hockenson, Mark Andrews, and Hunter Henry.

In only eight games last year due to Covid-19 he caught 43 receptions for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns. This kid is the equivalent of the saying "This guy is a walking bucket" in the NBA. He scored a touchdown on 27.9% of his receptions in college his junior year. To put that in perspective Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Cheifs only scored on 10.4% of his receptions in 2020.

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I know what Pitts did was in college, but he more than doubled All-Pro Travis Kelce with Patrick Mahomes throwing him the ball. There were 104 targets that went to Hayden Hurst, Luke Stocker, and Jaeden Graham last year. Hurst was the beneficiary of 88 of those targets and I fully expect Pitts to take all of them.

He might not get all the volume he needs to break the record for most points scored by a rookie tight end, but it wouldn't surprise me if he finishes with double-digit touchdowns and that's the reason he breaks it.

Final Verdict

With Arthur Smith taking over the reins as the head coach this offense should return back to its efficient scoring self sooner rather than later. He quickly turned around Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans and took them to the AFC Championship game. Don't be surprised if this is the year Calvin Ridley finishes as the WR1 of the year. Then don't forget about what Mike Davis's potential in this offense could be.

I would tell you to get Pitts before his breakout happens but according to his ADP people are already expecting that breakout this year. Barring any injuries to this team, it will be back to producing fantasy gold for fantasy managers. I hope you've enjoyed my 2021 Fantasy Football Atlanta Falcons Team Preview.

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