Welcome to Fantasy Six Packs 2022 Fantasy Football Atlanta Falcons Preview!
After going 7-10 last year, the Falcons knew it was time for a change. Ever since that incredible 28-3 loss in the Super Bowl to the Patriots, it's been coming. They made it back to the playoffs in 2017, but that was the last gasp. After three straight losing seasons, Atlanta began their "retooling" stage and hired new HC Arthur Smith,
2021 made it four straight losing seasons, Atlanta bit the bullet and traded franchise favorite, Matt Ryan, to the Colts after an unsuccessful attempt at Deshaun Watson. They signed Mariota in the offseason to a two-year deal and took Cincinatti's Desmond Ridder in the 3rd round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
They also added a high-end receiver talent, taking USC's Drake London 8th overall. BYU running back Tyler Allgeier was scooped up in the 5th round. They added Auden Tate, Bryan Edwards, and Damien Williams in an attempt to bring in talent on the cheap to aid Kyle Pitts and Cordarelle Patterson.
Atlanta is in a rebuild, but still trying to maintain some semblance of competitiveness. It's going to be ugly, but there is talent on this team. Valuable fantasy football assets still exist in Atlanta. Let's dive in and find them.
2022 Fantasy Football Atlanta Falcons Preview
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- Marcus Mariota
- Desmond Ridder
Mariota enters the season as the favorite to be the starter, but Ridder might make it a competition. For now, let's focus on Mariota as the starter.
The former second overall pick has failed to consistently impress during his time in the NFL. He did enough to last four seasons as the Titans starter but lost his job to Ryan Tannehill in 2019. Since then he's been a backup for Derek Carr in Las Vegas, and now he gets a second chance in Atlanta. Mariota has been a dual-threat QB throughout his career, finishing with no less than 252 rushing yards each of his years as a full-time starter.
While he brings rushing upside, his lack of passing ability hinders him from quality fantasy finishes. When looking at the numbers, he's league average at best, which is what you expect from a guy who lost his job and became a backup. He's not somebody I'm looking to target outside of the occasional streaming option or a QB3 in Superflex formats.
Ridder intrigues me, but only from a dynasty perspective. The only way he has value long-term is if he wins the QB competition in camp and performs well enough to keep Atlanta away from the top of the 2023 NFL Draft. He's been impressing the coaches so far, so he may get his shot sooner than later. For redraft purposes? Leave him alone.
It's not often you see a player break out so late in their career, but Patterson looked great doing it. The 31-year-old converted wide receiver ran 153 times for 618 yards, caught 52 passes for 548 yards, and scored eleven times.
Atlanta signed him to a new deal, but can he do it again? It's unlikely they'll use him as a feature back given his age, and HC Arthur Smith didn't use him in that capacity last year when they had arguably less talent on the roster. However, if he can maintain the ~14 touches per game he had in 2021, he will be in the low RB2/high RB3 conversation given his big-play and pass-catching ability.
Let's not forget that Mike Davis had 196 opportunities last year as the number two back for the Falcons. Those touches have to go somewhere between Damien Willaims, Tyler Allgeier, and Qadree Ollison.
I'm betting on Allgeier. Outside of a stretch in 2019 with the Chiefs, Williams' career-high in opportunities was 74 in a season. Even in 2019 he only saw more than ten carries five times in eleven games played. He couldn't make it in KC or even Chicago last year, instead, he was supplanted by rookie Khalil Herbert.
This leads me to Allgeier. He was a productive back in college and though his draft capital isn't great, there's not a lot of competition ahead of him. Plus, for running backs, volume is king. Between Mike Davis and Wayne Gallman's departures, there are 227 opportunities to be had in Atlanta. Even if Williams matches his career-high opportunities, that still leaves 153 for Allgeier.
Obviously, that math isn't an exact science, workloads fluctuate. But you get the point. There is a path for Allgeier to get enough volume in Atlanta for flex spot consideration. He's one of my favorite late-round running back picks this season.
- Drake London
- Olamide Zaccheaus
- Bryan Edwards
- Auden Tate
I almost had this list as "Drake London and...that's it." Quite honestly that's how this feels. But, maybe there are a couple of gems to be had here.
Drake London is the headliner for this receiver group, as I mentioned above. London comes into Atlanta having starred at USC in his final season, accumulating over 1000 yards on 88 receptions in only eight games before suffering a season-ending injury. During his time as a Trojan, he competed for targets against guys like Michael Pittman and Amon Ra St. Brown and produced solid numbers. There's plenty of reason to believe he can thrive in Atlanta.
Part of that is due to his own abilities, size, and production profile. He may be able to overcome below-average to average QB play, like an Allen Robinson or Brandin Cooks. But he may not have to rely solely on himself. While I was harsh on Mariota above, I will give him his props. During his two best fantasy seasons, he sustained two starting fantasy pass catchers. One name you can probably guess, but the other, maybe you need a reminder.
The first was Delanie Walker and the second was Rishard Matthews. In 2016 and '17 Walker finished as the back-to-back TE5 in PPR. Matthews finished 2016 as the WR21 in PPR and the WR36 in 2017. London has a good chance to best either of Matthews's fantasy finishes, even as a rookie. Though he will still face a lot of top corners, Kyle Pitts's presence will ease some defensive pressure off of him.
As far as everyone else, Auden Tate is the one that intrigues me the most. He is a contested-catch master, seriously, look up some of his highlights. The dude makes some incredible catches. In a wide-open receiving corp, he has as good a chance as any to take the number two wideout spot. What that spot is worth is probably not much, however.
- Kyle Pitts
- Anthony Firkser
Pitts's rookie season may not have lived up to the hype many expected of him, but that's not to say it wasn't good. He was thrust into a role that not many rookie tight-ends can handle. Being the number one target with no one else of note to take away defensive attention is tough enough on veterans, let alone a rookie.
In spite of all that, he still managed to accumulate the third most yards among tight ends in 2021. He led all tight ends in yards per reception (min 30 receptions). He had the 5th-most targets and 7th-most receptions. Pitts was good. The touchdowns just didn't come for him. Based on how many targets, receptions, and yards a tight end had for each touchdown in 2021, Pitts should have scored about six to seven times. That would have pushed him up from TE6 to TE3 or TE4. Would we still be having this "disappointment" conversation?
Draft Pitts as your TE1. I already mentioned the Delaine Walker numbers above, and I can't see things getting that much worse with Mariota or Ridder than they were last year with Ryan. Even in an offense that will struggle, he should see some sort of positive touchdown regression. Pitts is going to be just fine.
As for Firsker? Please don't.
It's going to be a rough year for the Falcons. I think they'll be extremely lucky to make it to seven wins like they did last year. There are useful fantasy options here, but outside of Pitts, it's hard to imagine a scenario where anyone else reaches the top tier at their respective position this year. The ceiling just isn't there.
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