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Atlanta Falcons 2020 Fantasy Outlook

The Atlanta Falcons have been struggling to advance in the playoffs since the 2016 season when they made the Super Bowl and the “comeback” happened (sorry Falcon fans). 2019 was the second consecutive year the team missed the playoffs, and coach Dan Quinn is certainly on the hot seat once again this season.

The defense was the primary culprit for the 7-9 record in the 2019 season. Nevertheless, the offense remains potent for Atlanta and they have a multitude of weapons that are fantasy relevant. Though guys like Devonta Freeman and Austin Hooper are no longer on the team, there are plenty of new faces who could make up that production.

Let’s break down the fantasy value of Matty Ice and his offense:

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

Quarterback

Matt Ryan has been a generally reliable fantasy QB; he finished 11th among fantasy QBs in 2019, 2nd in 2018, 15th in 2017, and 2nd in 2016. Now 35 years old, the QB is entering the latter part of his career, but still has the weapons to succeed. Last season, he compiled 4,466 yards, 26 touchdowns, 14 picks, 297.7 yards per game, and a 92.1 quarterback rating. He had a 14.6 percent poor throws per pass attempt rate.

In terms of rushing, Ryan finished 19th among NFL QBs in 2019 with 147 yards. He also had one rush touchdown. The Atlanta QB surprisingly had his career-high in rush yards during a season in 2019 (though only by a smidge). That’s impressive for a 12th year QB.

His 2019 stats more or less fit his career averages per season. Ryan was fifth in pass yards among NFL QBs, fourth in pass yards per game, and tied for eighth in pass touchdowns, which still shows his splendid abilities.

Based on his overall stats from 2019, his recent fantasy football finishes among QBs, and the bevy of weapons at his disposal, Matt Ryan is a capable QB1 on redraft teams. The offense will once again be high-octane in 2020 as the defense looks to regain its footing.

 

Running Back

With the departures of Devonta Freeman, the Falcons brought in former Georgia Bulldog and Los Angeles Ram Todd Gurley II. The 25-year-old has recently been plagued by injuries to his knee and quad, thus hindering his production last season with the Rams among his lackluster usage being brought to light.

The ending of Gurley’s Rams tenure was rather tumultuous, as he split carries at times last season, was not the workhorse back owners grew accustomed to seeing, and the extent of his injury was kept rather unclear.

Now on the Falcons, Gurley is back to being an RB1 again. This time, he joins another explosive offense. The RB will only be 26 to start the season, so there is no reason to doubt he is in his prime. However, injuries and re-aggravations should be a top factor when deciding whether to draft Gurley.

The RB suffered a knee injury towards the end of the 2018 season, so his stats weren’t as skewed from injury during that campaign. Gurley finished with 1,251 rush yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 17 rush touchdowns, 59 receptions, 580 receiving yards, and four receiving touchdowns. He also had 2.5 rush yards after contact per rush and 617 rush yards after contact.

In the 2019 season, after being rather limited in the playoffs the season before, the 2015 pick had a dip in his stats. The RB had 857 rush yards, 3.8 yards per rush, 12 rush touchdowns, 31 receptions, 207 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns. He also had 2.2 rush yards after contact per rush and 374 rush yards after contact.

When healthy, Gurley is elite in fantasy. He finished 1st among fantasy RBs in 2017 and 2018 before dropping to 12th in 2019. However, after it was reported that the Georgia product had arthritis in his knee in March 2019, it surely raises some concern about durability. Though he is the RB1 on the team, Gurley should be considered an RB2 on fantasy teams heading into the season because of his recent injury history.

 

Wide Receiver

The Falcons have two fantasy-relevant receivers in 2020, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. There is no reason to doubt Julio’s abilities. He finished 6th in 2016 among fantasy WRs, 6th in 2017, 5th in 2018, and 5th in 2019. Last season, he undoubtedly paced the team with 99 receptions, 157/684 targets (22.9%), 1,394 yards, 14.1 yards per catch, 92.9 yards per game, and six touchdowns. He has had six straight 1,000-yard seasons with 100+ targets.

The Alabama product finished with the second-most receiving yards among NFL WRs in 2019, along with ranking sixth in receptions, third in receiving yards per game, and second in targets. At this point, there is no reason to doubt the 31-year-old as anything other than a top-five fantasy receiver who can be the WR1 on any redraft fantasy team.

With veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu Sr. being traded to the Patriots midway through last season, 2018 pick Calvin Ridley has now emerged as the clear WR2 on the team. The 25-year-old accumulated 63 receptions, 93/684 targets (13.6%), 866 yards, 13.7 yards per catch, and seven touchdowns. Those were roughly the same numbers as his rookie campaign in 2018. Ridley should likely get similar stats in 2020 considering his large role in this offense and his now two years of rapport with Matt Ryan. He is a solid WR2 on redraft fantasy teams.

The next three receivers on the depth chart, Russell Gage, Christian Blake, and Olamide Zaccheaus, were all relative non-factors in 2019. They combined for 63 receptions, 103/684 targets (15.1%), 652 yards, and two touchdowns. Unless one of these WRs gives owners a reason to pick them up during the 2020 season, none of them should be drafted in fantasy or be considered as prospects.

 

Tight End

With Austin Hooper heading for Cleveland in March on a monster deal, the Falcons brought in former Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst via trade during the offseason. Hurst will replace Hooper as the TE1 and has landed in an ideal situation as he was not atop the TE depth chart in Baltimore after the emergence of Mark Andrews.

Hurst finished 2019 with a modest upgrade in his numbers compared to his rookie season in 2018. The 26-year-old had 30 receptions, 39/440 targets (8.9%), 349 yards, 11.6 yards per catch, and two touchdowns. Nevertheless, there is potential for the tight end to finally have a great season and show his value as a first-round pick.

There are no threats to Hurst’s role as top TE on Atlanta. Jaeden Graham is the “closest,” but he finished with nine receptions, 10 targets, 149 yards, and one touchdown on the season last year. Because he is on a high-powered offense, the South Carolina product can be considered a TE1 in 14+ team redraft leagues or a backup in other leagues for now.

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