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2024 Free Agency Preview: Biggest Positional Needs For The Atlanta Falcons

Drake London - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

It was an incredibly frustrating season for the Falcons. Head coach Arthur Smith couldn't figure out if he wanted to go with Desmond Ridder or Taylor Heinicke at quarterback. He seemed to have no interest in force-feeding the ball to Bijan Robinson, Drake London, and Kyle Pitts, despite their obvious talents. Instead, this offense seemed to make their lives as difficult as possible for most of the season. For fans across the NFL, it was maddening.

Previous Divisional Editions breaking down each team's 2023 season, their offseason assets, and their top-three positional needs going into the 2024 NFL season can be found here:

The quarterback position is the biggest one that the Falcons need to figure out. Fixing that position could go a long way toward making this team competitive. The offense has a plethora of blue-chip talent. Atlanta has the means to address some of their other positional needs, but new head coach Raheem Morris won't find much success if he's unable to find a quality starter under center. If you want to take advantage of all of our great premium tools, please use promo code "BOOM" to receive a 10% discount. 

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!

 

Season Review and Offseason Assets

Atlanta is another NFL team in a massive transition period. They fired head coach Arthur Smith after a 7-10 season. They have since hired the Rams’ former defensive coordinator, Raheem Morris. Morris brought Zac Robinson along with him, who was L.A.’s passing game coordinator. He’ll function as the team’s new offensive coordinator. Jimmy Lake will be the team’s defensive coordinator. He was the Rams assistant head coach last year and the Washington Huskies head coach from 2020-2021. Atlanta is also expected to have a new quarterback under center for the 2024 season, so there are plenty of big changes coming.

The offense finished 26th in points scored and 17th in yards gained. Their passing attack was one of the worst in the NFL. Smith, who also called the offensive plays, struggled to get Drake London, Kyle Pitts, and Bijan Robinson involved in the game plan as much as their talents would have otherwise indicated. Reports stated this was a big part of the reason Smith was fired.

Their defense finished 18th in points allowed and 11th in yards given up. This team has some good pieces in place, but they need better leadership, and they need a quarterback. Until that happens, they’ll be stuck in mediocrity.

Atlanta has just over $38 million in cap space. The team can cut Jonnu Smith and backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke, which would increase their available cap to almost $52 million. Assuming the team elects to either sign, draft, or trade for a quarterback, Heinicke becomes a very expendable player. They do not have any “must re-sign” players on their roster. Cornerback Jeff Okudah did some good things and could be brought back.

Atlanta owns the No. 8 (first-rounder), No. 43 (second-rounder), No. 74 (third-rounder), No. 109 (fourth-rounder), No. 141 (fifth-rounder), and No. 198 (sixth-rounder) overall picks in this year’s draft.

 

Biggest Needs

1. Quarterback

There is no bigger position of need for the Falcons than quarterback. They finished 28th in completion percentage (61.7%), 22nd in passing yards (3,524), 26th in passing touchdowns (17), and 27th in quarterback rating (80.5). Atlanta’s passing offense contributed 7.5 expected points, which was 23rd. They also finished with the seventh-most interceptions (17), tying the number of touchdowns they threw. Their offense scored touchdowns on just 46.8% of their red-zone trips, which was the fourth-worst rate in the NFL. They finished 27th in points per drive at just 1.6.

This offense was just bad, but it really shouldn’t have been. PFF ranked the Falcons offensive line as the fourth-best unit in 2023. They have top-10 picks at running back (Robinson), receiver (London), and tight end (Pitts). This offense has the potential to be very potent, but every chance of that was derailed by the quarterback play and a questionable offensive system.

Atlanta has plenty of options in front of them. They could trade up to the second or third pick in the draft to select one of the big three rookie quarterbacks. They could stay at eighth and take Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy. They could also make a strong push to sign Kirk Cousins or they could even trade for Justin Fields. There are plenty of options available, but this is one decision they absolutely must get right.

2. Wide Receiver

London has star potential if matched up with the right quarterback and the right coaching staff. He has the potential of a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL. However, they currently do not have a single receiver on contract after London other than Josh Ali. Van Jefferson, Scotty Miller, Mack Hollins, and KhaDarel Hodge are all free agents. Given their play, none of them will be re-signed. These four players combined for 97 targets, 55 receptions, 745 yards, and two touchdowns.

The best one out of the group was Hollins and he finished with 30 targets, 18 receptions, 251 yards, and zero touchdowns. This position is even more important because of their new offensive coordinator. Over the past three years, few teams have used 11-personnel (three-receiver sets) as often as the Rams. Assuming Robinson wants to use a similar offense as the Rams did under Sean McVay, they need to add at least one, but most likely two legit receivers via free agency or the draft.

3. Pass-Rusher

Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree are both free agents. They tied for first on Atlanta’s defense with 6.5 sacks apiece, roughly 31% of the team’s total. Only one other player had more than five sacks. Campbell and Dupree combined for 48 pressures and 20 hurries, consisting of 34% of the team’s pressures and 41% of the team’s hurries. This duo also played 1,436 snaps for the Falcons last season. Considering they were two of their most productive pass-rushers and played so many snaps, the Falcons will need to do a lot of work addressing their pass rush. They finished just 21st in sacks this past year.

4. Other Positions of Need: Cornerback

 

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