Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Projecting a slide for Matt Ryan, Falcons' offense?

Matt Ryan was my favorite sleeper quarterback heading into 2016, and he still managed to far exceed what I thought was possible. Ryan set career highs in yards, touchdowns, TD rate, Y/A, rating, and QBR. He did this while throwing only 534 passes. It was remarkable, really.

Which helps explain why everyone loves Ryan as a top-five quarterback this year. But, the situation remains: Many didn't think he was worthy of top-12 consideration before 2016. One year changes the collective opinion that much? 

It shouldn't. I had Ryan as a low-end No. 1 before last season and that's about where I have him now. He's very likely going regress in both touchdowns and yards per attempt, but he should still be a solid starter. Unfortunately, his cost on Draft Day will be too high for low-end No. 1 production.

What about the rest of the Falcons?

*Rankings expressed below are in terms of expected Fantasy points. This is a part of our actual Fantasy Football rankings but not a direct correlation to my rankings. Things like injury risk, upside, etc. factor into rankings but they're not being talked about here. This is simply an expectation as the team is currently constructed.

Atlanta Falcons
Player Name Expected FP Position Rank Expected PPR FP Position Rank
208 #1 312 #1
220.1 #4 271.1 #4
136.2 #23 169.2 #21
329.2 #10 329.2 #10
110.6 #47 162.6 #52
91.9 #65 150.9 #59
72.3 #22 114.3 #24

Breaking down the touches

Everything gets a little dicey with Steve Sarkisian replacing Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator. We can look at what this team did in the past, but I'm not sure exactly how much we can take out of it.

The Falcons ran the ball almost exactly the same number of times in 2016 as they had in 2015. They threw the ball almost 90 fewer times. The move to a higher percentage of run plays makes sense when you consider how dominant the Falcons were. 

Whether they're that dominant again or not, I'd expect a slight rebound in the number of plays the Falcons run, which means more pass and run plays than 2016; just not a lot more. The running backs have to split up 440 expected carries, but they're buoyed by an expected 127 targets out of the backfield. 

Here's a breakdown of the expected touches in Atlanta:

Falcons touches
Devonta Freeman 55% 243 12% 66 51 12
Tevin Coleman 33% 145 20% 49 33 8
Julio Jones 0% 0 28% 155 104 9
Mohamed Sanu 0% 0 16% 87 59 4
Taylor Gabriel 0% 0 15% 80 45 5
Austin Hooper 0% 0 11% 62 42 4

Of note: 

  • Coleman has touchdown regression coming, but if he plays 16 games it won't hurt as much. He's the only backup running back that feels acceptable as a starter on your Fantasy team.
  • Jones saw a reduction in target volume in 2016, and like Coleman missed a couple of games. The Falcons want to spread the ball around, but it's not hard to find 100 catches for Jones if he can just stay healthy.
  • The No. 2 wide receiver in this offense is technically Sanu, but I'd rather have Gabriel in fantasy, especially for best-ball leagues.

The Leftovers

The Falcons have a No. 1 Fantasy options at quarterback, and wide receiver in Fantasy, and two starting-caliber running backs. That's uncommon. It also doesn't leave a lot of room for maybes. Even if their starting running back gets hurt, their backup is a guy we're already drafting as a starter.

Maybe Austin Hooper has some good touchdown luck and finds his way to low-end No. 1 production. More likely, Gabriel takes a small leap and becomes a solid No. 3 who struggles with consistency. There are plenty of Falcons you can select on Draft Day, but you aren't going to surprise anyone with this team.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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