Atlanta Falcons Fantasy Additions: Let’s take a look

Can Tajae Sharpe be the WR1 he was destined to be?

By Chinmay Kulkarni

There exist very few teams in the NFL that trend towards extreme mediocrity like the Atlanta Falcons. The Dirty Birds, as they are known colloquially within the Atlanta metro area, are a franchise that’s simultaneously been stuck in forward, reverse, and neutral gear since their 2018 Superbowl embarrassment to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Not only does this make them a laughing stock of the league by inventing new ways to lose games, but also starting a long tradition for Atlanta/Georgia sports teams of blowing leads and losing in the spotlight.

Atlanta has been a top 3 cursed sports cities in the US, ranking with the likes of Minnesota sports, and Cincinnati. That is until this week, when the Atlanta Braves took down the Houston Astros in the World Series, bringing a title to the city and ending painful eternity for its fans (though Atlanta FC United won the MLS Cup in the last 5 years but it’s soccer). Take note Atlanta Falcons, of the new winning ways brought to your city. Unfortunately, all the good juju in the world couldn’t bring the Falcons to success, that stand last in the NFC South and continue to find innovative ways to lose to the likes of, Sam Darnold, and Jamies Winston Taysom Hill Trevor Siemian.

On paper, the Atlanta Falcons roster has always been star-studded, starting 10 first-round draft picks on offense during the 2020-21 season, and historically is a haven for serviceable fantasy production. The ghost of Julio Jones and Todd Gurley, to the present season of Calvin Ridley and league surprise Cordarrelle Patterson – Atlanta has always had major contributors high on fantasy draft boards or making consistent headlines on waiver wire pickups. That is, until this season.

The Falcons WR core recently got word that Calvin Ridley will be stepping away from the NFL to tend to his own mental health. This is a very valid cause for a break, as mental health causes in the NFL are not brought to the forefront as in other sports. However, fantasy owners everywhere are forced to fill in a WR1 spot on their weekly rosters, and the Falcons WR group may get a slight uptick in production. In other words, if the Falcons WR group were a stock, we’d be buying low with the intention of selling high.

Tajae Sharpe is likely to assume the role of leading wide receiver, though by looking at this group, consistency and production are just as bad as the Atlanta weather itself. Sharpe is top 5 on the Falcons in yards, and yards per reception. Matt Ryan has a 103.2 passer rating when targeting Sharpe, the highest passer rating of the remaining group of Sharpe, Russell Gage, and Olamide Zaccheaus. Calvin Ridley’s offensive snaps rank amongst the highest on the team and will likely be handled by a combination of both Sharpe and Gage.

Russell Gage on the other hand produces a fantasy football conundrum. Gage already missed three games already this season, the time in which Calvin Ridley was allowed to truly thrive, and Tajae Sharpe was likely seen as the WR2. However, with the previous season chemistry, there stands a chance that Gage can reignite the chemistry of last year and steal more targets from Sharpe, Pitts, and Patterson.

The Atlanta Falcons story cannot be told without its aging quarterback, Matt Ryan. The tale of the tape has been suboptimal for the veteran quarterback, thriving against truly terrible teams – the Dolphins or the Jets. Though the Falcons execute a passing play 63% of the time – a stat in the top half of the league – Matt Ryan may steal the title of checkdown king from Kirk Cousins, averaging 6.8 air yards per pass, and ranking in the bottom tier of this stat amongst starting quarterbacks. Cordarelle Patterson fantasy owners rejoice!

In reality, the Falcons only have two consistent fantasy starters, first-round pick Kyle Pitts, and Cordarrelle Patterson. Pitts, known not only for innovative fantasy team names, has two-100+ yard games, targeted 8-times a game, and is a top red zone target on the Falcons, though only finding the paydirt once on the season. Patterson on the other hand, taking seven full years to break out in the NFL, finally finds a home in ATL and fantasy teams everywhere while becoming the fantasy darling and waiver wire find of the year. Patterson leads the team in rushing and receiving TDs, is a top target for the check-down king whether in the redzone or not, and has been a wonderful addition for PPR leagues everywhere.

The likely outcome in a bad to a worse situation for the Falcons is that Sharpe will be the fill-in WR1, considering his target share, offensive snap count, and general experience. Though a potential flex play in deeper leagues, the volume may not come immediately for a Sharpe-Ryan connection. The tough defensive unit of the Saints lies in the Falcons’ way in Week 9, in what should be a largely uninteresting matchup unless Ceedy Deuce inevitably punches a wide receiver in the face.

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