If underwhelming expectations had a mascot, it would be the 2021 Atlanta Falcons. They had a new head coach, a stud rookie tight end, and Calvin Ridley. And in the end, we had no Cash, no Jobs, and no Hope. Isn’t that just the Pitts! What then, should we keep in mind from the 2021 Atlanta Falcons when looking forward to 2022 fantasy drafts?
- There was much ado about Kyle Pitts in the offseason. He had the greatest rookie tight end season of all time by receiving yards, finishing his sixteenth game with 1,018 receiving yards on 66 catches and 105 targets. Ultimately, it didn’t matter for fantasy football, as Pitts had just six double-digit PPR fantasy days, failing to usurp Evan Engram and Jeremy Shockey for most of these games from a rookie (eight). The standard trope is “if he had scored touchdowns, he would have been worth the effort to take him at TE4.”While this makes for a nice story, it simply isn’t true. As of week seventeen, Kyle Pitts averages 10.9 PPR points per game, tied with Dallas Goedert and Logan Thomas for ninth at the position. The #4 tight end, Rob Gronkowski, averages 13.7 points per game. That 2.8 points per game, a difference that might not be that big, but it’s massive if you make it about touchdowns. Kyle Pitts would need eight additional touchdowns to surpass Gronk in fantasy points per game, which would tie him for the league lead with nine touchdowns.
- Calvin Ridley left the team partway through the year to handle his mental health. A lot of people chalked up the Falcons’ offensive woes to this offensive loss. While this is true (they dropped from 21.6 points per game with Ridley to 17 points per game without Ridley), they were still a bottom-half offense with Calvin Ridley, as their 21.6 points per game would have been just above New Orleans’ 21.1 points per game for seventeenth in the NFL.
- Matt Ryan felt Calvin Ridley’s loss more than anyone else. With Ridley in the lineup, he averaged 265 passing yards per game, two passing touchdowns, and 0.8 picks. Without Ridley, he lost over 40 passing yards per game, averaged less than a touchdown per game, and kept the interceptions (220 yards, 0.8 touchdowns, 0.6 interceptions). Despite this, Matt Ryan carried a roster rate over 50% into the fantasy football finals.
- Cordarrelle Patterson had an unprecedented 2021 season but hit an absolute wall once he bounced up against his career-high in touches. Before 2021, Patterson had a career-high of 85 touches. He surpassed 200 in 2021 thanks to his usage as an actual running back. He crossed his career touch mark in week eight. In weeks one through eight, he averaged 9 carries, 6 targets, 4.6 catches, 86 yards per game, and a touchdown per contest. After he crossed his career touch threshold, he lost 15 yards, two catches, and 40% of a touchdown per game (2.4 receptions, 71.5 total yards, 0.6 touchdowns per game). Patterson doubled his career-high touches in a season in the first quarter of week fifteen. From week fifteen through the end of the fantasy season, he averaged under 2.2 yards per carry and 5.6 yards per reception, for 29.3 yards per game and just one touchdown in three contests. Patterson had a great year but the 31-year-old-in-2022 is not a great bet to replicate this production next year.
- Younghoe Koo (that’s right, it’s a kicker stat!) proved that lightning doesn’t strike twice at kicker. Koo finished 2020 as the #1 kicker in points per game, with 9.6 fantasy points per contest thanks to a 37/39 (95%) completion percentage on field goals. In 2021, he ranked #28, but still carried a 92% completion rate. Unfortunately, he kicked one fewer field goal per game (about 1.6 field goal attempts per game in 2021 after about 2.6 field goal attempts per game in 2020).