As the mercury rises and we inch closer to training camp openings, our resident fantasy football aficionados, Brad Evans and Derek Brown, profile their favorite Booms, Busts, Breakouts and Bets for every NFL team. Giddy up, gamers. Today’s topic: The Deep-Fried Falcons.
Fantasy Football Booms - Falcons
Calvin Ridley, WR
Calvin Ridley is on a crash course with fantasy football domination. He finished last year as the WR4 in fantasy points per game, and this season the top spot at his position is within his grasp. After another efficient season, ranking seventh in yards per route run (2.49) and 11th in fantasy points per route run (0.51), Ridley now steps into unquestioned alpha territory.
In the seven games Julio Jones missed last year, Ridley garnered a 30% target share and 49.8% of the air yards. Over a full season, Ridley would have ranked behind only Davante Adams, Michael Thomas and Stefon Diggs in target share among wideouts, and he would have been first in air yard share. The Julio trade vaults Ridley into the stratosphere that many projected for A.J. Brown coming into the season. Enjoy the firework show. — Derek Brown
Mike Davis, RB
Similar to Fleets on Twitter or Clubhouse, some believe Davis will be a passing fad. However, this buyer, likely in the minority, isn’t banking that he’s some flash in the pan. Slipping into Christian McCaffrey’s Shaq-sized shoes last season, the journeyman carved out more than your run-of-the-mill niche. Over a 13-game stretch from Week 4 on, he finished RB7 in PPR formats. Most impressively, he totaled 2.97 yards after contact per attempt, the 19th-most yards created and the highest missed tackle rate (26.1%) of any RB in the league.
Critics will contend he slowed as the season progressed, but Carolina’s rather unsupportive offensive line and entire situation did him no favors. Naysayers have also shouted diminutive UDFA Javian Hawkins, Qadree Ollison or a yet-rostered rusher will push the veteran for touches. In reality, though, those odds are long. With a strong training camp, Mike Davis, who rarely leaves the field due to his three-down skill set, should lock in a role capable of cranking 300-plus touches, particularly in Arthur Smith’s balanced offense. At his RB27 ADP, he’s an exceptional value in 0.5 PPR leagues. Get him! — Brad Evans
2021 Fantasy Football Busts - Falcons
Russell Gage, WR
When the Julio-to-Tennessee news broke, it took a New York minute for self-proclaimed fantasy soothsayers to make wild claims about Russell Gage’s “sleeper” potential. After all, 20.0% of the target share immediately became available. He, however, is a disaster in disguise. Take the bait too early (WR57, 142.5 ADP) and regret is sure to kick in. Last season, playing mostly third fiddle within Atlanta’s high-flying offense, he ranked WR58 in overall success rate. He’ll chip in the occasional splashy line, but similar to last fall, inconsistency is sure to be the norm. — Brad Evans
Russell Gage, WR
The Russell Gage hype is a perfect recipe for heartbreak during the 2021 fantasy football season. Throughout his three-year career, he's lined up in the slot on 65.4% of his snaps, but that likely won't be his role if his new head coach utilizes personnel similarly to his time in Tennessee. In 2020 the Titans operated out of 11 personnel on 38% of their plays. Asking Gage to win on the outside isn't something we've seen in abundance. His career yards per route run (1.40) and 94.8 passer rating when targeted last year (59th), do not inspire overwhelming confidence.
Kyle Pitts is an athletic marvel regardless of positional designation. While I might not agree with his lofty ADP (TE4, 47.2 overall), the talent profile he possesses lines him up in the breakout crosshairs. In 2020, Pitts broke college football as a tight end. Among 278 running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers with ten or more zone or man coverage targets, he ranked 11th in man coverage yards per route run (4.85) and 32nd (2.98) in yards per route run against zone.
Pitts is a matchup nightmare that will be exploited with regularity by his new head coach. At his rich ADP, I won't overexpose myself in any format, but it would be a dramatic oversight to cross him off the draft board altogether. — Derek Brown
Kyle Pitts, TE
The phrase “generational talent” is often overused in NFL circles, but it certainly applies to the freakish Pitts. He separates with unusual suddenness for a player at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds. His catch radius is also almost mythical. To no one’s surprise, he finished top-five in multiple categories at the position among Division I participants, including total deep catches, deep yards and contested catch rate. His 4.91 yards per route run was nothing short of extraordinary for a tight end. Whether outside or up the seam, he’s sure to gash assignments, especially with a fairly accurate QB in Matt Ryan (QB16 in adjusted completion% in ‘20) tossing him the pill. DBs and LBs attempting to chase him down will need jetpacks strapped to their backs to keep pace.
Pitts is sure to buck the “never draft a rookie tight end” axiom. He’s a rare mixture, a player with a complete composition. Knowing defenses will have to account for Ridley and Jones, he’s sure to benefit from one-on-one situations. If you pass on the big boys at the position (e.g., Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller), Pitts is the ultimate consolation prize. With Julio Jones, who accounted for 7.6 targets per game in ‘20, out of the picture expect the Falcon to fly high this fall en route to roughly 800 yards and 7-9 TDs. — Brad Evans
Best Bets for the Falcons 2021
(Use the FTN Prop Shop to uncover the best lines across legal sportsbooks)
Matt Ryan OVER 4,450.5 passing yards (-115, DraftKings)
Matt Ryan has eclipsed this mark in eight of his last nine seasons. Add on a 17th game, and this is easy pickings. — Derek Brown
Calvin Ridley to lead the NFL in receiving yards (+1000, DraftKings)
Mammoth target share, unbreakable bond with his QB and a vulnerable defense — it’s the perfect recipe for Ridley to set the pace in yards this fall. — Brad Evans