Mariota hasn’t started an NFL game since 2019, and while
everyone touts the fact that he played for Falcons HC Arthur Smith
in Tennessee when Smith was the OC, it was actually Smith who
benched Mariota for Ryan Tannehill.
Yes, he knows the system, which gives him an advantage over rookie
third-round pick Desmond Ridder, at least initially. He also has
the mobility and athleticism to not only make plays with his legs,
but extend plays in the passing game with his ability to move
the pocket and throw on the run. He has some exciting, young,
dynamic receivers in second-year TE Kyle Pitts and rookie first-round
WR Drake London, and RB Cordarrelle Patterson is a versatile playmaker.
But beyond those three, this is a skill group lacking depth.
Mariota’s running ability gives him some potential low-end
QB2 value in deeper formats.
In the Spring, when everybody was running around in t-shirts
and shorts, word out of mini-camp was that Ridder was making plays
and taking a run at Marcus Mariota’s starting job. But there is
no way Ridder is even close to being ready to run this group out
on the field. Once the Falcons are officially eliminated from
playoff contention (which might not take long), I fully expect
Ridder to get some valuable experience behind center, but it won’t
be in Week 1.
A WR/KR early in his career, Patterson took on the running back
role in 2021 for an anemic Falcons offense in desperate need of
a back. A true hybrid player, he led the team in rushing and was
one of the top receiving backs in the NFL. He finished 5th among
NFL backs in targets, 7th in receptions, 2nd in receiving yards
and 4th in receiving TD’s.
This year, with Calvin
Ridley suspended for the season and Russell Gage lost to free
agency, Atlanta really needs a receiver to pair with rookie first-round
pick Drake London. Expect Patterson to be that guy. At 31 years
of age, he is not built to take the pounding of a lead back, and
in fact, looked like he felt the effects of that late last season.
Look for rookie Tyler Allgeier to be the 1st and 2nd down back
with Patterson filling the 3rd down change of pace role as a hybrid
How to play him depends on your league. The Falcons depth chart
still lists him at RB. If that’s the case, he could be a
very smart play in PPR formats. If he’s listed at WR, where
it sounds like most of his snaps will come from, then he’s
a back end WR2 who could see a lot of volume targets due to his
versatility and ability to align all over the field. There’s
little competition for targets on this team beyond TE Kyle Pitts.
A former college walk-on who was moved to LB at one point in
his career made the most of his move back with over 2,700 rushing
yards and 36 TD’s on just 425 carries in his last two seasons
at BYU. He dropped to the 5th round of this year’s draft
largely because of a disappointing 4.6 40-time at the Combine.
But he is a load (5-11, 220) and was tough to bring down in the
open field, averaging almost 50 yards per game after contact.
Physically, he’s much more suited to the 1st/2nd down back
role than Cordarrelle Patterson, and he still has a lot of tread
on his tires as a result of the way he was used by the Cougars.
As long he picks things up quickly, he could see consistently
high carry numbers as the season goes on and Patterson takes on
more of a WR-3rd down back role.
Of course, this is a bad Falcons team that still has its’
issues along the o-line, and will be playing from behind most
weeks, which will cut into his production. But Allgeier is a player
who could be available late in drafts who could end up over-producing
on value. Don’t be afraid to take him late and stash him.
Built for the physical running game HC Arthur Smith wants (5-11,
224), Williams has not found a big role in his last three seasons
in Kansas City and Chicago (he was a Covid hold out in 2020),
but he did average over 4.5 yards per carry with 11 rushing TD’s
in that span. He could end of working in committee with rookie
Tyler Allgeier on 1st and 2nd down, and he has enough receiving
skills to stay on the field on 3rd down if the team decides to
keep Cordarrelle Patterson at WR.
Either way, he won’t be fantasy relevant until Allgeier
falters, gets hurt, or hits the rookie wall.
Edwards was looking like the 4th or 5th WR on the Raiders roster
before getting shipped to Atlanta this Spring. While he hasn’t
popped in his first two NFL seasons, Atlanta could potentially
be a good landing spot. In dire need of receiving help, he could
be in line for the most significant target share of his career.
The question is if this offense can sustain a third receiver behind
Kyle Pitts and Drake London, who should ramp up to WR1 status
pretty quickly, depending on how Cordarrelle Patterson’s
role evolves. He’s not a fantasy consideration until he
proves otherwise on the field.
London is big (6-4, 219) and long (33” arms) and can align
on the perimeter or the slot. He was extremely productive at USC
when healthy, and that will be his biggest test early on. It’s
hard not to envision him literally being handed a starting spot
in this offense, but he will have to stay on the field. He’s
fully healed from his ankle surgery in October, and though Kyle
Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson will be early targets, he could
put up WR3 production. Just watch out for that rookie wall in
Zaccheaus caught 33 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns
in 2021, and that’s only because injuries and departures
completely depleted the receiving corps. He figures to be in the
same boat this year. With Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Pitts, Drake
London and even Bryan Edwards potentially ahead of him on the
depth chart, he doesn’t figure in anyone’s fantasy
Pitts is being drafted as the 3rd TE in early drafts behind Travis
Kelce and Mark Andrews, ahead of the likes of Darren Waller and
George Kittle, and we’re okay with that. As a rookie in
2021, Pitts ranked 3rd among NFL TE’s in receiving yards,
5th in targets and 8th in receptions. His 6.4 fantasy points per
game were 12th best a year ago, and in year two, on an offense
that lacks many receiving options, he should see a bounce in production.
If the Falcons can find their way into the red zone and give Pitts
some legitimate chances at the end zone, he could threaten those
top two as well.
On his own, Firkser isn’t raising any fantasy eyebrows.
But HC Arthur Smith is going to have to be creative with this
offense, and though he’ll want to run his share of two-TE
sets, which will at least put Firkser on the field, he could do
some things that involve splitting guys like Cordarrelle Patterson
and Kyle Pitts out into formation, which could create further
opportunities for Firkser. Despite all that, he’s barely
averaged 3.0 targets per game the last two seasons and his 9.0
yard average per catch is not going to create much buzz, real