Matt Ryan is perenially one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL. Still, it’s been hard to know which Ryan we will get for fantasy football each season as his top-three finishes in 2016 and 2018 were sandwiched by finishes outside the top 12. The Falcons‘ offensive line held him back in 2019 as they tied for the 4th-most sacks allowed in the NFL and didn’t give Ryan enough time to find his receivers downfield. However, with a porous defense that should be even worse this year, will the Falcons be the perfect game script team to provide Matty Ice garbage time scoring opportunities? Does he have the upside to get back to that top-three range?
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) March 27, 2018
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The Falcons led the NFL in pass attempts per game this past season, and it helped Matt Ryan establish some great passing numbers, although he threw nine fewer touchdowns than the prior season and seven more interceptions. During the first six weeks of the season, Ryan threw 15 of his 26 touchdowns and scored 23.1 fantasy points per game – that pace would have made him the number two overall QB in per-game scoring behind only Lamar Jackson. However, a Week 7 ankle injury against the Rams kept him out for the following three weeks, and he never regained that elite early-season form.
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Matt Ryan was on pace for 40 passing touchdowns over the first six weeks last season before suffering his ankle injury, so 32 TDs seems pretty realistic for him. These numbers make him my QB7 on the season and put him firmly in my third tier of QBs alongside Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and Tom Brady. The Falcons should be a very pass-heavy team yet again, even after the addition of Todd Gurley at running back, and Ryan will benefit to the tune of great passing numbers. I have him down for the second-most passing yards and third-most passing touchdowns in the NFL this year.
Matt Ryan fantasy finishes:
2015 – QB19
2016 – QB2
2017 – QB15
2018 – QB2
2019 – QB11
I’m sensing a trend here…pic.twitter.com/XvYRjG7GkX
— Kyle Krajewski (@KyleKrajewski) May 14, 2020
ADP: 92.8, QB10
Auction Value: $7
There are a few quarterbacks who are currently being drafted ahead of Matt Ryan, who I have ranked lower in my season-long projections – Aaron Rodgers and Carson Wentz are the two standouts. Ryan is being drafted well into the 9th or 10th round in many leagues, which could make him an excellent value for fantasy owners who don’t want to spend up for Pat Mahomes or Lamar Jackson early in their drafts.
Due to his lack of rushing production, Matt Ryan has a lower floor than other players at his position. Unlike Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, or Kyler Murray, who I have ranked in the same range, Ryan won’t have 30+ rushing yards every week to stabilize his fantasy value – he has never run for more than 150 yards in a season. Ryan is more dependent on his passing production, chiefly touchdowns, an area where he has fluctuated over recent years. Following his 38-touchdown First-Team All-Pro season in 2016, Ryan threw for just 20 touchdowns in 2017. Following his 35 scores in 2018, he only threw for 26 last season. The addition of Calvin Ridley to the receiving corps should boost his touchdown upside, and the Falcons will be among the league leaders in passing attempts. While Ryan may find himself closer to 25 touchdowns than the 32 I have him pegged for, his high yardage totals will likely make him a viable starting option every week.
Passing Yardage Leaders (2014-2019)
1. #MattRyan = 27,714
2. #PhilipRivers = 26,902
3. #DrewBrees = 26,335
4. #TomBrady = 25,422
— Ryan Michael 🏈 (@theryanmichael) May 27, 2020
Matt Ryan’s lack of rushing production also limits his fantasy ceiling, but the veteran QB was on pace for 40 touchdowns through the first half of last season. If he hit that TD number and passed for 4,800 yards or so, he would quickly get back to the top-three range where he has finished a few times. Touchdowns are one of the flukiest numbers in football and incredibly tough to predict year-to-year. Still, with high-caliber weapons at his disposal and a defense which will be forcing him to air it out late in games in comeback attempts, Ryan has as good a chance as any QB to lead the league in passing TDs.
Atlanta Falcons Offense
In his first season as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter led Atlanta to the 13th-most points per game in the NFL as well as the 5th-most total yards. While the Falcons’ offensive line struggled last season, they will surely benefit from the re-introduction of a now-healthy Chris Lindstrom, previous year’s first-round pick, to the starting lineup. Lindstrom landed on IR in Week 1 with a broken foot but was excellent when he played a handful of games late in the year. Kaleb McGary, another rookie from last season, should improve in his sophomore year and help provide stability to the offensive line alongside Alex Mack and Jake Matthews. The last time the Falcons had real protection in the offensive line was in 2016 when they led the NFL in points-per-game – Matt Ryan threw for 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year. You can make the case that this Atlanta offense could be even better if they can provide solid blocking for Ryan as Julio Jones is still his elite self. Calvin Ridley is better than any non-Julio receiver on that 2016 team. Former first-round pick Hayden Hurst should also be very productive in his first season with the team as he replaces Austin Hooper. Finally, Todd Gurley, at his best, is much better than Devonta Freeman ever was – it’s just a matter of staying healthy for him. The pieces are in place for the Falcons to sport a top-five offense this season.
Strength of Schedule
While the Falcons may not need a great schedule to feature an elite offense this year, their opponents may not help support these efforts. In their division, the Bucs (23rd) and Saints (21st) feature elite offensive play but had weak defenses in terms of allowing fantasy points to quarterbacks last year. The Panthers (12th) fared somewhat better, but with a significant exodus of talent from their defense, they may not maintain that ranking. The Falcons do play the AFC West this season, which has a handful of top-end defenses – the Chargers (7th), Broncos (9th), and Chiefs (14th) were fairly formidable against QBs last year. They also take on the NFC North this year, which features the Bears (4th), Packers (5th), and Vikings (8th), who were all elite in terms of allowing fantasy points to quarterbacks, although the Lions (27th) were not quite as good.
The Falcons’ schedule might scare you off of Matt Ryan, but there’s plenty to like about him as a late-round QB. I never advocate spending an early pick on a quarterback, but Ryan will be one of the guys I look to draft in the double-digit rounds. The Falcons have plenty of offensive firepowers and a defense which will provide a great game script to feature passing production. Ryan is consistently underrated as one of the better passers in football, and he should be back to excellent fantasy production with improved offensive line play this year.
Saved the best for last. @archerqb16 and I released our list of Matt Ryan’s top moments on #FalconsFaceToFace & this was our No. 1 moment. Falcons fans all I’m going to say is… Atlanta is lucky to have Matt Ryan as QB1. He’s that dude. Full episode: https://t.co/f5qjhm6bP5 pic.twitter.com/dnwpvglSFL
— Kelsey Conway (@FalconsKelsey) May 27, 2020