The Falcons became just the fifth team over the past decade to throw fewer than 420 passes last season, and they didn't have a single player finish among the top 25 in PPR scoring at any position besides QB. They should pass more in 2023, but the addition of Bijan Robinson with a top-10 pick suggests this is still going to be a very run-heavy squad. Is there enough room here for all three blue-chip prospects to live up to expectations?
Record: 7-10 (20)
PPG: 21.5 (15)
YPG: 318.6 (24)
Pass YPG: 158.8 (31)
Rush YPG: 159.9 (3)
PAPG: 24.4 (31)
RAPG: 32.9 (1)
2022 Fantasy finishes
Number to know: 28.8
That's how many passes Desmond Ridder averaged in his four starts. It's not a particularly big number – all but five teams averaged more passes per game last season – but it was a significant increase over the Marcus Mariota starts. In the other 13 games, the Falcons attempted just 23.1 passes per game, fewer than only the Bears last season. This is going to be a run-heavy team with Arthur Smith in charge, but if Pitts and London are going to live up to expectations, it'll need to be more like those four games with Ridder for the whole season. If they're 25th in pass attempts, London and Pitts at least have a chance to be must-start players; if they're 31st, they're probably going to disappoint.
You won't read much here about Bijan Robinson, by the way. That's because there isn't much question about whether he'll be good as a rookie. The question is how good. He'll almost certainly go in the first round, and I think you can make a case for him as a top-three RB in drafts. However, his passing game role is ultimately going to determine how good he can be -- the floor is super high because he's likely going to be an efficient runner in a very good rush offense, but if he can get to 60-plus receptions here, there's RB1 overall upside.
3 RB carries, 2 RB targets, 103 WR targets, 34 TE targets
Rankings and projections
Chris Towers' projections
|QB||Desmond Ridder||PA: 512, YD: 3479, TD: 19, INT: 12; RUSH -- ATT: 47, YD: 259, TD: 3|
|RB||Bijan Robinson||CAR: 259, YD: 1191, TD: 10; TAR: 67, REC: 53, YD: 426, TD: 2|
|RB||Tyler Allgeier||CAR: 118, YD: 518, TD: 5; TAR: 21, REC: 15, YD: 123, TD: 1|
|WR||Drake London||TAR: 128, REC: 81, YD: 927, TD: 6|
|WR||Mack Hollins||TAR: 61, REC: 38, YD: 455, TD: 3|
|WR||Scott Miller||TAR: 36, REC: 21, YD: 171, TD: 1|
|TE||Kyle Pitts||TAR: 128, REC: 73, YD: 926, TD: 6|
How much more will they throw?
Robinson is going to get a ton of opportunities, but it would still be a surprise if the Falcons ran the ball 144 times more often than they throw. But if they're bottom five in pass attempts, that probably still makes it tough for Drake London and Kyle Pitts to live up to their potential. If you want to bet on anyone from this passing game taking a step forward, I'd much rather do it with Pitts, given positional scarcity, but I'm probably not going to reach on either.
One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
This figures to be a highly concentrated offense, and Robinson, Pitts, and London are all being drafted high enough where none of them really qualifies as a sleeper. I think you can make a case for someone like Cordarrelle Patterson or even Tyler Allgeier as a sleeper – the latter of whom would be right back in a very valuable role if anything happened to Robinson. I'll go with Ridder here, who has plenty of weapons and could emerge as a viable QB2 for Fantasy if he plays well. The low projected passing volume hurts, but this could be a pretty explosive offense that could make up for that.
The case for Pitts is less clear than it was a year ago, when we learned that even the preternaturally gifted young tight end could not overcome some lousy circumstances. How much of his 2022 struggles you pin on Pitts vs. those circumstances will determine how much interest you have in drafting him. Me? Well, I'll still bet on the guy who was historically productive in college, had 1,000 yards as a rookie, and won't even turn 23 until the second month of this season – Pitts is younger than three of the six tight ends drafted in this year's NFL Draft's first two rounds. Is he a sure thing? I'd say in the long run, yes, but certainly not this season. However, if Ridder is even competent, Pitts should be in line for 100-plus targets, and his big-play abilities are nearly unmatched at the position. It's a profile I want to bet on.
When you compare London to Pitts, Pitts is the better athlete and had the better rookie season, while London was obviously more productive last season. But that is kind of skewed by the fact that only London got to play with Ridder, in an offense that at least somewhat resembled a modern, pass-first NFL offense; in the 10 games they actually played together, Pitts averaged 35.6 yards while London averaged 37.4. And yet, it's London who is going about 20 picks ahead of Pitts in NFC drafts at the time of this being published. I think they project very similarly this season – I'm projecting for both to have a target share of 25% with a bunch of downfield targets – but the bar for London to be a must-start Fantasy option is significantly higher than it is for Pitts. Given that, if I have to pick one of them, Pitts is the easy call for me.