2022 NFC South Preview: Fantasy Football Outlook, Sleepers, and Busts

Matt Bevins breaks down the NFC South from a fantasy football perspective.

2021 Review

 

Points per Game 18.4 26th
Offensive Snaps 1006 31st
2021 Record 7-10 24th
2022 Vegas Win Projection 5 31st

 

The Atlanta Falcons are the definition of a hot mess. Matt Ryan disappointed them (on the field) and then left them (for the Colts). The squad has some intriguing draft prospects, a sophomore year to watch in Kyle Pitts, and some free agent signings that were made, but the most likely scenario has the Atlanta Falcons out of the playoffs and picking at the top of the 2023 draft.

Arthur Smith- retains his head coaching job, a year removed from his debut, coming over from the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator role where he lead the Titans to amazing red zone production. The rushing attack was immensely successful while Smith was in Tennessee as well, as Smith was there the entire tenure of Derrick Henry.

Dean Pees will lead the defensive side of the ball, his 49th year of pro coaching. An NFL lifer, Pees will continue to cruise along throughout the NFL.

Dave Ragone will return to his second year as offensive coordinator, originating in the role of the Bears passing game coordinator/former QB coach.

The Falcons had an offseason of immense turnover. Their star quarterback Matt Ryan was traded to start the offseason to the Indianapolis Colts, who continue to wallow in muck and mire of underachieving quarterbacks, hoping to find someone to lead them after the loss years ago of Andrew Luck. Marcus Mariota has come over to save the day on a two-year deal and will hope to make this team more than a single-format offense. They brought back arguably one of the few bright spots in their offense in Younghoe Koo. The team tendered a contract to Olamides Zaccheus, gave a one-year deal to former hopeful Auden Tate and possible flash route candidate Geronimo Allison, and traded for Bryan Edwards. The team has Mariota in the fold and hopes to have him mentor future standout Desmond Ridder, who will likely look to build a strong career case with Drake London.

 

Passing Game

 

Passing Yards per Game 218.4 16th
Passing Touchdowns per Game 1.2 T-25th
Pass Attempts per Game 33.7 19th

 

The Falcons have begun to turn the corner in a new offensive landscape, letting Matt Ryan leave the squad via trade, and bringing in Marcus Mariota to reunite with his former coordinator in Tennessee. Mariota allows the Titans to expand their playbook with a quarterback who may not have as much arm strength or pocket presence but can allow defenses to slip back a bit and open up receivers. From 2016-2018, Mariota in his starts had over 300 yards rushing in each season.

Could this help them with the ascension of a couple of very valuable pieces on their hole-filled roster? Kyle Pitts and Drake London don’t need to say it, but more of the same wasn’t getting Atlanta anywhere. Pitts showcased some amazing potential, but the under 6.5 targets per game average seen over his rookie year showcases either a lack of trust, a need to adjust to a new playbook or a quarterback who may be entering the twilight of their professional career. While this is a very disheartening target amount, the fact that over the course of the season, his yards per reception sat at 15 yards per catch is an extremely good sign.  This number, for anyone who hasn’t fully dove into the Pitts stat hole to help assuage their high draft picks in dynasty leagues, is first overall for tight ends last season (just edging out Goedert and Gronk).

The team also looks to find a butterfly-like approach on a bunch of chrysalises, as they have three potential starting wide receivers with an average age of 23.3 (London, Bryan Edwards, and Olamides Zaccheaus). London is the sexiest of the offerings, as his rise up the draft board continues with the hope the Falcons can be competent and put their young and highly drafted youth in a position to succeed. There’s no sure thing here, but London was the most talented wide receiver coming out of USC, and his 8th overall tag stamps that out.

 

While the cost of London is now likely not much of a steal (he’s debuting in fantasy drafts around WR30, right around names such as Amon-Ra St Brown), London is set up to receive a big workload.

 

Running Game

 

Rushing Yard per Game 85.4 31st
Rushing Touchdowns per Game 0.6 27th
Rushing Plays per Game 23.1 29th

What running game? Alright, fine. I’ll bite. Cordarrelle Patterson returns, coming off a 2021 season where his dynamic ascension came crashing to the ground incredibly quickly. Patterson was an absolute force from Weeks 1-14, showcasing his ability to be both rusher and hybrid pass catcher on a team that didn’t have very much going for them otherwise.  With that in mind, it was incredibly shocking to watch it all come crashing down after that, as the end of the season went out like a whisper, with many set to just forget him for the upcoming season.

Yes, Mike Davis was by far the biggest Atlanta running back bust, but this rushing backfield is still slightly in flux, as the team retains Patterson and brings in Tyler Allgeier with Davis departing. Allgeier, a draftee out of BYU in the fifth round, profiles as a one-cut rusher who will bruise and chunk rush, likely helping this team spell the pass-catching nature of Patterson, and the third in line Damien Williams, who has made a career of being a very passable rushing threat who is better with his receiving hands than rushing opportunities.

 

Sleeper

 

Drake London, WR

Mariota is going to be looking for consistent, available playmakers, and London profiles as easily their best chance to do this. While wideouts like London and Chris Olave are getting the usual rookie push down on receivers, there is a huge possibility these guys could wrap their seasons up as top 25 points league receivers. London is an amazing route runner, he’ll get up for balls in contested catch situations, and he could help Mariota find some consistency

 

Deep Sleeper

 

Tyler Allgeier, RB

I’m slightly higher on Tyler A than a lot of writers, but the thought to me is that this offense has so many low-level/low expectation playmakers, and the only consistent force will be Kyle Pitts, who while seeing a low level of targets just last season will still be absolutely blanketed by defenses by nature of being the best talent on the field. London will likely also draw coverage, and while Patterson has had an impressive career and is an amazing story/person, he’s pushing closer to the end of his career than the beginning and was showing decline at the end of last season, and with his explosiveness gone will become a very unusable asset. Allgeier could benefit from this and has more potential for chunk yardage rushing. As an end of your draft target, Allgeier is someone who could have an outside shot at RB2 status if Cordarrelle flails.

 

Bust Candidate

 

Cordarrelle Patterson, RB/WR

I LOVE Patterson as a person. He’s amazingly humble and thankful. He’s able to make defenders miss in certain situations and has shown some incredible playmaking ability, often turning a 10-yard check down into a massive touchdown reception. While Mariota will likely find magic with Cordarrelle on an irregular basis, I just don’t see Patterson getting anywhere close to where his height of production was in any other season. Cordarrelle is likely entering his swan song, and you don’t want to be left holding the bag.

 

 

Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Ken Murray, Roy K. Miller, William Howard & David Rosenblum / Icon Sportswire

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