Atlanta Falcons backfield fantasy outlook includes Mike Davis, Qadree Ollison

While there is a massive dilemma regarding Julio Jones, the Atlanta Falcons’ backfield is solidified for fantasy football purposes. Under head coach Arthur Smith, fantasy managers could succeed with running back Mike Davis leading the Falcons’ backfield in 2021.

Can Mike Davis duplicate his breakout fantasy success and lead the Falcons’ backfield?

All offseason, we constantly waited to see who would take over the Falcons’ backfield after the release of Todd Gurley. The Falcons reached into an NFC South division rival’s roster and snagged former Panthers RB, Mike Davis, to lead their rushing attack. 

We then spent the rest of free agency and the NFL Draft waiting for the Falcons to add competition. Surely, this would be too good to be true? Well, apparently not. And for all intents and purposes, Davis is in a prime spot to succeed as one of the surprising fantasy bellows in 2021.

Filling in for an injured Christian McCaffrey, Davis was an example of a waiver wire pickup turning into a championship winner. After entering the season in relative obscurity due to the massive shadow cast by McCaffrey’s presence, Davis ended 2020 as the RB12 in PPR. He set career-high totals across the board as a first-time starter. 

Davis turned 165 carries into 642 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also showed value as a receiver, catching 59-of-70 targets for 373 yards and 2 more scores. In the 12 games Davis started, he averaged 15.18 points per game.

Will Davis see this kind of volume in a traditionally pass-happy Atlanta offense?

This is not the Dan Quinn and Dirk Koetter offense that fantasy managers have grown accustomed to in the past. Don’t get me wrong — they are going to sling the ball. Matt Ryan is still playing well, and they have one of the best receiver groups with Jones (for now), Calvin Ridley, Kyle Pitts, and Russell Gage.

The No. 1 back in an Arthur Smith-coached team is going to rack up the touches. Just look at his previous gig with Tennessee and Derrick Henry. Now, by no means am I calling Davis the next Henry. I am simply saying that Davis could be in line for 250+ touches in 2021. 

Only a handful of running backs in fantasy could see anything close to this number. Even if Davis is inefficient, the volume alone makes him a worthwhile RB2. 

Since 2017, there have been 26 running backs that have recorded 250 carries or more. Of those RBs, the average finish is RB7.8, with only seven finishing outside the top 12 but no lower than RB20 (Jordan Howard in 2018).

Davis is about as safe of a fantasy RB2 as it gets, so long as we project his volume total correctly.

Who is the RB2 for the Falcons’ backfield in fantasy?

Nailing the leading fantasy running back for the Falcons is easy. The RB2, on the other hand, could prove to be more problematic for fantasy. Both Ito Smith (FA) and Brian Hill (Titans) are off the roster. Beyond them, it will be one of Qadree Ollison, Javian Hawkins, or Tony Brooks-Jones. None of these backs should instill confidence in any fantasy manager.

Ollison likely has the leg up in the competition for touches in the Falcons’ backfield. However, he has seen minor usage. Ollison garnered 24 total touches since entering the NFL in 2019. He carried the ball once for just 3 yards last year. 

Hawkins is an interesting UDFA out of Louisville. While his frame is roughly the size of Davis’ quad (5’8″ and 183 pounds), he set a single-season record for the school in 2019 with 1,525 rushing yards. In 2020, Hawkins averaged over 100 yards in seven games before opting out. He brings a noticeable change of pace, but how many touches are the Falcons willing to offer him?

Do not forget about Cordarrelle Patterson when looking at fantasy options

I know this is about the Falcons’ backfield, and usually, this means only running backs in fantasy. But Patterson is an offensive weapon.

Last year for the Bears, he accumulated 232 yards and a touchdown on 64 carries while adding another 132 yards on 21 receptions. He brings the most amount of experience to Atlanta’s backfield. It takes a creative coach to unlock his skill set, but Patterson can be explosive when they do. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry on his 167 career carries and 9.7 yards per reception.

For those who gain fantasy points from return yards, Patterson is one of the best in the NFL as he has 8 career kickoff touchdowns, including one in each of the last three seasons.

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.