Bryan Edwards fantasy impact: What does Falcons trade mean for Kyle Pitts and Drake London’s fantasy value?

Following a trade to the Atlanta Falcons, how will Bryan Edwards impact the fantasy outlook of Drake London, Kyle Pitts, and the offense?

While the NFL heads into its down period, moves continue to take place around the league as the Atlanta Falcons have traded for third-year WR Bryan Edwards to bolster their wide receiver room. Does this move the needle for fantasy football managers? How does the trade impact Edwards, Drake London, Kyle Pitts, and the rest of the Falcons’ offense?

Atlanta acquires Byran Edwards from the Las Vegas Raiders via trade

While the rest of us were still analyzing the recently released 2022 NFL schedule, the Falcons and Raiders were wheeling and dealing. According to Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and PFN NFL Insider Aaron Wilson, the Las Vegas Raiders have agreed to trade Edwards and a 2023 seventh-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for a 2023 fifth-round pick.

Edwards was a third-round pick (No. 81) in 2020 out of South Carolina, where he had 188 receptions for 2,562 yards and 32 touchdowns. After failing to secure a role with the Raiders, who have a plethora of pass-catching options available, Edwards, still 23 years old, will look to get his career on the right path and prove he can be a reliable perimeter option in the NFL.

How does the trade impact Edwards’ fantasy outlook in 2022?

Before we look at the rest of the team, as fantasy managers, we need to understand what the Falcons are getting in the first place. Not that long ago, people were calling Edwards the next Terrell Owens. Even his former QB Derek Carr stirred up the headlines, comparing him to his, at the time, former WR Davante Adams, whom he played with at Fresno State. Carr stated Edwards’ game reminded him of Adams. If so, how come things didn’t pan out?

For one, Edwards’ rookie career got off to a slow start. He came into the NFL while still recovering from a torn meniscus that ended his collegiate career. Then in Week 3 of his rookie season, Edwards suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain which kept him out of the next four games. He was limited to just 11 receptions in his first year in the NFL.

Edwards 2021 breakout never came despite the wide-open receiving room

Then we get to 2021. This was supposed to be the breakout season for the 6’3″ wide receiver. The operative word being “supposed.” However, like the rest of the Raiders’ 2020 draft class, Edwards disappointed. Despite the Raiders releasing Henry Ruggs III and lacking a legitimate No. 1 option at receiver, Edwards, who played in 16 games, saw just 59 targets (9.4% target share).

Edwards hauled in 34 receptions for 571 yards (16.8 ypc) with three touchdowns. If anything, Edwards was outplayed by Zay Jones, who earned himself a new three-year, $24 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was an afterthought in fantasy, finishing as the WR65 (6.8 PPR/game), with the only time he popped up on the recent transactions page being when someone dropped him.

Despite the new opportunity, Edwards could disappoint again

Opportunity is everything for fantasy. If someone is not getting looks, they likely are not scoring points. Edwards once again finds himself in a rather vacant receiving room. It is top-heavy with 2022 rookie Drake London and TE/unicorn Kyle Pitts. With Russell Gage in Tampa, Edwards’ competition for targets is likely Olamide Zaccheaus and maybe Christian Blake.

There will be every opportunity for Edwards to succeed in Atlanta. This is a team projected to be in negative game scripts most of the time. The issue here is I don’t know if the Falcons will push the tempo enough to make it count.

In negative game scripts last season, they were 14th in passing rate and 22nd in pace of play when trailing. With Marcus Mariota under center, and even perhaps Desmond Ridder, I don’t foresee them crossing 600 combined attempts in 2022. Last year, the Falcons were 19th as a team in attempts, and that was with Matt Ryan, who was coming off three-straight seasons of 600+ passes. That’s just not how head coach Arthur Smith wants to operate.

If anything, Edwards is likely the fourth option in the progression, behind London, Pitts, and Cordarrelle Patterson. I don’t believe there is enough volume in this offense to sustain that many players, especially after they showed a desire to become a more physical brand of football when selecting RB Tyler Allgeier out of BYU.

While the chemistry with Mariota might carry into the start of the seasons, I lack the confidence to select Edwards outside of a later-round pick in a 12-team league. If anything, he could turn into a priority waiver addition if things break right. Preferably, my exposure to Edwards for fantasy will come via best ball formats where the floor is not a concern, and we can take advantage of his explosive play potential without having to guess when that might take place.

How does Edwards’ addition impact the rest of the Falcons’ offense?

It’s never a bad thing to give your QB more options. The Falcons have made it relatively clear they prioritize size, opting to provide Mariota or Ridder with the largest catch radius possible. London comes in at 6’3″, Pitts at 6’4″, and Edwards at 6’3″ as well.

Mariota certainly does have some late-round upside, especially in 2QB or superflex formats, given his rushing capabilities, and this addition further helps his outlook. While not what I would call a needle-moving signing, Edwards is surely a sight for sore eyes with how the Falcons’ receiving room looked.

Both Drake London and Kyle Pitts have solidified roles and secure fantasy value

This might be somewhat of a boring answer, but I don’t think Edwards will significantly impact London or Pitts. If London gets out of the gates slow, it will be due to the rookie learning curve more than anything Edwards is likely to do. London can win at all three phases of the route and is far more of a complete receiver than those who box him into the “contested-catch” narrative.

London lined up in the slot 96% of the time during his first two seasons at USC, but he flipped to 85% perimeter in 2021 and had a breakout campaign. While 23 of his targets in 2021 did come with an average depth of target of 20 yards or more, 77 of the 119 total came either behind the LOS or on short passes (0-9 yards). That’s not just a “jump ball” kind of stat line. In Year 1, London could see seven targets a game on the conservative side. That’s 120 targets and roughly 20-22% of the target share. That feels closer to his floor than the ceiling.

As for Pitts, Edwards rarely moves inside, having aligned just 25% of his career snaps in the slot. While Pitts most certainly can move out, they can generate better matchups with him split into a more big-slot role. Accounting for 30.35% of the air yards and 20.3% of the targets (110), Pitts’ role on this team is secure. He is a top-four tight end, going just behind Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, and George Kittle. I wouldn’t be shocked if he even led the team in targets. Back in 2019, when he was last a starting QB with the Tennessee Titans, Mariota was second in the NFL in target share to tight ends at a whopping 27.7%.

Edwards is not likely to be the cause of Patterson’s fantasy regression

Patterson is also worth considering as his role as a pass catcher could be impacted. However, I think he will be just fine, at least from an opportunity standpoint. Last season, Patterson finished fifth in RB targets with 69. Not far behind him, though, was Mike Davis, sitting 11th with 58. The Falcons just released Davis and Allgeier is not a pass-catching threat, meaning Patterson should have his fill of opportunities out of the backfield.

There is a fairly weak correlation between perimeter receiver targets to those of running backs as they operate in different areas of the field. Of Patterson’s targets, only 12 (17.3%) were beyond 10 yards past the LOS. Of those 12, only two were outside the numbers, the area of the field I expect to see Edwards at in this offense. If anything, age and more targets to Pitts will lead to Patterson’s likely regression from a fantasy standpoint than anything Edwards does beyond a red-zone target here or there.

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 and give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.