The great members of the PFN Dynasty staff were posed the following question: “what is your bold prediction for the upcoming season?” Five brave souls stepped up, and I analyzed these five 2020 fantasy football bold predictions individually in a series — each successive article escalating in boldness. I complete this series by tackling the series’ boldest prediction that The Atlanta Falcons will have a top 10 QB, top 10 RB, top 10 TE, and two top 10 WRs in 2020.
The Atlanta Falcons will have a top 10 QB, top 10 RB, top 10 TE and two top 10 WRs in 2020
Prediction made by Andy Gallagher (@AndySGallagher)
Why it’s Bold
Julio Jones is the only one of them who finished in the top 10 in 2019 at their respective position. Dirk Koetter isn’t a guy who inspires confidence as a play-caller. Todd Gurley might not have knees. Hayden Hurst competed with Nick Boyle for the backup tight end spot with the Baltimore Ravens.
Why will it happen
The bizarre trends show that Matt Ryan is in for a big year. He performs well in election years; he performs better in even number years… but those aren’t genuinely things you should hang your hat on. The truth is, Ryan has historically performed much better in his second year with an offensive coordinator. We saw it with Steve Sarkisian, and we saw it with Kyle Shanahan. Ryan would have likely snuck into the top 10 had it not been for an injury last season, but it’s likely he does it this year.
There’s a tendency to forget just how good Gurley is. The Falcons don’t have a long-term commitment to him, so there’s no need to force a committee. He’s going to get the ball plenty of times. Injuries derailed the offensive line last year, and they struggled, but there’s optimism, and the run blocking should take a step forward.
Julio is Julio and shows no sign of slowing down, but Calvin Ridley had the same number of points per game (10.3) as A.J. Brown in standard scoring in 2019. Brown finished 10th. Ridley’s an outstanding route runner who will benefit from the attention that Jones will draw from opposing defenses.
The Falcons traded a second-round pick for Hurst and expect him to fill Austin Hooper’s shoes. Hooper is coming off two seasons of finishing as a top 10 fantasy tight end. They’re similar athletes, and the Ravens took Hurst with the 25th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft for a reason. He’s a talented player. Ryan loves using his tight ends, and Hurst should excel.
Initially, I balked at this 2020 fantasy football bold prediction, but the more I dive in, the more plausible it seems to me. Admittedly, there are a lot of moving parts here, and this screams extreme boldness. No player can miss time due to injuries, and two players in Ridley and Hurst will have to record career seasons.
Ryan is a safe QB1 and one signal-caller that I am targeting in redraft leagues. He is a safe bet for elite production. An excellent supporting cast surrounds him—his wide receivers, Jones and Ridley, rival any top duo in the league.
Jones is everything you would want in a receiver and finished No. 26 in PFN’s Top 100 players of 2020. Ridley is a breakout star in the making and is looking for his first 1,000-yard season. I think he reaches that goal with double-digit touchdowns. Does that get Ridley into the top ten? I like his chances of reaching that milestone.
Now comes the question marks. All fantasy fans know the story of Gurley. He was the top back to own a few seasons ago, but arthritis in his knee has kept his fantasy managers ripping their hair out. He now returns home to Georgia, and while he is a risky player to own, he is still an upgrade over last season’s starter Devonta Freeman and his backup Brian Hill.
Gurley was running behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league with the Los Angeles Rams, but the Falcons’ line wasn’t much better last season. Atlanta did upgrade their line in the offseason, but the jury is still out on the extent of their improvement.
His knee injury is a mystery, and arthritic knees don’t get any better. Gurley is a risky option in fantasy and doubtful to finish as a top ten back in 2020.
Hurst replaces the departed Hooper at tight end. Hooper finished as the TE6 last season with Atlanta by producing 75 receptions on 97 targets for 787 yards and 6 touchdowns. Hurst is stepping into a substantial role in a loaded passing offense and possesses enormous upside as the number one tight end in a Falcons offense that loves to incorporate the tight ends.
There is a wide range of outcomes still in play for Hurst. I don’t project him to produce a similar stat line to Hooper with him having to develop chemistry with Ryan in a shortened offseason. Plus, he is down on the pecking order for targets.
Hurst will double up his career 2019 season of 30 receptions and two touchdowns, but he also has the opportunity to finish within the top ten status that Andy is projecting.
I appreciate Andy’s boldness with this one, so I had to make this prediction the boldest of the five in my 2020 Fantasy Football Bold Prediction Series. The other bold predictions zeroed in on one player’s ascension into the fantasy elite for the 2020 season. However, the most fearless prediction took on the top players from the Atlanta Falcons’ offense.
The biggest obstacle of this bold prediction to come to fruition is Gurley reaching the top ten in running backs. Last season, the majority of his fantasy production was not impressive. Gurley still only finished as the RB14 last season despite producing 14 total touchdowns.
More than likely, Gurley will catch more than 49 catches in 2020 on an offense that attempted the most passes in 2019. Conversely, the Falcons will not produce much of a running game. The Falcons finished 30th in average rushing yards per game last season. Koetter’s offenses have finished in the bottom third in rushing yards the previous three seasons, including last season with the Falcons and three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The combination of Gurley’s arthritic knee running behind a weak offensive line and their inclination to being a pass-heavy offense makes me believe that fantasy managers should not forecast him to return to the top ten running backs in fantasy football in 2020.
I want to thank each of the contributors to the 2020 Fantasy Football Bold Prediction Series. Please let me know @CALL_ME_SOS which prediction do you think is the boldest and one that has the best chance to materialize.