Matt Ryan’s fantasy outlook and projection for 2021

After losing Julio Jones in the trade with the Titans, does Matt Ryan's fantasy football outlook prove he is of value at his ADP in 2021?

The best way to describe Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is consistent. However, does Ryan’s fantasy football outlook prove he is of value at his current ADP? The veteran has finished as a QB2+ in 88% of his games since his rookie season back in 2008. Moreover, Ryan has thrown for 4,000+ yards every season since wide receiver Julio Jones joined the roster in 2011. How will Jones’ departure affect Ryan in 2021?

Matt Ryan’s fantasy outlook for 2021

It’s important to briefly examine Ryan’s 2020 season before discussing his 2021 fantasy outlook.

The Falcons tied with the Los Angeles Chargers for the fourth-most pass attempts per game (39.2) last season. The Kansas City Chiefs (39.7), Dallas Cowboys (39.9), and Pittsburgh Steelers (42.6) were the only other teams who averaged more. Yet, this passing volume didn’t translate to yards and points scored for the Falcons.

Atlanta ranked 15th in total yards per game (368.4) and 16th in points scored (25). Still, all of the blame cannot be placed on Ryan’s shoulders. Regardless, the famously consistent passer was inconsistent in 2020. The veteran quarterback only had six QB1 finishes, while also producing six QB2 and four QB3 outings.

Ryan has thrown for 4,000+ yards in every NFL season since 2011. One common denominator for him in those seasons was Jones. The former Alabama receiver accounted for 28.2% of Ryan’s passing yardage during his time in Atlanta. A hamstring injury hindered Jones for most of the 2020 campaign. Calvin Ridley stepped up to fill the void and will open the 2021 season as Ryan’s No. 1 receiver.

The emergence of Calvin Ridley

The 26-year-old receiver caught 90 of 143 targets for 1,374 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. Ridley averaged 11 targets and nearly 20 fantasy points per game without Jones last season, receiving a 30% target share. Furthermore, Ryan has a passer rating of 102.3 when targeting Ridley last season.

Jones’ absence forced receiver Russell Gage into a more prominent role. Gage averaged 7 targets, 4.5 receptions, and 49 receiving yards across 16 games. He finished as a WR3 or better in 69% of his games in PPR formats.

The Falcons will have to lean heavily on their offense, given the state of its defense. They allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing offenses. This trend is likely to continue in 2021, as Atlanta made no significant additions to fortify its defense this offseason.

New coaching regime

The addition of head coach Arthur Smith will change the team’s offensive philosophy. He was previously the offensive coordinator of the Titans, where their offense averaged 385.4 total yards per game — fifth in the NFL. Additionally, Tennessee averaged 32 rushing attempts (second) and 30 pass attempts per game (30th). Smith leaned heavily on play-action passes and pre-snap motion last year.

The Falcons also drafted Florida tight end Kyle Pitts fourth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. He played in eight games for the Gators last season, generating 43 receptions for 770 yards, and set the school single-season touchdown record by a tight end with 12. Pitts will be another versatile receiving option for Ryan.

Atlanta added to the running back position with the addition of Mike Davis in free agency. He took over as the Panthers lead back following Christian McCaffrey’s injury that derailed his 2020 campaign. Davis delivered for fantasy managers as a runner and receiver. He finished as a top-15 fantasy football running back in PPR formats. Considering the opportunity share Smith provided Derrick Henry in Tennessee, Davis could set a career-high in touches.

Will the offensive line be improved in 2021?

Atlanta will go into the 2021 season with the offensive line as a red flag. The most significant loss was center Alex Mack (who signed with the 49ers in free agency). Moreover, the Falcons lost left guard James Carpenter, which rounds out the bad news. The good news is that Atlanta’s offensive line could become a strength next season. The Falcons have several promising young offensive linemen that will have an opportunity to step up.

Fantasy projection

Ryan averaged 287.5 passing yards and 21.1 fantasy points per game since 2011, finishing as a QB1 in 52% of his games. In 2021, Ryan projects for around 590 pass attempts, 4,400 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.

Matt Ryan’s ADP

Ryan’s age and the infatuation with dual-threat quarterbacks have kept his ADP down.  This trend is similar in pay-to-play fantasy formats such as the National Fantasy Championship, where Ryan has an ADP of 140.38. Furthermore, Ryan’s ADP on Sleeper is 143.5.

Should you draft Ryan in 2021?

Yes, you should. Ryan is a better target in superflex or two QB formats. He has very little rushing upside, which is coveted among fantasy managers. Yet, Ryan provides fantasy managers with a relatively safe floor and consistent production.

Eric Moody is a Senior Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). He is also the co-host of the In The Mood for Fantasy Football podcast. You can read more of his work here and follow Eric on Twitter @EricNMoody.