I’ve written this sentence repeatedly over the past month, but this is by far the most exciting NFL off season of all time. Trade after trade, signing after signing. Never before have so many great players changed teams in one year. It is truly remarkable and we have another massive shake up again this week. Matt Ryan, the long-time Atlanta Falcon, has been traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2022 3rd round pick. Ryan was taken with the number three overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. He played for 14 seasons for the Falcons and holds nearly every single franchise passing record.
It is the end of an era in Atlanta, as they will look to groom a future franchise QB under current starter Marcus Mariota. The Falcons look like a completely different team than the one a year ago that boasted Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Kyle Pitts. Only Pitts remains, and the Falcons will go into a full rebuild. In the deal, the Falcons received only a 3rd round pick, and took on a dead cap hit of $40.525 million. This makes the trade feel like a major loss for the Falcons. If Matt Ryan had been shopped earlier in the offseason, one would think they could have gotten a much better deal. Unfortunately, many of the quarterback vacancies filled and the Falcons were left scrambling to decide the future of their franchise quarterback. Were they going to hit the reset button? Or push forward as a likely middle of the pack team for a fourth year in a row?
For the Colts, I don’t believe this makes them Super Bowl contenders like some are making them out to be. However, Ryan should be the best QB to have played for the Colts since Andrew Luck. The Colts have been quick to pull the trigger on quarterback as of late, as Ryan will be their 5th starter in as many years. This likely solidifies the Colts as a playoff contender in an absolutely loaded AFC next season. Additionally, the Colts will only have to pay Ryan $54 million over the next two seasons, which is close to the league average.
Although this move is exciting for the NFL landscape, it gives me just a meh reaction for fantasy purposes. Ryan isn’t going to make occasional disaster plays like Wentz, but at this stage of his career he’s not a massive upgrade fantasy wise. This might give the Colts offense a slight bump, but nothing earth shattering. The Falcons on the other hand become one of the least talented offenses in the league. Outside of Kyle Pitts, there is no star power. This figures to throw cold water on his breakout 2022 campaign. In this article we will take a dive into how this trade impacted the dynasty value of players on both teams. In addition to their outlook for the 2022 season.
This move doesn’t change Matt Ryan’s outlook too much for me fantasy wise. While I believe he will win more games next season, I’m not sure this will translate to more fantasy points. He’s gone from a QB2 finish, to QB10, to QB12, to QB20 in the last four years. In that time span, Matt Ryan was second only to Tom Brady in pass attempts (StatMuse). For Indianapolis, Ryan figures to compliment Jonathan Taylor as the Colts will likely deploy one of the league’s most run heavy offenses. He also has little to no rushing upside at this stage of his career. His days as a QB1 are likely over.
This doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value however, particularly in Superflex leagues. Ryan will likely operate as a mid tier QB2. While he is sure to have significantly less pass attempts than he did in Atlanta, he will be playing with the best running back in the NFL. This will free up receivers like Michael Pittman downfield, in what figures to be a low volume/high efficiency pass attack. I’d be willing to sell or acquire for a late first or early second depending on team build in Superflex leagues. In 1QB leagues Ryan should likely be treated as just a bye week fill in.
Taylor’s dynasty value figures to change very little in light of the Ryan trade. He does get a slight value bump for the 2022 season however. We don’t need to discuss how great Jonathan Taylor is. He’s the consensus dynasty RB1, and he doesn’t have any close competition. He always was going to be the focal point of the offense. Ryan is a much superior QB to Carson Wentz though. Despite playing for an inferior offense, Ryan led Wentz in passing yards, completion percentage, and yards per attempt. The addition of Ryan will also discourage defenses a bit from playing the run as much. In addition, Ryan is less turnover prone than Carson Wentz. This should keep Jonathan Taylor on the field more, and create scoring opportunities.
Ryan also has a history of featuring pass catchers out of the backfield. Devonta Freeman for a long time held this role, while Cordarrelle Patterson stepped in last season. Taylor caught 40 passes in 2021, including two games he had 6 receptions a piece. The problem is that Nyheim Hines also had 40 receptions last season. Hines proved to be a thorn in the side of Jonathan Taylor’s fantasy managers yet again, as he was on the field for 32% of the offensive plays. Jonathan Taylor has a locked-in role with Indianapolis. Nonetheless, if he were to be able to increase his modest target share and become more of a full time back he could be in for an even better season in 2022. He’s nearly impossible to trade in dynasty, and turns almost any team he’s on into a playoff contender. Unless you’re in a full rebuild, hold Taylor and his high fantasy production unless you get a king’s ransom.
Pittman enjoyed a breakout season in 2021 catching 88 passes for 1082 yards. It was a massive success or the second year pro after being taken in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft. Last season, Pittman was able to take on the alpha wide receiver role as T.Y Hilton spent the year hobbled by various injuries. A nice bump in dynasty value followed, going from sleeper last season to consensus WR2 range in 2022.
The Ryan trade doesn’t change his 2022 value much to me other than solidifying himself as a WR2 in dynasty leagues. Barring a high end wide receiver acquisition, Pittman should be the lead receiver yet again for the Colts. As stated, Ryan is a big upgrade at quarterback compared to Carson Wentz. While it is unlikely to create many more fantasy points for Michael Pittman in 2022, this trade should stabilize his value. Which was in flux after the Carson Wentz trade. In dynasty leagues he fits into any team build as a young wide receiver. Pittman is worth a mid-first in 1QB, or a mid-late first in Superflex leagues.
The Rest of the Indianapolis Offense
The weapons outside of Taylor and Pittman in the Colts’ offense leaves something to be desired. Their depth chart is composed of players like Nyheim Hines, Paris Campbell, Ashton Dulin, Mo Alie-Cox, and Kylen Granson. None of these players are fantasy options in your line-ups other than in the deepest of formats. The Colts are likely candidates to add a weapon through free agency or the draft. They won’t have a first round pick though due to acquiring Carson Wentz last off season. Julio Jones has been linked to the Colts in recent days, and he would definitely jump back into fantasy discussions again if he were to reunite with Ryan.
Shortly after the Matt Ryan trade it was reported that Mariota had signed a two year deal with the Falcons. He is now the favorite to be the week one starter in Atlanta. This will be Mariota’s first opportunity to lead a team since being benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill in week 6 of the 2019 season. In 1QB leagues, Mariota doesn’t have the upside in this poor offense to be worth considering in fantasy line-ups. In Superflex however he had low end QB2 upside due to his rushing ability. His play has been up and down the last few seasons when he has been on the field. He is a player who is as likely to score 6 points as he is 20 points for your team. The Falcons also should be one of the favorites to take a QB in the upcoming draft, so Mariota’s dynasty expectations should remain low. Keep him on your team as a bye week fill in. If you’re in a rebuilding situation, I’d be happy to receive a 2nd round pick in return.
Kyle Pitts is stepping into a much different locker room than the one he did a season ago. Gone are Julio, Ridley, and Ryan. Pitts will look to establish himself as the leader of an organization that is going through a complete overhaul in personnel. For dynasty, what else needs to be said about Kyle Pitts. He’s one of the greatest talents the tight end position has ever seen.
He came just short of Mike Ditka’s all time record for receiving yards for a rookie tight end. This came against defenses that were able to focus their coverage on him without Calvin Ridley in the line-up most of the season. One drawback is Pitts managed to find the end zone only one time in 2021. This was more due to the Falcons poor offense overall than anything Pitts was doing wrong. The fact that he was able to manage 1000 yards in a tough situation is a testament to how much potential Pitts has.
For fantasy, this move definitely hurts Pitt’s 2022 outlook. Defenses will once again be able to focus on Kyle Pitts. Furthermore, Mariota is not the caliber of passer that Matt Ryan is. Pitts will struggle to maintain his target volume and efficiency with Mariota at quarterback. The Falcons will likely be one of the worst offenses in the league, which will also make it tougher for Pitts to score touchdowns yet again. Long term, I’m not worried about Pitts at all. He’s still by far and away my dynasty TE1, and the Falcons will likely be acquiring a new young signal caller in the near future. I’m fading in redraft leagues, but it’s full steam ahead for Pitts in dynasty. His market has always been insane, so I doubt anyone is selling low. However, If someone is shopping Pitts based on his short term outlook then pounce on it. This will likely be the only window you have for a long time.
Patterson was a revelation for fantasy managers last season finishing as the RB9 in PPR formats. Going undrafted in many leagues last summer, Patterson could be argued to be the late Summer/early Fall waiver pick up of the year. He was an elite option for most of the fantasy season, playing the new “wide back” position that he and Deebo Samuel made famous. Patterson compiled 1100 all purpose yards, 11 touchdowns, and 52 receptions in 2021. He signed back with the Falcons on a two year deal. In 2022 he will look to fill the same role he had this past season in a new look offense.
The problem is he had far more production in 2021 than he had in his three previous seasons combined. This was a total outlier year, in an unheard of ninth year breakout campaign. Patterson is 31 years old, and is going to be a part of one of the worst offensive situations in the NFL. Matt Ryan is a much better quarterback than Marcus Mariota, so defenses will be able to fixate more on Patterson. Prior to this trade, I thought Patterson had appeal to contenders as a RB who could fill an RB2/flex role.. With Mariota I fear Patterson should be treated as nothing more than a late round flier. If I could get any sort of 2nd round pick for Patterson in dynasty leagues accept.
The Rest of the Falcons’ Offense
Just like the Colt’s offense after Taylor and Pittman, one can pretty much lump the rest of the weapons together at this point. Their wide receiving core consists of Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby, Chad Hansen, and Austin Trammell. Hayden Hurst was lost in free agency, so Pitts is the only tight end of note as well. This is easily one of the least talented offenses in the NFL, and the Falcons should be in contention for the number one pick in next year’s draft. For fantasy purposes, none of these players will be line-up worthy in most formats. The Falcons are also a candidate to draft a rookie wide receiver with an early draft pick. They would immediately walk in as the WR1 in a very poor offense. So whoever they might be, fantasy expectations maybe should be tempered for a season.
What do you think of the Matt Ryan trade? You can follow Emerson on Twitter @Dynasty_Analyst to keep up with his work. Keep your eyes peeled for more articles from our great Dynasty team, coming soon. Remember to tune into the 5 Yard Dynasty livestream every Tuesday at 8pm (GMT).