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Fantasy Opportunity Spotlight: Atlanta Falcons 2.0

A team-by-team analysis of coaches’ tendencies and using them to help create realistic fantasy football projections. @TubaDeus revisits the Atlanta Falcons.

Welcome to the new home of my yearly Fantasy Opportunity series! For those who didn’t see this series on Reddit last year, I try to take a different approach to fantasy projections than your run-of-the-mill analyst. The basis of my process is that the number one indicator of fantasy success is opportunities to touch the ball. Obviously, individual player skill can (and will) affect that, but at the end of the day players are at the mercy of playcalling and play design. Therefore, if we want to make accurate projections, we need to look at each coach’s scheme and how they like to spread the ball around.

As a result, this series is very coach-centric. I’ll touch on individual players, but only as they relate to their coaches’ schemes. On a related note, this series will only aim to establish projections on how touches will be split up, not what individual players will be able to accomplish with those touches. That will come later once depth charts settle through training camp. Think of this series more as a basis for realistic expectations.

Make sense? Good. Let’s dive in.

Most of my stats are pulled from Pro Football Reference. Please support them. They are awesome and are my primary source of statistical information.

Atlanta Falcons

Looking Ahead

It’s the end of an era in Atlanta. Julio Jones holds all sorts of records, both for the Falcons and for the NFL. And now he’s a Titan. I know, this series isn’t supposed to focus on the players, but here’s the thing; there are certain players who simply command touches. These players are so good that any coach worth their salt will shape their offense around them. Julio Jones is one of those players. More importantly for the purposes of this exercise is who Jones’s departure opens the door for.

Will the Dallas Cowboys even have a chance to draft Kyle Pitts?
Brad McClenny/USA TODAY

As noted in the original version of my Falcons analysis, Atlanta spent premium draft capital on what is widely considered to be a generational talent at tight end. Meanwhile, the Falcons wide receiver corps still boasts capable starters in Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, but their depth is questionable as none of them were able to lock up the WR4 role when Ridley and Jones were taking turns getting hurt last year. Combine the lack of backup wideout talent, arrival of a new, highly touted tight end prospect, and a coach fresh off of calling the most 2TE sets in the league last year, and the signs seem to point toward a seismic shift in positional target shares. Expect the Falcons’ tight ends to command a much larger target share this year at the expense of the wide receivers.

There is one other small item Julio’s departure may affect. Pitts may be an incredible talent, but even if we consider him more as a rookie wide receiver than rookie tight end (who have abysmal rookie stats, historically), he’s got a long way to go to fill Jones’s shoes. Over the course of an entire season, that kind of impact can be felt on occasional missed plays that wouldn’t normally be missed. As a result, I’ve shaved 10 plays off my total play volume projection to account for any loss in offensive efficiency. Maybe that number is higher than it needs to be, but it’s tough to account for the loss of a legend.

2021 Projections

Total PlaysRush Attempts (Rush %)Passing Plays (Pass %) – Includes SacksSacks Allowed (Sack %)WR Targets (WR Target %)RB Targets (RB Target %)TE Targets (TE Target %)
2020 Stats1078409 (37.9%)669 (62.1%)41 (6.1%)395 (62.9%)106 (16.9%)104 (16.6%)
Original 2021 Projections (17 Games)1127447 (39.7%)680 (60.3%)43 (6.3%)375 (58.9%)103 (16.2%)137 (21.5%)
Updated 2021 Projections (17 Games)1117443 (39.7%)674 (60.3%)42 (6.2%)335 (53.0%)102 (16.1%)173 (27.4%)

Original Entry: Atlanta Falcons

Find this article helpful? You can follow me on Twitter and Reddit as @TubaDeus, though I spend most of my time on Discord.

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