A lot of things, and I mean A LOT of things, went wrong for the Falcons in 2021. They were supposed to have one of the more dynamic aerial attacks in the league with Calvin Ridley and rookie mega-man Kyle Pitts leading the way. Matt Ryan led the world in pass attempts in 2020 and the Falcons were top-10 in passing rate per game. But when the dust settled on the season, all that offensive hope vanished into the humid Georgia air.
The Falcons may have gone 7-10, but you wouldn’t know it to look at them. I swear to you, the season highlight video from their own team website prominently features a game where they needed a last second field goal to beat the freaking New York Giants:
With Calvin Ridley missing in action, Pitts hauling in just one score, and Mike Davis off somewhere trying to bribe other teams to sign free agent Cordarrelle Patterson, determining a buy and a sell for this sad sack franchise is a tall order. But I think I’ve cracked it. Let’s get into it for 2022.
Buy – Kyle Pitts
You probably were a part of the problem (I know I was at times), but there were some crazy things being predicted for Kyle Pitts before the start of the 2021 season.
BOLD PREDICTION: Kyle Pitts will score 15+ TDs in 2021 and finish as the TE1 #Bold #TEsMatter #Unicorn #LeBronJamesPlayingFootball
— 4th & Stormy (@4thAndStormy) August 27, 2021
I’m sorry to tell you @4thAndStormy, but Kyle Pitts only scored 6.67% of that number this year. Yes, his one touchdown this year was a major disappointment, but there were some clear signs that Pitts is the player we thought he was, and just suffered from tremendous bad luck in 2021.
Pitts led the team with 110 targets, which perhaps might be inflated with the departure of Ridley, but Pitts was clearly playing as the WR2 when he was on the field. His 1,188 air yards were second only to Mark Andrews and his 10.8 aDOT was highest among all tight ends who saw at least 25 targets. And while all that is impressive enough, his ranks among all rookie tight ends in history was also solidified. Pitts is the ONLY tight end ever to see 110 targets and at least 1,025 receiving yards their first year. Pitts may have finished 50 yards short of Mike Ditka’s rookie record, but he was 132 yards ahead of Jeremy Shockey who now sits in third place.
As far as being unlucky, Pitts makes the Mount Rushmore this season. In addition to the yards and targets, he was eighth among all tight ends in red zone targets. He was the only tight end in the top 15 red zone looks to have less than two touchdowns. His 37.5% catch percentage in that area ranked 77th among 94 tight ends.
None of us know what’s going to happen with Calvin Ridley and the next guy on this list in 2022. But one thing’s for sure. If one of both are gone, there are massive offensive holes to fill. Pitts is the answer. Fade the low touchdown noise and follow the usage.
Sell – Cordarrelle Patterson
What a position the Falcons are in right now. The 2021 season proved that Mike Davis is an old ball of dust. But he is signed through 2022 (albeit with a minor cap hit if he is released). Cordarrelle Patterson went LaDainian Tomlinson 2.0 on us and finished RB8 in PPR points in 2021. Through Week 5, he was the overall RB3 behind just Derrick Henry and Austin Ekeler. Just outstanding work by the almost 31-year old journeyman.
But, as 31-year old running backs tend to do, Patterson got old and slow in a hurry beginning in Week 6. From Week 6 through the end of the fantasy season, Patterson ranked as RB22 in PPR formats behind guys like Devonta Freeman and Darrel Williams. After the Week 6 bye, Patterson scored over 14 fantasy points just three times and had 22 TOTAL PPR points in Weeks 15-18. Made it to the playoffs thanks to a lucky late-round Patterson pick? Sorry, see you next year.
So what do the Falcons do? Try to re-sign Patterson to a deal that will certainly overvalue wh0 he is? Let Davis walk? Retain Davis for just the $2.5 million he would be owed in 2022? Draft a couple back? God forbid, let Qadree Ollison get a look? One thing is certain. Patterson succeeded because the only realistic competition he had on the roster was human bean bag chair Mike Davis.
Could Patterson go somewhere and be a nice complimentary piece? Of course. But where is he going to go and be a feature back again? Houston? Miami? Maybe that works. But my guess is this was one last relevancy ride for the free agent.