Team: Atlanta Falcons

New Play-Caller: Arthur Smith

Scheme: West Coast

 

Historical Overview

The change from former Falcons Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter’s pass first Air Coryell attack to Arthur Smith’s run first play action pass offense is going to be drastic. However, Matt Ryan has a lot of familiarity with this offense Smith is bringing over. Back in 2015 and 2016 former Titans Offensive Coordinator Matt Lafleur was the Quarterbacks coach in Atlanta for two seasons.  In those seasons the Falcons ran a similar scheme to what Arthur Smith ran in Tennessee after taking over for Matt Lafleur in 2019. Matt Ryan enjoyed his lone MVP season in 2016 running this system amassing 4,944 pass yards and 38 TDs. That season the Falcons produced a Top 3 quarterback, Top 6 running back and a Top 6 wide receiver.

In this article we will breakdown by position the impact of this coaching change, and how we believe the fantasy relevant players will perform in the new offense.

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The great part about predicting the future is you can be wrong 99% of the time and still be remembered forever. Right Nostradamus? But get one thing right and they’ll name comets and theories after you. Hopefully after this article, 2021 will be the year of the “EWB Dak Prescott Model of Fantasy Football.” That’s a tongue-twister. Maybe, “Damn the Darnolds!” Actually, I’m gonna start writing a spec script on that right now! 

ENYWHEY. I’m aiming this article for the dynasty players that probably want to shore up their QB position before going into what will undoubtedly be a nasty 2021 campaign for QBs. On the plus side, there are 12 pretty good quarterbacks ready for your 2021 teams. On the downside, it’s a complete catastrophe after that. On the other upside — which is a Soundgarden B-side FYI — quarterbacks have a stunning point parity so if you don’t draft a top QB you can just stream 3-4 QBs at will. 

Foremost, I’m looking at consistency, upside, and return on draft capital. The quarterback position is usually the highest scoring position on a week-t0-week basis for fantasy teams, but there’s also remarkable point parity within the second tier of QBs. (I said that above but the message never seems to get through). On a per-week basis, the second tier of QBs are separated by about 2 fantasy points per game. Your job as a fantasy manager is to try your hardest to get a top QB, and failing that, predict which QB will have consistently high outcomes and play matchups. So, let’s take a look at the QBs going into 2021. 

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I woke up this morning, ice rain falling on my car. Three different densities of fog developed from my exhaling breath: one the usual, everyday fog representing my life force; a second the worried fog that danced a little more, caused by 2020 itself; the third, the devastated fog of living in the northern midwest that fell straight to the ground, caused by having Kirk Cousins stuck as the Vikings quarterback for the next three years. 

But if I’m wearing my fantasy forecaster hat, I really should be dancing in the ice rain: Kirk Cousins is bringing some teams to fantasy playoff glory. 

That’s the funny thing about fantasy sports compared to real life sports: there are inadequate real-life signal callers who are fantasy gold, and there are great real life quarterbacks who are absolute sleepers in fantasy. The midwest writers for The Athletic point out that Cousins is rigid in following his reads — he doesn’t innovate and he doesn’t deviate from his play call. He’s won less than 10 games against teams with winning records in nearly 80 career starts. He went 0-9 on Monday Night Football before finally grabbing his first career win this year. From a real-life standpoint, Cousins is about as exciting as owning a Toyota Camry: yes, you know he’s ready to go every week, but once you start going, you can’t help but look at every other “car” you could have had. And yes, I did avoid the Derek Carr pun there. 

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I woke up the other morning with visions of Flacco in my head. I went to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. “You’re a Super Bowl winning quarterback with millions in your bank account, not the backup QB on a winless team that’s tanking! Go get ’em tiger!” I put on my Pumas and raced outside, not quite realizing it’s 15 degrees when I stepped out the door. Still, I ran. I ran like Rocky ran, sweat-banded and sweat-shirted. And when I cross the mile threshold, I told myself, “It’s three weeks until the fantasy championships! All your friends will validate you! They’ll say you’re handsome and smart and five years from now they’ll remember that Kirk Cousins brought you the fantasy championships!” I looked around, slightly crazed and slightly lost, and realized I was far from home. But aren’t we all. With Joe Flacco on my mind, I started to retrace my steps, one-by-one. Russell Wilson started strong. James Robinson was a fluke FAAB win that brought me to the playoffs. Derrick Henry surged through the defenses while Ryan Tannehill sliced secondaries. And all the while, Corey Davis grabbed first down after first down. There were so many Titans I couldn’t figure out if I was talking “Attack on” or “Remembering the.” But one thing stuck with me: it was the fantasy friends I made along the way. If I made you a fantasy friend of mine or the site, please show some love by getting an ad-free membership or checking in on the basketball or baseball sides and following the fantasy fun all-year round. 

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Well, well, well. Week 12. Do I need to introduce what ended up being one of the weirdest weeks in NFL history? From a fantasy perspective, we watched Patrick Mahomes chase the Chiefs’ record for single-game passing yards (held by Elvis Grbac, you Trivial Pursuit maniac), while also watching Denver Broncos practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton make his NFL debut as a QB. One of those situations did not end well. On top of all of that, we’re looking forward to Tuesday Wednesday Night Football. In case you forgot, when Tuesday Night Football that happened earlier in the year wreaked havoc on stats providers who hadn’t prepared for “Y2K,” and some fantasy providers went weeks without accurate scoring. And now we’ve got a WNF, which is also the name of my favorite Korean boy-band. SEW (<- not a boy band). I’m giving you the best information that’s available at the time of writing, and hopefully Week 13 will be a bit easier to navigate. Next week will be the final installment of the rest of season QB rankings, so if you’re hoping to follow me here at Razzball, I’ll ask you to navigate over to the basketball section, where I’ll be doing a weekly player highlight column. 

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Who’s ready for Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving means three things: Matt Stafford, the turkey and contentious political commentary. Wait, what’s an Oxford comma again? OK, that was one thing. Hopefully you’ll be safe in your mansions this week. For the rest of us, let’s take a look at the thing keeping us hopeful: the upcoming fantasy playoffs and the quarterbacks that lead our teams through darkness. 

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When Covid isn’t flattening QBs and teams left and right, massive windstorms have completely shut down QBs several times this year. In Week 10, another Vortex Giant (CR25 for you nerds) stomped into many stadiums, leaving giant killers like Nick Chubb and [checks notes] Ben Roethisberger (hmmm) to save the villagers. I’ve asked fantasy managers to be proactive about rostering useful streaming QBs, if not to provide options in case of Covid or weather, but at the very least to deprive your opponents of a starting QB. This last week, your opponents would have gotten useful streaming games from bottom-tier QBs like Alex Smith, Kirk Cousins, and Philip Rivers. Now, I’m not applauding their games. But when other QBs are facing off against sustained 25MPH winds, gusts to 50MPH, and rain/sleet, those fair weather QB streamers look awfully nice. 

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Earlier in the summer when I was ranking pitchers over on the baseball side, there was a moment early in the baseball season when less than 60 starting pitchers had played; the rest were injured or quarantined or got caught at the club and sent home. The starting quarterback landscape is increasingly looking that way: tons of injuries are taking their toll, and the NFL has a baffling Covid policy where they’re punishing teams for practicing during the week yet still marching teams out every Sunday rather than delaying the games. Was Tuesday Night Football really that bad? I mean, other than screwing up the fantasy scoring systems for like two weeks. ENYWHEY. Outside of Dak Prescott, most of the injuries and quarantines haven’t affected the bulk of fantasy managers playing in standard leagues. Those who are in deep leagues, dynasty leagues, or superflex leagues, however, are probably in massive frustration mode. Here’s how I’m seeing the QB landscape unfold. 

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I like it when there’s a penalty in football. The ref comes out, takes center stage on national television, and in avuncular tone, tells us what exactly went wrong and what the consequences will be. There’s a sincere clarity to a football penalty. It’s like my team’s on-the-field problems are my own. When my team’s cornerback interferes with a pass, it’s like I was getting vicariously handsy with the receiver. Then the ref comes out and tells me I was a bad boy, and that I better keep my hands to myself next time. But then the ref says “Half the distance to the goal,” and I think to myself, I haven’t gotten any of my goals achieved. Now I’m halfway there!

Thanks to you ref, maybe I’ll achieve something this year. 

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My week had nowhere to go but up after Monday night’s Bears/Rams ticklefest. Tuesday I had a prostate exam and Wednesday I had a colonoscopy; everything was great. But then Thursday came along. The Falcons vs. Panthers shootout we were promised was a total misfire. The Falcons D was determined to avoid embarrassment at least one week this season. Only one Panther fantasy asset was immune to the intense pressure brought on by the Atlanta defense: Curtis Samuel, who turned his 3 carries and 4 catches into 23 rushing yards, 31 receiving yards and his 2nd and 3rd touchdowns of the season. That’s three touchdowns in the last two weeks for Samuel, and with his consistent usage in both the pass and run game, he’s starting to look like a decent desperation WR3 moving forward. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday for fantasy football:

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