Julio Jones has been an elite and reliable receiver on the Atlanta Falcons for 10 seasons. After 8 straight seasons of top 7 finishes and fantasy football greatness, many seem to wonder what the offense will look like without him.
Kyle Pitts is an intriguing fantasy option. Everyone knows he’s an athletic freak but can he make an impact for your fantasy teams in year one?
If he were to have an impactful fantasy season he’d have to break some pretty strong molds. Rookie tight ends very rarely do anything of note in year one. Over the past 30 years the only rookie tight ends with seasons worth mentioning are Jeremy Shockey in 2002 with 894 yards and Evan Engram in 2017 with 722 yards. Whatever it is about them, tight ends just don’t seem to get going until years 2 or 3.
If anyone were to break this trend it would probably be the tight end drafted highest overall in NFL history. The Falcons have been one of the most pass heavy team the past few years. Many expected all three of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst to have enough volume to be fantasy relevant last year.
While Ridley was elite, Hurst didn’t live up to expectations even with Julio sidelined half the year. But this year things could potentially be aligning for a big enough role for their rookie…
Julio Jones has been shipped away for good. I didn’t think it was going to happen but he’s “outta there” as Julio said. This is going to be HUGE for Pitts’ opportunity. The Julio trade has freed up 68 targets for Pitts.
Incumbent tight end starter Hayden Hurst had 88 targets last year. The Falcons still claim Hurst will have a role so lets say he loses 50 about targets to pitts. Pitts would have the potential to get 100+ looks on the season.
This could lead to a top 5 tight end finish. For reference TJ Hockenson had 101 targets last year and finished as the tight end 5.
His ADP is going to skyrocket once Jones is traded and he could potentially be the consensus tight end 4. His ADP will likely be too high for a player who has yet to play an NFL snap for me.
There are a few beneficiaries on both sides of the Julio trade. The one most impacted is Calvin Ridley who now has the upside to be an elite top 3 option. He may even finish as high as the wide receiver 1.
Ridley was still a WR1 when Julio was on the field but when Julio has been sidelined, he plays at another level. In fact, since he entered the league in 2019, Ridley has averaged 11.2 targets per game and an additional 38 yards per game too.
For reference, he was 6th last year with 9.5 and Devante Adams lead the league with 10.6 Targets per game.
On top of all the opportunity he’ll be getting Ridley has already proven, he’s incredibly talented. He led the league last year 100 yard receiving games with 8. Ridley is one of the best separators and deep threats in the whole league. He led the league in air yards per game.
Air yards are how far the ball travels in the air prior to being caught. Ridley has always had great TD success as well and was 2nd in the league in end zone targets in 2020. He’s also had 7+ TDS every year and he missed 3 games in 2019.
All in all, Ridley was the WR3 in games Julio missed last year and he would’ve been on pace for a WR2 finish if Jones missed the whole year. So how high will you be drafting Ridley? I think he’s worth considering as the WR4 or 5 off draft boards after Davante, Tyreek, Diggs and maybe DHop.
Mike Davis filled in very well for the injured Christian McCaffrey last season. In only 13 starts Davis produced 1,015 total yards and 8 total touchdowns on 224 touches en route to an RB12 finish. While his stats weren’t eye popping he got it done for fantasy managers. CMC went down in the early 4th of week 2.
From then until McCaffreys return in week 9 Davis was the RB5 who averaged 17.1 points per game. Cmc got hurt again week 9 but Davis’ overall stats weren’t as good the 2nd half due to numerous factors such as an ankle injury, his bye week and the Panthers relying more on their receivers in the pass game.
While Davis was only the RB24 from week 10 onward he still averaged a respectable 13 PPG which is great for a flex.
And that’s exactly what he’s being drafted as on the Falcons. A mere flex. He’s showcased above average receiving ability, is on a team who just lost their hall of fame receiver and has the backfield all to himself.
The man literally has no competition. Quadree Ollison is the man currently taking number 2 snaps at camp and he only has 23 career totes to his name.
Don’t let James Robinson and Phillip Lindsay fool you, it’s highly unlikely UDFA Javian Hawkins has a significant impact in year 1. While Russell Gage was thrusted into the number 2 role last season dude to Julios absence I expect the offense to look a lot different this year.
Last season none of Todd Gurley, Ito Smith or any of the other irrelevant Falcons backs could catch passes. Hayden Hurst had his moments but he remained consistently lackluster throughout the majority of the season. I think it’s very likely that Mike Davis is the third most targeted Falcons player behind Ridley and Pitts.
While losing a future Hall of Famer who is already a top 10 NFL receiver at age 32 is a devastating blow to an offense the Falcons offense will be just fine. Their offense has thrived in recent years while the defense has often crumbled. I expect this trend to continue since the Falcons only lost defensive pieces.
The only notable defensive addition they made was Barkevious Mingo, however he turned out to be a child molester. The Falcons Offense will continue to play catch-up and put up big numbers and the primary benefactors will be Ridley, Pitts and Davis.
Part 2 of the trade analysis will be coming soon. This time with insight as to how this impacts the Titans offense.
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Shoutout to @fantasyfootbaldguy for helping me out with these ideas. Drop a follow on his page as well.