When the Atlanta Falcons decided to pull the trigger on trading longtime franchise quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, they ushered in a full reboot that was probably at least two years overdue.
During his 14 years in Atlanta, Ryan averaged 572 passes per season and threw 560 times last year in this system. Don’t expect newcomers Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder to approach last year’s number in 2022 — during his three seasons as the starter with the Tennessee Titans, Mariota averaged 412.
With far less experience at quarterback, the expectation is that the Falcons will lean more heavily on the run, though a glance at their depth chart doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in that approach. While they could always add a free agent at some point, this is what the Falcons are working with for now.
Inked to a one-year, $3 million contract in free agency before the 2021 season, Patterson ended up on the short list for best bargain signing in all of football. The one-time first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings never lived up his draft station as a receiver and had settled into more of a part-time gadget role while bouncing around the league. To the immense credit of offensive coordinator Dave Ragone, the Falcons decided to feature Patterson out of the backfield, where he responded with 1,166 total yards and 11 TDs, emerging as their top offensive playmaker.
There are still some questions regarding Patterson, however, who at age 31 is already past the “sell by” date of most backs. While he clearly hasn’t taken anywhere near the long-term wear and tear of full-time RBs, he still has 143 career games under his belt.
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Adjustments will have to be made with Ryan gone as the veteran quarterback commanded a level of respect from secondaries that neither Mariota nor Ridder will. It’s also worth noting that even though Patterson sits atop the depth chart, he’s no workhorse, and his fantasy value will be tied to his ability to continue to maximize his touches.
Williams will be playing for his fourth team in five years, which is a pretty accurate barometer of his talent level. The 30-year-old has topped 50 carries in a season just once (111-498-5 with KC in 2020) but carries a respectable 4.2 yards-per-attempt average across his career.
Williams also is a capable receiver out of the backfield, and he should at least contribute on passing downs. He’s likely to stick as veteran depth, though the team would be thrilled if he operated in the same kind of tertiary role he’s filled throughout most of his time in the NFL.
A fifth-round pick without a lot of fanfare, Allgeier is quietly stepping into a potentially productive situation with the Falcons. At 5-foot-11, 224 pounds, the BYU product has good size and was heavily utilized over the last two years with the Cougars, where he rushed for 2,731 yards and 36 TDs.
He lacks big-play speed to be sure and projects more as someone that grinds down the opposition with body punches than dazzling them with haymakers. The rookie has decent hands, but in all likelihood, his primary role profiles as a two-down back and being an occasional threat around the goal line.
Fantasy football outlook
While there are no sure things in Atlanta’s backfield, Patterson is the one to own. Sure, there are some legitimate questions given his “breakout” season came in Year 9, but on a team short on playmakers, Patterson figures to be a focal point offensively. That gives him solid RB3 appeal.
Unless injuries press him into a larger-than-expected role, Williams can remain on waivers. Although he may sit third on the depth chart now, Allgeier is the better flier option. There’s an outside chance for a scenario that puts Allgeier in the early-down role, with Patterson serving more as a the change-up and/or third-down back. Allgeier is a workhorse in a way that neither Williams nor Patterson are capable of being, and that alone gives him late-round potential.
Regardless of which guy ends up seeing the bulk of the touches in the red zone, both quarterback options are fond of rushing the rock, and that devalues the overall fantasy upside from this backfield.