This was a weird year to pick an MVP for. Matt Ryan had a good year on balance but not one of his very best, Julio Jones was banged up and missed several games, and that took away two of the most common selections in years past. You’re left with worthy candidates nonetheless, but this year stunk and we all hated it, so thinking positively about it now that it’s over is...challenging.
That said, here are our staff picks for MVP. Who would be yours?
There were several players who took a big step forward in 2020. Calvin Ridley showed he can be a WR1 while Russell Gage is proving to be a steal as a 6th round pick. However, none has taken a bigger leap than Oluokun. For a defense that was erratic, he was the only steady force outside of Grady Jarrett. You can easily make the argument that he was our best linebacker for the year. He was so good that the conversation about whether he could be a long-term starter morphed into making sure we sign him to an extension.
No disrespect to the guys on our offense, but that unit underperformed for at least half the season. This defense was actually quite good down the stretch minus a few games. While Grady would seem like the logical pick, I actually believe Foye may have had as much of an impact as our best defender. Let’s hope he can continue this impressive development going into 2021. - David Walker
The Falcons didn’t have a great defense in 2020. They didn’t have a great offense, either. What they did have was a handful of great players valiantly pushing ahead and allowing both units to have great stretches this year, and because of players like Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, Deion Jones, and Younghoe Koo, this season wasn’t always terrible to watch.
But there’s only one MVP. Why Jarrett? He’s the defense’s lone essential man, and a player who is so good he lifted a hastily-assembled group of defensive linemen and put them in a position to succeed, which they did surprisingly often. He was second on the team in sacks (4), first in pressures on the team and fifth in the NFL among DTs (28), knocked down opposing quarterbacks 13 times (the next closest defender had 5), and second in tackles for loss. Among all defensive tackles, he was third in pass rush win rate in the entire NFL, per ESPN, and eighth in run stop win rate. He was an elite defender who made the defensive resurgence the Falcons managed when Raheem Morris took over as head coach possible, and he was the team’s most valuable player. - Dave Choate
He gets a lot of flak no matter what result the team produces. If they win, people nitpick at a throw he makes in the 2nd quarter that “may have led the team to defeat”. If they lose, his 370 yards and four touchdowns are overlooked despite the defense allowing 35 points in the fourth quarter. But this season showed that Ryan is able to put the team in winning positions despite not having his star receiver for seven games, no run game whatsoever, and having to deal with a play caller that makes Adam Gase look somewhat adept. In a lost season, Ryan led the league in completions and passing first downs, fourth in passing yards and passing yards per game, and 12th in passing touchdowns. For a team that was 4-12 and losing in unorthodox fashion on almost a weekly basis, Ryan’s numbers look productive to me. - Eric Robinson
The Falcons might move on from Julio Jones this offseason because Calvin Ridley is ready to take his spot as the top receiver on the roster. The ramifications of writing that are just too big; Jones is a top-3 player, maybe the best, to ever play for the Falcons. Ridley showed more than once that the Falcons offense can function with him playing top fiddle. hat’s huge. He was tied for fifth in receiving yards with Davante Adams and had nine touchdowns, which ties him for tenth. He’s still improving, but his route-running is already elite. He’s more than ready to take the top role in Atlanta’s offense, even if Jones returns next year (which, of course, you welcome with open arms). His third year in a Falcons uniform was the biggest bright spot of 2020 to me outside of Younghoe Koo’s breakout year. I’m a believer Ridley is here to stay; losing Jones will be painful when it happens but Ridley is why the idea doesn’t scare me like it used to. - Cory Woodroof
The Atlanta Falcons finished the season 19th in total scoring defense, which doesn’t sound too impressive, but when you consider how dreadful that initial five-game stretch was before Quinn was fired it’s a revelation that they didn’t finish in the bottom 10. The defense as a whole wasn’t terribly impressive (they were also 28th in yardage allowed), but without Grady Jarrett they would have been an embarrassment (as we saw in Week 17 after he got injured). Dave gave you Jarrett’s stats in his part of this roundtable, so there’s no need for me to rehash that. For the third consecutive year, Grady Jarrett was the duct tape that held a unit of overall bad parts together, and he did so without much help along the defensive line yet again. He’s the engine that continues to make this defense go and we can only hope that this the new general manger can give him some real help along the defensive line next season, after Thomas Dimitroff repeatedly failed to do so over the past three years. - Adnan Ikic
While there are several deserving candidates for this award in a lost season—Grady Jarrett, Foye Oluokun, and even Younghoe Koo come to mind—I’d have to lean towards WR Calvin Ridley. In a season where star WR Julio Jones missed a decent chunk of the year due to injury, the Falcons desperately needed one of their weapons to step up and seize the WR1 role. Calvin Ridley delivered and then some, posting 90 receptions for 1,374 yards (14.1 YPR) and 9 TDs. Ridley proved he didn’t need Julio on the field to produce, and had a dominant season as a result due to a combination of his speed, route running, and after catch ability. If Atlanta can have Ridley, Julio, and Russell Gage healthy and under the coordination of someone not named Dirk Koetter in 2021, the NFL better watch out. - Kevin Knight