It’s hard to believe I’m putting the finishing touches on what is the fourth year of this article series. It feels like just yesterday that I was hatching the idea ahead of the 2018 season, which was my first one at The Falcoholic. Unfortunately, I’ve still never witnessed a winning season, or even a single moment in which the Falcons had more wins than they did losses, while covering this team at the site. Still, the hopes of success “next year” are always eternal.
As for this past season, year one of Arthur Smith saw the Falcons offense put up by far their worst statistical numbers in the Matt Ryan era. The team ranked 26th in scoring offense, which is their lowest finish since the 2007 season, and 29th in total yardage, which is their lowest finish since 2003. That meant bad news for those who drafted and relied on most Falcon players in their fantasy leagues.
Just a quick rundown of what this is, for those who may be new to the column: Each season, I put together a weekly column looking at a Falcons player who was a fantasy football standout and one was a fantasy football disappointment for each game. This is the culmination of year four of that article series, looking back at our season long standout and season long disappointment in the realm of fantasy football.
Please remember that this article looks strictly at the fantasy football numbers and isn’t a specific evaluation of real life play.
Fantasy Stud/Dud 2021 History:
Past Studs: Cordarrelle Patterson (6), Kyle Pitts (4), Russell Gage (2), Younghoe Koo (1), Matt Ryan (1), Mike Davis (1), Nobody (1)
Past Duds: Matt Ryan (6), Mike Davis (3), Kyle Pitts (3), Younghoe Koo (1), Olamide Zaccheaus (1), Cordarrelle Patterson (1), Russell Gage (1)
Yearly Fantasy Stud/Dud History:
Past Studs: Matt Ryan, Austin Hooper, Calvin Ridley
Past Duds: Devonta Freeman, Mohamed Sanu, Julio Jones
Season Stud - Cordarrelle Patterson
Stat Line - 153 carries, 618 rushing yards, 52 catches, 548 receiving yards, 6 rushing touchdowns, 5 receiving touchdowns, 2 fumbles (0 lost): 182.60 standard league points; 234.60 PPR points
There wasn’t much noise around Patterson in fantasy circles after the Falcons signed him to a 1 year, $3 million contract last spring. After all, he was nothing more than a weak handcuff for David Montgomery in Chicago a year prior. Atlanta’s other free agent signing at running back, Mike Davis, was generating the hype, so much so that Davis was being taken with an ADP in the fourth round. Meanwhile, CP84 was going undrafted in many fantasy leagues leading up to the start of the season.
It was clear from the start, however, that Arthur Smith had a plan for Patterson as more than just a return specialist. While Davis dominated the touches in Week 1, and had more touches than Patterson in each of the first four games, Patterson was much more efficient with his opportunities and established himself as the secret weapon of the offense right from the get go. Week 2 against Tampa was his breakout, where he generated 69 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns.
Patterson, who was a waiver wire pickup in most leagues after that Week 2 performance, finished as the overall RB9 in NFL.com PPR leagues and the overall RB12 in standard scoring leagues, both of which were good to group him in the elite category of RB1. He had a career high 11 touchdowns and 1,166 yards from scrimmage.
Patterson helped many fantasy managers make it to the fantasy playoffs, but unfortunately he didn’t help anybody win their fantasy championship, as his numbers tapered off drastically in Weeks 15-17 (the fantasy playoffs for most leagues). After averaging 21.39 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues through Week 14, he averaged just 6.6 PPR points per game during the playoffs. He had just 2.2 points in Week 18, for leagues which held their finals then.
Despite the struggles down the stretch, Patterson scored the most fantasy points by a Falcons running back in a season since Devonta Freeman in 2016.
Season Dud - Calvin Ridley
Stat Line - 31 catches, 281 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns: 40.1 standard league points; 71.1 PPR points
While Patterson was completely overlooked in Atlanta’s offense heading into the season, the opposite was true of Calvin Ridley, who was being projected as a surefire WR1 in all scoring formats following a 2020 campaign where he was the overall WR4 in standard scoring leagues and overall WR5 in PPR leagues. With Julio Jones leaving town, Ridley was expected to have his best statistical season yet and was being taken with a firm second round ADP in fantasy leagues as a result.
Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out quite as everyone had hoped. Ridley played in only five games all season — Weeks 1-4 and then in Week 7 — and didn’t have a single WR1 finish in any of those games (defined as being one of the 12 highest scoring players at the position). He had just one WR2 finish. Even if you were to have stretched Ridley’s game-by-game pace across the entire season, it still would have been a disappointing campaign relative to where he was drafted in leagues. When you take into consideration that he missed the rest of the season after Week 7, it was a catastrophe for anyone who took him early.
I’m not here to comment on Ridley’s decision to focus on his mental health and take time away from football after Week 7. I’m here only to relay the statistical information from a fantasy football perspective, as this article series has always done. Ridley just wasn’t available for fantasy teams this season.
Calvin Ridley was taken on average as one of the first five wide receivers off the board in drafts this past season, and he finished as the overall WR102 in PPR leagues and overall WR107 in standard scoring leagues. Statistically, this was the easiest “fantasy dud” decision I’ve ever had to make in four years of writing of this column.