2023 Dynasty Fantasy Football Free Agency Preview: Atlanta Falcons
Published: Feb 28, 2023
Updated: Feb 28, 2023
The formula used to be that you make sure you get your franchise quarterback and then you build the team around that. But a new trend has emerged where teams seem to just be drafting the best player available to accumulate pieces before figuring out quarterback on the fly. Some teams get lucky with a rookie quarterback, others have had success bringing in veterans like Tom Brady or Matthew Stafford. The Jets are an example of a team that have built a complete team now but need a veteran QB. This looks like the approach the Falcons are taking. If Desmond Ridder is the guy, then great. If not they will need a quarterback. But, after drafting guys like Kyle Pitts and Drake London, they aren’t hitting the brakes on this train now. This offseason, they've already made moves like extending Parker Hesse and releasing Marcus Mariota so let's try to figure out what else they might have in store!
With this series, we are taking a look at each NFL team to gauge the direction of the offense from a dynasty fantasy football perspective. Is this team gearing up for a Super Bowl run? Are they in the midst of a rebuild? Are they considering blowing it up? We’ll take all of that into account as well as the current contracts, upcoming free agents, and 2023 NFL Draft class to give you our best recommendations on how to handle these weapons in your dynasty fantasy football leagues.
BUY - Attempt to acquire this player at or slightly above market value
HOLD - The player is likely more valuable than the market indicates. Hold them if you have them or try to acquire them at a discount.
SELL - The perceived value for this player is higher than the projected remaining value in your average dynasty league. Cash out now.
SELL/DROP - Depending on the depth of the league, always try to sell guys before dropping. But this player is likely not worth the bench spot he’s occupying so you might need to just drop them.
*Contract information is proved courtesy of Spotrac.com*
Atlanta Falcons Quarterbacks
The Falcons have one quarterback under contract for 2023.
Marcus Mariota - Age 29
Contract: Marcus Mariota is under contract through 2023. He can be released with $12,000,000 in savings and $2.5 million in dead cap.
Outlook: They gave it more than a fair shot but it simply didn’t pan out in the end. Mariota is expected to be released shortly.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - In deeper superflex or two-QB leagues where every quarterback is rostered, you may need to hold on. But Mariota is likely to enter into the realm of backup quarterbacks like Jacoby Brissett or Teddy Bridgewater where his play time only comes via injury. This was probably his last chance.
Note: Mariota was released on Tuesday, 2/28.
Desmond Ridder - Age 24
Contract: As a third-round pick in 2022, Desmond Ridder is under contract through 2025.
Outlook: Ridder took over for Mariota down the stretch and offered serviceable quarterback play. You can’t really ask much more for a rookie third round pick being thrust into the role.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD/SELL - It’s honestly a bit of an indictment on him that he slid all the way to the third round before anyone would take him after some having him in the early first. A lot of folks will point to Russell Wilson as a successful third-round QB, but over the last 20 years or so, the next highest scoring third-round QB in fantasy has been Matt Schaub. The fact that he’s even looking at a starting role this year puts him in rare company. His 4.52 forty also puts him in rare company as that is top-97th percentile for the position. The concern I have is that the Falcons just decide to make a major move at quarterback. They’ll call it a “competition” between RIdder and whoever they draft or sign but usually a play like that gives the new guy the upper hand. So I’m selling now if I can and not looking back. Again, I’m a highly conservative fantasy gamer that is always interested in cashing out on high-variance assets when I can. If you are more of a gambler, hang on and see if the Falcons saw something that everyone else missed with Ridder. There have been some positive things out of camp but even some first round QBs get the axe after only a season or two.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
It’s no secret that there has been talk among the top draft pundits like Daniel Jeremiah about the Falcons potentially taking a QB in the draft. Or adding a veteran QB. If you have the Falcons' pass catchers in your dynasty league, you WANT them to draft someone or sign a veteran because quarterback competition really can’t hurt. If you are the Ridder manager, your hopes and dreams could be dashed in a moment if that happens. And for some fantasy gamers holding the veteran free-agent QBs, throwing to Drake London and Kyle Pitts doesn’t sound so bad right?
Atlanta Falcons Running Backs
The Falcons have three running backs under contract and three signed to reserves/future deals.
Cordarrelle Patterson - Age 31
Contract: Patterson is signed through 2023.
Outlook: Patterson’s contract is structured where if they cut him, they would have $3.75m in dead cap with only $1.75m in savings. So that’s not likely to happen. It’s crazy to think that they originally signed him for his specialty (kick returns) and then he finished as a top-10 RB in fantasy in 2021. What a bargain.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - The real surprise with Patterson is that he wasn’t only a pass-down back; he was operating on all downs. But with Tyler Allgeier in the fold, those days are likely over. You probably can’t sell Patterson for anything so you probably just need to hold him until the wheels finally fall off. He honestly could be a guy you throw in a lineup for nightmare bye weeks but, at 31 years old, he’s not likely to have another stint like 2021.
Tyler Allgeier - Age 23
Contract: Tyler Allgeier was a fifth-round pick in 2022, so he’s under contract through 2025.
Outlook: Allgeier quietly amassed a 1,000 yard season as a rookie but, if you look at some of the behind the scenes numbers, it was more violent than quiet. Pull some of the signature stats from around the industry like Football Outsiders for instance; they said he had the highest defense-adjusted yard above replacement among rookies and Pro Football Focus had him as the top-graded rookie RB. The guy should at the very least maintain a role in this league.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - Allgeier is a hold but mostly because Patterson is acting as a human shield for now. They really have no reason to release Patterson and Allgeier was good, so they might not add anywhere here. But just remember how the league views Day 3 running backs and what happened to a guy like Michael Carter after a solid rookie year. If Arthur Smith doesn’t have a good year coaching, his regime might be out. With Smith gone and no Patterson, the next regime might look at the fifth-round RB and decide they want to bring in their own complimentary back. Such is the life of a Day 3 running back.
Avery Williams - Age 28
Contract: Avery Williams is under contract through 2024.
Outlook: The defensive back-turned-running back serves as the primary punt and kick returners for the Falcons.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - Being able to return both types of kick makes him a valuable real-life roster piece but it doesn’t help him in fantasy unless you have bonuses for return yards.
Caleb Huntley, BJ Baylor, Clint Ratkovich
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
Caleb Huntley was actually elevated from the practice squad during the season and has a good chance to maintain his roster spot as well. The Falcons aren’t really in a position to win right now so, in my opinion, they really should not spend up at running back. They should start Allgeier with Patterson as the change of pace guy, Williams on special teams, then just fill the roster out with depth pieces that contribute on special teams. Once they have built this team and are ready to compete THEN you go after luxury pieces with short shelf lives like RBs. But NFL teams are incredibly unpredictable and things don’t always go they way they SHOULD go so they could easily go after another running back right now. Falcons GM Terry Fontenot already made it clear that you need multiple running backs in the modern NFL so maybe they are willing to go up and draft another in the early rounds.
Atlanta Falcons Wide Receivers
The Falcons have three wide receivers under contract for 2023 with four signed to reserve/future deals.
Drake London - Age 21
Contract: Drake London was a first round pick so they have him under contract through 2025 but can pick up his fifth year option for 2026.
Outlook: The Falcons approach in the first round seems to just be drafting the best possible talent available, even if they might not have their QB of the future yet. And so far London looks the part despite mediocre quarterback play. His target share was top-five among all wide receivers which is promising for his potential production moving forward.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - I don’t care where they were drafted, the most important thing for NFL rookies is first to prove they actually belong in this league. It’s easy to forget how many of them end up as Jalen Reagor or N’Keal Harry. The fact that London almost immediately became the top target on an NFL team and amassed over 800 yards is awesome. And it’s almost a blessing in disguise that the team was so bad overall at passing because you can actually potentially go out and trade for this guy right now, unlike some of the more hyped players. I’d do that if you can.
Jared Bernhardt - Age 25
Contract: Jared Bernhardt is an undrafted free agent signed through 2024.
Outlook: Bernhardt was actually a lacrosse player in college so I’m surprised he was able to sneak by Bill Belichick. Despite being the second-highest paid wideout on the team, he has an incredibly uphill battle to fantasy relevancy.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - You don’t need to roster Bernhardt, he hardly even plays.
Frank Darby - Age 25
Contract: Frank Darby was elevated from the practice squad and is under contract through 2023. He can be released with $940K in savings, no dead cap.
Outlook: Darby has been in the league for two seasons. He has one catch in each.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - Darby is also a long shot to do anything in this league - he was elevated and dropped from the practice squad multiple times this year as contract maneuvering for depth.
Ra’Shaun Henry, Josh Ali
Olamide Zaccheaus, Damiere Byrd, Khadarel Hodge
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
It might look pretty bleak here but the reality is that Kyle Pitts plays 60-70% of his snaps at wide receiver anyway. With London and Pitts, you essentially just need a field stretching flanker and then a part-time slot guy. A combination of a free agency signing (ideal option would be someone like JuJu Smith-Schuster or Jakobi Meyers) and then another prospect in the draft would have them sitting pretty well. Then they would just need someone to get them the football.
Atlanta Falcons Tight Ends
The Falcons have three tight ends under contract and two signed to a reserve/future contract.
Kyle Pitts - Age 22
Contract: Kyle Pitts is a first round pick so he is under contract through 2025 but can be kept via his fifth year option for 2026.
Outlook: Hopes were high for Pitts coming off a breakout rookie year but the results could not have been more disappointing. He was inconsistent before inevitably being shut down with an injury.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - This is probably the last chance to buy Kyle Pitts. Hyper athletic, pure pass catching tight ends like this are EXACTLY what we want in fantasy. Guys that run a 4.4. Guys that line up at WR. Guys that get downfield (Pitts led all tight ends in aDOT), guys that earn targets (Pitts was top-two in target share). If you look around, guys really aren’t doing what Pitts has already done. Travis Kelce didn’t have a 1,000 yard season until he was 27. Zach Ertz? 28. Dallas Goedert has never had one. Kyle Pitts did it at 21. This guy is going to be good for a long time. And you were just granted a golden chance to actually get him. Or at least try.
John FitzPatrick - Age 22
Contract: FitzPatrick is under contract through 2025.
Outlook: The blocking tight end did not see the field in 2022 after being picked in the sixth round.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - He’s not even a lock to make the roster and he doesn’t have the profile you need to stash.
Parker Hesse - Age 27
Contract: Hesse was an exclusive-rights free agent so it was easy for them to bring him back for one year at the veteran minimum.
Outlook: Hesse is the favorite right now to play in-line blocking tight end though the Falcons still could make another addition.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - He’s not really a viable option even if Pitts gets hurt so you don’t need to hold him. He’s at best a guy like Marcedes Lewis. Who is a very good real life player but not someone you start in fantasy.
Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
The Falcons and Arthur Smith lean heavily into two tight end sets so I would not be surprised to see them bring in another option - especially someone that can make plays in the passing game from an in-line spot so that Pitts can line up out wide. A reunion with a guy like Austin Hooper isn’t out of the question. I’ve also seen mock drafts with them taking a guy like Dalton Kincaid which would be terrible for Kincaid in fantasy but wouldn’t be out of line for what the Falcons want to do.
Follow Andrew Cooper on Twitter @CoopAFiasco for more NFL and fantasy football insights and stay tuned as we hit on all 32 NFL teams in this series leading into NFL free agency!
Related Articles and Tools:
- Like & Subscribe to the Fantasy Alarm YouTube Channel!
- Fantasy Football Weekly Player Rankings
- Fantasy Football Weekly Projections