The 2022 NFL Season is nearly upon us. As part of the run up to the season, we’re preview all the teams, culminating with our picks for who makes the playoffs and who wins the awards this season. Check back each day through September 5. Let’s get ready for some football!
The Falcons stumbled in the first season under new Head Coach Arthur Smith. The team parted ways with Julio Jones prior to the season and saw Calvin Ridley miss most of the season taking a break for his mental health. Matt Ryan did what he could, but the Falcons finished just 7-10, missing the playoffs. With Ridley suspended for all of the 2022 season, the Falcons are steering into a re-build, but the question is how many games they can win this season.
The Falcons bid farewell to Ryan, who has been the face of the franchise since being drafted in 2008. He was traded to the Colts this off-season, while the Falcons signed veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota to help fill the void. Once the No. 2 overall pick for the Titans, Mariota has worked with Smith before. He spent the past two seasons with the Raiders behind Derek Carr and figures to compete with rookie Desmond Ridder this season in Atlanta. Ridder was selected in the Third Round out of Cincinnati and gives the Falcons a young option to develop at the position.
Youth and development will be hallmarks of the offense. While Ridley is suspended, veteran receiver Russell Gage left in free agency for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Veteran tight end Hayden Hurst departed and signed with the reigning AFC Champion Bengals. That leaves some holes to fill on offense, as Mike Davis also left to sign with the Ravens.
The Falcons brought in a number of players to compete. At receiver, the team traded with the Raiders to get Bryan Edwards, once a high draft pick. Edwards figures to get a chance to compete alongside former teammate Mariota in Atlanta, while the team filled the top of the depth chart by selecting Drake London out of USC with their top pick. London caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in 2021 and figures to be a primary target for the Falcons in 2022. Alongside him, the team brought in veteran tight end Anthony Firkser, who played with Smith in Tennessee, and rookie running back Tyler Allgeier to help boost the ground game. Allgeier rushed for 2,731 yards the past two seasons with BYU and figures to boost the rushing attack along with returning back Cordarrelle Patterson and veteran addition Damien Williams.
There are questions all over the field in Atlanta, including at quarterback. It seems likely Mariota will start the season at quarterback. I’d wager there’s a strong chance we see Ridder at some point, especially if the Falcons are out of the playoff race. I see Mariota as having QB3 appeal. The Falcons have some weapons and will likely be behind, so there’s opportunity to put up some fantasy points. Ridder is a player I’m scooping up later in Dynasty rookie drafts based on his potential opportunity.
In the backfield, Patterson had a great breakout in 2021. He finished as RB9, though much of that game from his 52 receptions for 548 yards and five touchdowns. I suspect he’ll be the lead contributor again, but I like him more as an RB2. I also like Allgeier, who is currently going as RB52. He seems the like the more prototypical rusher and could thrive in Smith’s system.
The receiving game is also wide open. I think London takes the top spot among receivers, and I like him as a WR3. Gage led the Falcons as WR38 last year and I think London can do a bit better. I want to see Edwards more involved, but I also like him as a late draft flier. At tight end, Kyle Pitts was as expected in 2021. He finished as TE6 and I suspect he’s easily Top 5 in 2022.
The Falcons don’t look like a team trying to compete and I don’t expect them to be playoff contenders. The team will be well served to get a look at Ridder and aim to have a Top 5 pick, giving them options for building in year three for Arthur Smith in 2023.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.