Sunday, February 25

Matt Ryan traded to Colts: Fantasy Football fallout, plus how it impacts Michael Pittman, Kyle Pitts, more

Matt Ryan is on the move for the first time in his career as the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to trade him to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2022 third-round draft pick, as confirmed by Jason La Canfora. The Ryan era in Atlanta ends with $40.25 million dead cap hit — the largest single hit in NFL history — but moving on from Ryan fits into the Falcons’ rebuild. On the flip side, with a ready-to-win roster in place, the Colts take a second swing at a proven veteran quarterback after missing the postseason following their trade for Carson Wentz last offseason.

From a Fantasy Football standpoint, Ryan’s match with the Colts could provide a boost in value for Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman and all Colts skill position players if he returns to his form from just a few years ago. With an already proven offensive line in front of him and the best running back he’s played with since Michael Turner, the Colts would be wise to lean on an offensive play calling mix that includes a steady dose of play action passing. Ryan thrived in a play-action heavy offense under former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan during the season in which Atlanta won the NFC, and a return to this style of offense — coupled with a major upgrade from a pass protection standpoint and with the run game — should help Ryan’s efficiency.

As Dave Richard broke down earlier this offseason in his early 2022 Fantasy draft prep (which you can find here), there was a major contrast in production from Taylor and Pittman — the Colts’ two key cogs — in the five weeks where Carson Wentz played noticeably more efficient (Weeks 5-9):

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“Jonathan Taylor had 15-plus PPR points in 13 of 17 games. Michael Pittman hit at least 15 PPR points in eight games. They both hit 15-plus PPR points in the same week just five times, and four of them came between Weeks 5 through 9.”

Wentz had more touchdown passes in Weeks 5-9 (12) than he did the entire rest of the season in Weeks 10-18 (10). The offense obviously shifted more toward a run-heavy focus when the calendar turned, but if Ryan can prove to be more efficient early on, the Colts could opt for a more balanced approach — that’s good news for Pittman.

On the flip side, the Falcons are left without a quarterback for the time being. The early speculation is that they will pursue and sign free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota for a reunion with current Falcons head coach Arthur Smith (Mariota’s former coordinator with the Titans). The concern becomes how will Atlanta’s quarterback situation impact a potential breakout for second-year tight end Kyle Pitts. 

This might end up being a whole lot of concern about nothing. Why? Pitts already garnered a massive target share and target volume is an indicator of future success. As Dave Richard pointed out in his early Falcons draft prep, “With 110 overall targets in 2021 (fifth-most among tight ends), and roughly 23% of them coming on deep throws, Pitts already has the kind of volume we crave from tight ends. The production inside of 10 yards was awful, but the 20% target share shouldn’t be overlooked.”

If Pitts can take a step forward from an efficiency standpoint that is expected of any second-year skill player, plus garner even more targets now that the Falcons will be without Russell Gage in addition to Calvin Ridley, there’s a path for him to become the top tight end in Fantasy — and the hype alone all but assures he’ll be one of the first three tight ends off your draft boards.

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