Fantasy Football: Matt Ryan Is One of the Safest Options at Quarterback
He may not seem an exciting pick in fantasy football for 2020, but people should have no worries about quarterback Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons. All signs point to him once again delivering top 10 fantasy numbers at the quarterback position, while volume should see him have weeks where he finishes even higher.
Volume and Efficiency
Volume is the key driver for Ryan, as has been the case for much of the last few years -- as it is for the majority of players in fantasy football. Ryan has cleared 600 pass attempts in each of the last two seasons, and six times in the last eight seasons. Only Jameis Winston dropped back more times than Ryan in 2019, 673 to 664. On these drop-backs, Ryan has been incredibly productive, with nine consecutive seasons of 4,000 or more passing yards. This is the second-longest streak in NFL history.
In the face of this huge passing volume, Ryan has managed to remain efficient. Of the 20 quarterbacks with at least 500 drop-backs in 2019, Ryan's 0.12 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back was tenth.
Ryan should continue to be given ample opportunities to air the ball out in 2020 if the Falcons offensive mindset of last year is repeated. The Falcons had the highest pass to run ratio in the NFL last season of 2.03. In neutral game situations, they passed on 62% of their offensive plays. This was the third-highest rate in the NFL.
Ryan continues to be surrounded by offensive playmakers heading into the new season too. Julio Jones continues to combine production and efficiency, finishing with the tenth best Target NEP per target among all wide receivers in the face of commanding the second-most targets. Calvin Ridley is being tipped by some to be this season's Chris Godwin, after back to back 800-yard seasons to start his career.
They are joined by offseason additions Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst, which should make the offense even stronger. Gurley may not be the player he was during his 2017-2018 pomp, but he is still a reliable pass-catching option. He has the 5th most receiving yards among running backs since coming into the NFL, with 2,090 yards from his 218 receptions.
The prospect of Hurst replacing Austin Hooper is one that has fantasy owners excited. While Hooper saw the 5th most targets among all tight ends last season, he was only 15th in Target NEP per target. Hurst, who only commanded 40 looks as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, was able to catch 30 of them and post a 0.66 Target NEP mark. This was the second-most of any tight end with at least 30 targets.
We have Ryan projected to finish as the QB11, while he is currently going off the board over at FanBall as the QB8. These both seem fair, although I believe that Ryan has a real chance of finishing closer to the top five than the top 12. Pick him up, plug him in, and don't worry about your quarterback spot until his bye week.