There is a lot of Matt Ryan love being tossed around heading into August and the bulk of many fantasy drafts. Why? A strong finish to 2011! A new offensive coordinator and a pass-heavy offense! A healthy Julio Jones! Bleh. Last year, Ryan threw for 4,177 yards and 29 touchdowns on his way to being the eighth-best quarterback in most scoring formats. Last season was his ceiling, and these are the reasons why.
Of course Ryan had a strong finish in 2011 – the Atlanta Falcons had the opportunity to play against a majority of the worst pass defenses last year. Ten of their 16 games were played against soft pass defenses that ranked in the bottom third (21st-32nd) of the league, while two additional games were played against the mediocre pass defenses of the Tennessee Titans (14th) and Indianapolis Colts (15th). Ryan’s schedule is noticeably more difficult in 2012.
Julio Jones is healthy … for now. Jones was plagued with hamstring issues during his rookie season that caused him to miss three full games and portions of several others. Jones also suffered a knee injury in his last year of college and even broke his foot at the rookie combine. There is no reason why we should believe he’ll play a full 16-game season in 2012. With Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner one step closer to the fantasy cliff, the Atlanta Falcons offense has the same players it did in 2011, just older and equally as injury prone.
Enter the new offensive coordinator and the pass-heavy/no huddle offense that people are salivating over. I don’t get it. Just because one running back dominates the carries for a team does not mean the team is run-heavy. Is Ryan going to throw the ball more in 2012? Probably not, since the Falcons threw the ball 594 times in 2011! The only teams that threw the ball more than the Falcons were the Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots (666, 662 and 612 times respectively).
The stars aligned for Ryan in 2011. The easy schedule, an incredible opportunity in pass attempts, and a productive season from the 35-year-old Tony Gonzalez showed us all what heights Ryan can reach to be the eighth-best fantasy quarterback. I’m not saying he is incapable of producing 4,177 passing yards and 29 touchdowns again in 2012. I am merely making the point that 2011 was his ceiling. Come draft time, remember that value is the key to winning in the later rounds. Ryan is currently being drafted as the 9th overall quarterback. Where is the value in that?