The Atlanta Falcons were so in need of help for Arthur Smith’s run-first offense last year that veteran kick returner-receiver Cordarelle Patterson spent all season doing his best running back impersonation.
It actually worked out well for the Falcons, who were a little less hapless thanks to Patterson’s contributions — 618 rushing yards on 153 carries with 11 touchdowns and 52 catches for 548 yards. With those numbers, Patterson was also fantasy relevant for the first time as the darling of the waiver wire for team owners.
The Falcons desperately needed the help with Smith in his first year as head coach after coming from the Tennessee Titans, where he rode Derrick Henry as offensive coordinator.
In the NFL and fantasy football, if you have King Henry, you use King Henry.
Former Falcon/Bear/Panther/Seahawk/49er Mike Davis was perfectly average – his 3.6-yard-per-carry average was just a tick under his career average of 3.7. He’s in Baltimore now and only on fantasy radars in the deepest leagues.
So, it’s no surprise that the still-under-construction Falcons took running back Tyler Allgeier in April’s NFL Draft to help Smith establish the running game he wants.
That’s why fantasy owners should be paying attention to an Atlanta team that seemingly doesn’t have much to offer this season.
Cordarrelle Patterson likely won’t carry the Falcons this season
Before last season, Patterson’s career high in offensive touches was 85, a number that more than doubled (205) in 2021.
But he is entering his 10th NFL season at the age of 31, an age when most NFL running backs are limping toward retirement if they’re not already there. So expecting Patterson to return to his role as the Falcons’ feature back could be a reach.
Smith, no doubt, understands that, too. Even though Davis was jettisoned, the Falcons signed serviceable Damien Williams, 30, a former Chief, Dolphin, and Bear.
With more backfield help, Patterson can continue to defy time and be a significant contributor as a multi-tool in Smith’s offense and as a kick returner.
Understandably, Patterson has been the second Falcon off the board behind freakish second-year tight end Kyle Pitts. Patterson has an average ADP of 10.2 in 10-team PPR leagues behind Pitts’ ADP of 4.6, according to Fantasy Football Calculator.
Neither quarterback Marcus Mariota’s arm nor a pair of 30-year-old running backs strike fear in the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators. That’s why there’s a lot of justifiable preseason buzz around rookie running back Tyler Allgeier.
Rookie running back Tyler Allgeier has the perfect opportunity to impact the Falcons — and your fantasy football team
The Falcons selected Allgeier in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. The former BYU star was third in the nation in rushing with a school record 1,601 yards and led the country with 23 total touchdowns.
At 5-foot-11, 224 pounds, Allgeier is hardly a scat back or a third-down specialist. He’s built for every-down work. He’s certainly not the monstrously powerful Henry, but Smith should relish the possibilities for his offense.
Allgeier is a big back with good hands and young legs who could bring the Atlanta offense some explosiveness out of the backfield Davis couldn’t a year ago, especially when coupled with Mariota’s zone-read skills.
“Well-built, highly productive zone-scheme runner with impressive vision and feel for the job,” NFL.com Analyst Lance Zierlein wrote in a pre-draft evaluation. “Allgeier is a smooth and instinctive one-cut talent.”
An overall devaluation of the running back position in the NFL and Allgeier’s 4.64 speed contributed to his fifth-round draft status, but he couldn’t have landed in a better spot with Smith and the talent-hungry Falcons.
Given that, Allgeier is perfectly poised to provide fantasy owners with a late-round sleeper pick that could pay big dividends on a late-round investment.
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference