The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.
High Side by Daniel Simpkins
The word "excuse" usually has a negative connotation in our language. People take it (sometimes rightfully) to mean that a person didn't perform up to expectations and is trying to shift the blame off of themselves. However, there are times where the word applies to external factors keeping hard-working individuals from achieving their goals. Matt Ryan should draw the latter designation. Last year was the first time that Ryan fell statistically outside low QB1 territory.
What were the legitimate excuses for such a poor showing? Their offensive line was horrendous and couldn't protect Ryan. Roddy White clearly had nothing left in the tank and couldn't create separation, even on the timing routes he used to be so good at running. While Julio Jones was once again phenomenal, the offense really needed an ancillary target to take pressure off of both Jones and Ryan. Despite all this adversity, it's interesting to note that only Ryan's touchdowns dramatically dipped-- his yardage and completion percentage remained around their previous levels.
It looks as if the team has addressed those issues, at least enough that Ryan should be able to rebound. One of the best centers in the league, Alex Mack, was added this offseason to keep Ryan clean on the interior and help the line gel. Mohamed Sanu was also brought on board in free agency. Sanu is not a true secondary wideout, but showed in Cincinnati that he can be serviceable. Perhaps a bigger reason for excitement is the Draft addition of Austin Hooper. The Stanford product is a tight end who has great size, is a complete route runner, demonstrates excellent body control, catches well in tight quarters, and is very quick for how big he is. His fit in this offense is perfect and it will probably mean that Hooper is an exception to the general rule that rookie tight ends don't produce in fantasy.
Ryan's ADP is variable at the time of this writing. He's going anywhere from the late ninth round to the early twelfth round. Owners should be willing to take a shot on him anywhere in this range. He's being considered a backup by most, but could return QB1 value on a minimal investment.
Low Side by Stephen Holloway
Matt Ryan is included in a rather large group of quarterbacks that are projected by Footballguys.com to finish in the mid to late quarterback2 range. All of the projections for the quarterbacks in this group vary by fewer than two points per game. You need sound logic to favor a particular guy in this large group over the others or else it makes sense to wait as long as you can and take one of the last guys in this range. Matt Ryan does not stand out among his peers in this group.
Ryan enters his ninth NFL season, all in Atlanta. Other than a fall-off in his second season, he showed fairly steady improvement up through his fifth season. Since 2012, he has actually regressed, particularly in touchdowns to 21 last year, the fewest since his rookie season. The 2012 season was also the last one that he had a rushing touchdown. He has averaged less than 90 yards rushing per year over the past three seasons.
He has one of the NFL's top wide receivers in Julio Jones, but the options after him are severely lacking. Julio Jones last year had 203 targets, 136 catches, 1,871 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. The other Atlanta wide receivers totaled 178 targets, 108 receptions, 1,197 yards, and 6 touchdowns. His tight ends are similarly bland - totaling 98 targets, 69 receptions, 759 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The team added Mohamed Sanu with a 5-year $32.5-million contract which included $14-million guaranteed. The Falcons obviously realized they needed another wide receiver, but Sanu's career year in 2014 included 56 catches for 790 yards and 5 touchdowns. They also drafted Austin Hooper in the 3rd round, but even if he does play significant steps, he is not likely to be more productive as a rookie than Tamme was a year ago.