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Spotlight: Matt Ryan

posted by Chris Smith on Jul 9th

Chris Smith's thoughts

Matt Ryan has started 62 of the 64 games since entering the league out of Boston College. He has never been considered as one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL while learning his craft on the fly but he has seen a real elevation of his statistics over that four-year window.

At the beginning of his professional career, he was more of a game manager than a game changer for the Falcons. He threw for 6,356 yards and 38 touchdowns over his first two NFL seasons and was asked to manage the team, not win the game. That began to switch during the 2010 campaign in which he threw for 3705 passing yards and 28 touchdowns and finished as the 8th best fantasy quarterback. Last year saw his statistics elevate once again as he threw for 4177 passing yards, tossed 29 touchdowns, rushed for 2 more touchdowns and finished with 350 fantasy points. In the year of insane fantasy points coming from the quarterback position, he still managed to finish as the 8th best fantasy passer for the 2nd straight season.

Year Gms Cmp Att PYD Y/A PaTD INT Rush Yds Y/R RuTD FPTs RANK VBD
2008 16 265 434 3440 7.9 16 11 55 104 1.9 1 246 16 0
2009 14 263 451 2916 6.5 22 14 30 49 1.6 1 239 19 0
2010 16 357 571 3705 6.5 28 9 46 122 2.7 0 319 8 26
2011 16 347 566 4177 7.4 29 12 37 84 2.3 2 350 8 62
TOTALS 62 1232 2022 14238 7 95 46 168 359 2.1 4 1154 6 NA

Looking at the above statistics, it is easy to see the improvements he has made over the four years. He began his career, learning his craft on the fly, and was little more than a decent fantasy backup. However, in a relatively quiet way over the last two seasons, Ryan has become a legitimate fantasy weapon at quarterback and in fact is very close to jumping up into the elite level. He accounted for 31 touchdowns last season and is now entering into the prime of his NFL career.


Ryan is entering the prime of his professional career

It is a real luxury when a quarterback is capable of stepping in as a rookie and getting results while learning on the fly. Ryan has had remarkable success through his four NFL seasons and his touchdown to interception ratio of 95 touchdowns against 46 interceptions is outstanding. At 27-years old this season, he is confident in his abilities and has the respect and attention of the huddle. He almost threw for 4200 yards last year and the Falcons offense is now the cornerstone of the offensive attack instead of taking a back seat to the running game.

Wonderful tandem at wide receiver

The Falcons have a dynamic pair of receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones. White has been a perennial top-10 fantasy receiver and has enjoyed five straight seasons of at least 1150 receiving yards. At 31-years old he is in the prime of his NFL career. Julio Jones, the 2nd year dynamo from Alabama is still learning his craft and yet had some amazing performances as a rookie last year. He and White are almost impossible to contain due to the speed, quickness and explosiveness that both possess and defenses will struggle to contain both on any one play.

Great veteran presence at tight end

As if having two exceptional receivers is not enough luxury, Ryan is also blessed with veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez to keep defenses honest in the middle of the field. Sure Gonzalez is at the tail end of his remarkable career but he is still able to get open and now does not have defenses focusing in on him as a first option like earlier in his career. Having Gonzalez along with the two superb receivers makes this a passing offense that is extremely difficult to contain.

All the natural tools, athleticism and brains

Ryan has always had all the tools in his toolkit to be an elite NFL quarterback. Blessed with great size, a live arm and the ability to process quickly and make the correct decision are all reasons to love what Ryan brings to the table. Ryan had six 300-yard passing games last year and five games with 3+ touchdown passes.


  • Excellent blend of size, athleticism, skill and intelligence
  • Tremendous skill-position players on offense to get the ball to (Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Jacquizz Rodgers)
  • Entering into the prime of his professional career


  • Difficult for him to crack the top-five in fantasy football even if he does continue to elevate his play
  • TE Tony Gonzalez is entering his 16th NFL season and age has to catch up to him at some point. If he does begin to show his age, the Falcons would have a hole at the tight end position

Final thoughts

Matt Ryan is a special NFL quarterback who is climbing the ranks towards the elite category in fantasy football. Not only is he blessed with great size, wonderful athleticism and solid football intelligence but he also is blessed with one of the best receiver duos in the NFL today and has veteran Tony Gonzalez at tight end to make the passing offense even tougher to contain. If he continues to elevate his play once again in 2012, he will make a real push towards a Top-5 fantasy finish in 2012.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

TheDirtyWord said:

Last season, Ryan started off slow. A notorious film rat & preparer...Ryan appeared to have been adversely affected by the lockout as he had been one to take advantage of the OTA & mini-camp season. As such Ryan's first 7 games had him playing perhaps the worst football of his career. Aside from a 4 TD game against PHI, Ryan struggled to make plays and his YPA was still in the ugly 6.6-6.7 range...(a range he'd actually occupied in 2009 & 2010 - the difference was that Ryan also took care of the football in those seasons with low INT rates. But 8 INT's in 7 games can't justify that low YPA). But it was in that 7th game when Ryan's ankle looked like it was broken that seemed to be a turning point in his season. He came back from the locker room and led the Falcons to a road win in DET when the Lions were 5-1.

From that point forward over the next 9 games, Ryan put up the following numbers:

193 Completions
314 Attempts
2494 Passing Yards
20 TD's
4 INT's
7.94 YPA

Granted, some of the opponents were the doormats of the 2011 season (JAX, IND, TB). But with that said, it was truly the first consistent stretch of dominant production from Ryan during his career. As someone who watches the Falcons weekly, the traits that defined this stretch were:

1) Better utilization and an increased confidence in Julio Jones. Ryan has been reluctant in the past to throw guys open or allow his WR to make a play on the ball. With Julio he realized that his physical skills warranted this. Also, early in the season it felt like the Falcons were almost forcing Jones into the game plan. The latter half of the season, his usage on focus in the passing game seemed more natural.

2) More consistency from Roddy White. IMO, Roddy struggled with the idea of not being the alpha dog of the WR corps at the outset of the season. While he didn't look disinterested, he did look frustrated and at times, I think his focus waned. This led to bad drops. Roddy was better in the latter half of the season. However, at no point in the season did I feel he was playing at his 2010 level.

3) Better pass protection. Ryan was absolutely clobbered the first 2 games of the season and IMO, this shook his confidence in his O-Line. They were able to stem the negative tide and performed respectably the rest of the way, but I think Ryan stood stronger in the pocket during this stretch. RG was a particular weakness.

Now there is no doubt that Ryan has to bear the burden of a 0-3 playoff record. Quite frankly of his playoff losses, the 24-2 was the worst. The one where he looked completely overmatched. And I think the criticisms of him are fair in that regard. He won't get a chance to truly address those demons until he starts performing in January. But in the interim, I think this is the season he starts making a statistical leap and starts looking like one of the more dangerous QB's in the NFL instead of someone who has started to overstay his welcome in the up-and-comer category.

texasbirdfan said:

As one who watches every Falcon game, DK can't be worse on the Ryan figures than OC Mularkey was. I see a huge tick up for the offense as Douglas and Rogers will add to the looks with screens and over the middle targets. Mularkey was plain awful at play calling especially the last 3 seasons as he was predictable for the defense. Ryan was best the last 2 years at no huddle and audible- like a baseball ace pitcher continually shaking off the signs from a demented, aged catcher (Mularkey), a young Ryan knew a better play. With the addition of swings, screens and over the middles I see an increase in completions offset slightly by more deep play action potential in-completes.

FF Ninja said:

Atlanta threw the ball the 4th most in the NFL last year yet you hear people talking about them throwing more and running less. I'm not sure I buy it. Maybe the OC can squeeze more productivity out of Ryan, although his 7.4 ypa was a marked improvement upon his last two years (6.5 ypa each). If he reverts to Matty Mediocre then he's not going to be helping anyone's fantasy team even if ATL does throw the ball 37 times a game again.

Anytime you switch offensive coordinators it makes projections even more difficult than they already were. There's a chance Matt Ryan (QB11) takes a step forward, but I'd rather gamble on Big Ben who has recently rocketed up the ADP chart to QB12. If I miss there, I'd probably rather wait a couple rounds and pair up Cutler with Palmer or Fitzpatrick. With the possibility of the Ravens' defense being more porous this year, maybe they throw the ball more and Flacco regains his 7.4 ypa form and surprises everyone. I guess what I'm saying, is that you probably won't regret missing out on Matt Ryan this year.

Matt Ryan projections

Chris Smith35557043003213801
Message board consensus37458846213412650