With the quarterback seats getting taken up, the Colts were the latest team to solidify the direction they are going in 2022, acquiring Matt Ryan from the Falcons.
Ryan will turn 37 this May and is coming off the worst fantasy season of his career, finishing as the QB30 in points per game (13.1). Even with the lack of production for counting fantasy stats, Ryan did have some strong areas of solid football play, especially when you factor in the context of his offensive situation throwing to a rookie tight end, losing Calvin Ridley, and playing behind an offensive line that ranked 26th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate and was 31st in pass blocking grade per Pro Football Focus.
Despite those peripheral notes on his situation, Ryan was seventh in on target rate (78.9%) per Sports Info Solutions.
Ryan also played better than Carson Wentz, who was in a more optimal situation on a Colts team that was better than Atlanta in every capacity outside of quarterback play.
Ryan posted an expected completion rate of 67.4%, was 1.8% above that expectation, and notched a 47.4% success rate passing. Wentz sported a 66.8% expected completion rate, was -2.0% below that mark, and posted a 46.9% success rate passing.
Ryan was pressured on 39.7% of his dropbacks (sixth) while he came out as the 12th highest graded passer from a clean pocket per Pro Football Focus while Wentz was 26th.
Although Ryan is stuck as a QB2 and streamer for fantasy purposes, this is an upgrade for Ryan while the Colts also were able to upgrade from where their quarterback situation was a year ago.
An upgrade at quarterback can be good for Michael Pittman, even if the Colts are still run through Jonathan Taylor.
Pittman more than doubled his rookie season production in 2021, catching 88-of-129 targets for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns. Pittman has alpha qualities with a physical archetype, but he also plays in a run-first climate and was the only pass catcher on his roster a year ago that warranted any consideration.
Despite ranking ninth in target share (24.8%), Pittman was 18th in targets per game (7.6), having six or fewer targets in eight games. If Ryan can coax out more passing volume (Ryan also had just a 2.7% scramble rate compared to a 4.8% rate for Wentz), Pittman can squeeze out more volume in year three.
Of course, this also leaves the Falcons without a quarterback, and they have turned to adding Marcus Mariota, while selecting a rookie quarterback is still a real possibility.
Mariota has not started a game since 2019, but is more than familiar playing under Arthur Smith, although that did not end well in Tennessee. Mariota was ultimately benched during that 2019 season with Smith as the playcaller, but did start that season with a pair of top-six scoring weeks over the opening month of the season before things fell apart.
Mariota does have a QB1 scoring season on his resume, coming in 2016 when he posted 17.3 points per game. He also comes with rushing production, averaging 3.3 rushing points per start in his career. In his lone game with the Raiders receiving extended playing time with Derek Carr suffering an injury, Mariota was the QB9 (25.8 points) for fantasy, tacking on 41 yards and a rushing touchdown on the ground.
As long as Mariota remains the starter, he carries rushing potential as a streamer in the same fashion as Mitchell Trubisky, albeit Mariota has much more limitations to work with currently on this Atlanta roster.
The potential musical chairs on what we are expecting now to be an Atlanta team that is more or less is pushing its chips in down the line than in 2022, could deflate some of the steam for Kyle Pitts as a high-end tight end fantasy selection.
Mariota had no issues feeding tight ends Delanie Walker and Darren Waller (in one game getting extended run) on limited rosters, so as long as Mariota stays under center, Pitts still stands to command a large target share from a functional passer.
Pitts was the first rookie tight end to reach 1,000 yards receiving since Mike Ditka in 1961.
He lined up all over the field, playing 286 snaps in the slot, 248 snaps inline, and another 237 snaps out wide. Pitts was second among all tight ends in route participation rate (80.6%), ninth in targets per game (6.5), and second in intended air yards (1,204).
That said, there was plenty of meat left on the bone as he closed the season as the TE11 in points per game. Pitts scored just one touchdown (-4.1 below expectation) on that usage.
There is next to nothing in the way for Pitts to accrue a significant target share, but any rookie coming in and potentially pushing Mariota as early as this year would lower his ceiling potential for the upcoming season.
For more NFL offseason coverage, be sure to check out:
- 2022 NFL Free Agency Tracker: Grades, Rumors & News
- 2022 Fantasy Football Hub: Rankings & News
- NFL Free Agency Impact on Fantasy Football
- 2022 NFL Mock Draft from Ryan McCrystal
- 2022 NFL Mock Draft from Brendan Donahue