Every year, fantasy football owners around the league look for the ideal late-round quarterback. Guys like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are guaranteed to put up big numbers, but you can typically find a comparable quarterback without using an early-round pick. Matt Ryan has a history of elite fantasy play, but can he put up another great season in 2020?
2020 Fantasy Football Outlook: Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan had a (somewhat) new offensive coordinator in 2019 and, predictably enough, had a below-average season. Starting in 15 games, Ryan ended the year with 4,446 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions, good for a QB11 finish in traditional scoring. While he wasn’t a liability as far as fantasy is concerned, he definitely fell short of expectations.
In fairness to Ryan, this relatively underwhelming season didn’t come completely out of the blue. Throughout the course of his career, Ryan typically struggles during his first year in a new offensive system. After a failed stint as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dirk Koetter returned to Atlanta to run the offense for the first time since the 2014 season. Even though he and Ryan had some familiarity, history suggested Ryan would struggle from a fantasy perspective. Not counting his rookie season, Matt Ryan ran a new offense in the 2012, 2015, and 2019 seasons. In those seasons, Ryan finished as the QB7, QB19, and QB11, respectively.
It’s also worth noting that Matt Ryan actually started the season as one of the better quarterbacks in fantasy. Through the first six weeks of the season, Ryan averaged 24.27 fantasy points per game and was on pace for a QB4 finish. However, Ryan suffered an ankle injury in the waning moments of a Week 7 loss and wasn’t the same quarterback for the rest of the season. While he only missed one game, his numbers took a notable dive after the aforementioned injury.
Situationally, Matt Ryan has the perfect surroundings for a great fantasy season. While he won’t be able to produce like Mahomes or Jackson, he has decent odds of ending the season as a top-five quarterback. We’ve seen that type of production from Ryan before, and all the star are aligning for a repeat season.
Ryan has the two things that all fantasy football owners crave in a quarterback: a great supporting cast and a terrible defense. Julio Jones is still one of the best receivers in the NFL and is capable of boosting Ryan’s stats from good to great. Jones isn’t alone, as third-year wide receiver Calvin Ridley has steadily improved during his time in the league and appears poised for a breakout. Additionally, the team traded for tight end Hayden Hurst, and that should only help Ryan. Hurst isn’t a superstar by any means, but he ended 2019 ranked sixth among tight ends in yards per route. He could end up being an upgrade over the scheme-dependent Austin Hooper.
Atlanta’s defense was one of the worst in the league last year, and it’s hard to see it getting much better. Defensive performance is largely influenced by the opposing offense, and nine of Atlanta’s games come against Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady. The Falcons are going to get in some shootouts, and that’s always great news for fantasy quarterback production.
Matt Ryan might not have another 2016 in him, but he still has what it takes to put up top numbers in favorable situations. Everything is aligned for Ryan to have a great fantasy season, and the dome-heavy schedule along with Ryan’s second year in the system will only increase his odds of success.
Matt Ryan Average Draft Position
As of this posting, Fantasy Football Calculator has Matt Ryan going off the board with the 89th overall selection. This currently puts him as the QB9 and lands him in the same tier as guys like Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady.
This feels like a fair landing spot for Ryan, although I’d take him over both Rodgers and Brady. Rodgers needs more support than he used to, and the Packers have done nothing to help the quarterback throughout the offseason. Brady, meanwhile, has all the weapons in the world but will probably need some time to adjust to life in Tampa Bay.
Ultimately, using an early-round pick on an elite quarterback like Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson just doesn’t make sense when you get Matt Ryan later in the draft. While he certainly won’t match the production of the aforementioned duo, he should be a week-in, week-out start with top-five upside. That level of depth simply isn’t available at running back and wide receiver, so you should grab as many of those positions as possible early in the draft and snag a guy like Ryan when all the other sure things are off the board.
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