NFL Splits Tool: As Cordarrelle Patterson Went, So Went the Falcons


With not much left in the way of big offseason events that will change teams’ futures, our eyes can truly turn toward the season to come, preparing for fantasy football drafts and looking forward to what we need to know for success in 2022. With that in mind, all summer long, I’ll be using our FTN Fantasy Splits Tool to look at some of the key situations to know for the season. The Splits Tool allows you to experiment with situations with active/inactive players, spreads, locations, and more to help you get a picture of everything you need for your fantasy football season. Sign up for an FTN Fantasy subscription now to experiment with the tool as you prepare for your season.


A Diamond in the Rough

After three consecutive losing seasons and an 0-5 start to the 2020 season, the Atlanta Falcons decided to part ways with head coach Dan Quinn. They won four of their last seven games, finishing at the bottom of the NFC South. The Falcons cleaned house the following offseason, bringing in Terry Fontenot as the new general manager and former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith as the new head coach. The new front office was in a difficult situation, strapped against the salary cap. They traded away the face of their franchise, Julio Jones, marking the end of an era. Unfortunately, the regime change wasn’t enough for the #DirtyBirds. They ended the season 7-10, missing the postseason for the fourth year in a row.

Despite playing much of the season with a depleted roster, the Falcons received significant contributions from their role players. Perhaps the biggest storyline of the Falcons’ 2021 season was the ninth-year breakout of running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson had a career year doing a little bit of everything for Atlanta. However, his utilization in the passing game often dictated the offense’s success. In this article, I will be looking at how targeting Patterson impacted the Falcons’ output.

Cordarrelle Patterson, RB

Cordarrelle Patterson 2021 Splits Atlanta Falcons Fantasy Football

After eight years in the NFL largely as a kick returner specialist, Patterson broke the age model with a career year in his age-30 season. He excelled as both a receiver and a running back, posting career highs in touches (205), yards from scrimmage (1,166) and touchdowns (11). He also maintained his role on special teams, logging 434 yards as a kick returner. Patterson finished the season as a top-10 RB but was a volatile player week to week. His production was significantly impacted by the targets he received. In the games Patterson saw fewer than four targets (7); he averaged 2.99 fewer receptions and 39.81 fewer receiving yards. His rushing attempts also decreased by 2.27, and his rushing yards decreased by 3.14. Patterson’s usage as a receiver was directly correlated with his total output. During the offseason, the Falcons re-signed Patterson on a two-year, $10.5 million deal. If Patterson can receive a consistent target share, he’ll again be valuable in fantasy drafts.

For a more in-depth breakdown of Patterson’s usage, check out Adam Pfeifer’s “What Changed in 2021: Running Backs.”

Matt Ryan, QB 

Matt Ryan 2021 Splits Atlanta Falcons Fantasy Football

Matt Ryan had a difficult year getting acclimated to Arthur Smith’s new system while adjusting to life without Julio Jones. He was held under 4,000 passing yards (3,968) for the first time since 2010, finishing as the QB20 on the season. Ryan had the most success when Cordarrelle Patterson was involved in the passing attack. In the nine games Patterson had four or more targets. Ryan averaged 9.09 more passing attempts and 89.56 more passing yards. His passing touchdowns also increased by 1.98 per game. After failing to land Deshaun Watson in the offseason, the Falcons traded Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a third-round pick. They addressed the void at quarterback by signing Marcus Mariota in free agency and drafting Desmond Ridder in the third round of the 2022 NFL draft. Patterson should remain a focal point of the passing game regardless of who is under center next season.

Check out the impact of Ryan to Indianapolis in Jeff Ratcliffe’s “Colts swing trade with Falcons for QB Matt Ryan.”

Russell Gage, WR

Russell Gage 2021 Splits Atlanta Falcons Fantasy Football

Former 2018 sixth-round pick Russell Gage stepped up in a major way for a Falcons team desperate for help. Gage served as the No. 1 wide receiver after Week 6, when Calvin Ridley stepped away from the team. Although Ridley’s absence aided Gage, he was hurt when Cordarrelle Patterson wasn’t involved. When Patterson had less than four targets, Gage averaged 1.05 fewer targets, 1.82 fewer receptions and 18.67 fewer receiving yards. There was less passing volume, creating fewer opportunities for the receivers. The Falcons decided to let Gage walk in free agency and drafted Drake London with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. London should immediately step in as the WR1 in Atlanta and is ranked as the No. 3 player in the FTN 2022 Dynasty Rookie Rankings for fantasy football.


Kyle Pitts, TE

Kyle Pitts 2021 Splits Atlanta Falcons Fantasy Football

The new Falcons’ front office made history when they drafted Kyle Pitts fourth overall in the 2021 NFL draft. It was the highest pick ever allocated to a tight end. Pitts was the quintessential mismatch, standing at 6-foot-6, 246 pounds, and running a 4.45 40-yard dash. His combination of size, speed, and athleticism was on full display in his rookie season. Pitts caught 68 passes for 1,026 yards and one touchdown, becoming the first tight end to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in his first year since Mike Ditka in 1961. Pitts benefited from playing alongside Cordarrelle Patterson. His targets, catches, receptions and touchdowns increased when Patterson saw four or more targets. The Falcons’ offense was much more efficient when Patterson was involved in the game plan. Pitts is poised to take another step forward in year two and is ranked as a top-three tight end in the FTN rankings.

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