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Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 Atlanta Falcons

NFL Fantasy



Michael Dolan

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Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2023 fantasy football season. All summer, our analysts, two at a time, will preview all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming season. We’ll pick a pair of sleepers, a pair of busts and a pair of bold predictions. Sometimes they’ll be the same pick! Sometimes they will directly disagree! And that’s fine. Today: The Atlanta Falcons.


Below, Michael Dolan and Jeremy Popielarz tackle the Falcons, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2023 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: Atlanta Falcons

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

DolanDesmond Ridder
Popielarz: Desmond Ridder

Biggest Bust

DolanDrake London
Popielarz: Drake London

Bold Prediction

DolanBijan Robinson tops 1,500 rushing yards
Popielarz: Bijan Robinson is the RB1

The Explanations


Dolan: Desmond Ridder

There’s a lot of hype around the top weapons in Atlanta right now (Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts), but no love for their quarterback. You don’t have to be fully on the Desmond Ridder hype train to see how he can provide fantasy value though. Currently priced as a mid-tier QB3, Ridder doesn’t have to do a ton to exceed his current draft status. While you’re likely not drafting a QB3 unless you play in a 2QB/superflex league, those of you who do could find great value in Ridder. 

The Falcons offense should be decent this year, and their playmakers can do much of the heavy lifting for their quarterback. Plus, while he’s not exactly a rushing QB, Ridder is good for a couple rush attempts per game that will add up over the course of a full season. He may not possess a ton of upside, but at his current cost, the value is there for Ridder to outperform his draft capital.

Popielarz: Desmond Ridder

Desmond Ridder saw limited action as a rookie, starting four games down the stretch and showing some potential, earning the starting role in 2023. Ridder completed 63.5% of his passes en route to 708 yards and 2 touchdowns. Most impressively, he did not throw a single interception on his 115 attempts. He also flashed the some of the rushing upside we saw at Cincinnati as he added 64 yards on the ground. None of this turned into much in the way of fantasy production, but we got a glimpse of what Ridder could become, potentially a Dak Prescott/Ryan Tannehill-type producer if everything breaks right. 

In 2023, Ridder will not be asked to pass the ball a ton — the Falcons passed at the second-lowest rate in the league last season at only 44.71%. Add in the addition of Bijan Robinson, and I don’t expect this number to increase significantly. That said, it doesn’t mean Ridder will be irrelevant — prior to his injury in Week 13 last season, Marcus Mariota was the QB12 with 205.6 points. This is a safe expectation for Ridder, but he also could sneak into the top-12 if he takes a step forward in 2023.



Dolan: Drake London

One of the reasons Desmond Ridder is an intriguing sleeper is his low price tag. However, Drake London does not carry that same discount.

London’s status as a bust isn’t a knock on the player himself – I actually love his talent and think he’ll be a great player in the NFL for a long time. However, it seems talent is the only thing influencing his price right now, and I’m not buying there will be enough passing volume in Atlanta to justify drafting London as your WR2. Last year, the Falcons ranked 31st in passing attempts, completions and yards, and there’s no indication that their run-first philosophy is going away any time soon. Even if London is as talented as many think he is, he faces an uphill battle to fantasy production in 2023.

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Popielarz: Drake London

It may seem contradictory that I am in on Ridder being a potential sleeper and out on Drake London, but here we are. London had an under-the-radar impressive season, at least from a real football sense if not a fantasy one. He caught 72 of his 117 targets for 866 yards and 4 touchdowns. His 117 targets was a 28% target share, and he accounted for 30% of the team’s air yards, en route to the Falcons’ second-best yards per route run at 2.2, per the FTN stats hub. All of these were impressive for a rookie, but it only turned into 178.6 PPR points and a WR31 finish. 

The addition of Bijan Robinson to this offense is going to be a ripple to all other fantasy assets. The Falcons already leaned on their run game heavily, especially in the red zone, where 68% of their 169 play calls were runs. I expect this to continue into 2023. Without an increase in red zone production, London will struggle to work his way into the top-24 this year. He has the talent to reach that level, but the usage tells me he is more of a WR3 in 2023 with some boom weeks sprinkled in there. 


Bold Predictions

Dolan: Bijan Robinson Tops 1,500 Rushing Yards

Only seven rookies have eclipsed the 1,500-rushing-yards mark, with Ezekiel Elliott the last to do so in 2016. Betting on Robinson to hit such a milestone is bold, but it’s certainly doable. 

First off, Robinson clearly has the talent to be “that guy” in Atlanta’s offense. Running backs don’t get drafted in the top 10 of the NFL Draft very often, but Robinson was such an exceptional prospect that the Falcons took him at eighth overall. Pair that talent with the aforementioned run-heavy offense and one of the league’s sneaky-best offensive lines, and there’s a clear path for Robinson to reach elite status as early as Year 1.

Popielarz: Bijan Robinson is the RB1

The Flacons used the eighth overall pick on Bijan Robinson in April after he had a stellar career at Texas. He gives them their workhorse running back for a run-heavy attack that averaged 159.9 yards per game and 4.9 yards per attempt, both top five in the league. This was with a stable of largely average NFL running backs. Add in the explosiveness and big-play threat of Bijan Robinson, and it’s a match made in heaven. At Texas, Robinson amassed 86 runs of 10-plus yards, and 49 of them went for more than 15 yards (per PFF). Just last season the Falcons produced 28 runs over 15 yards from their running backs — this should increase with the exciting rookie in the backfield. We also saw the Falcons target their running backs 64 times, 15% of the team’s target share. This is another way Robinson will see touches, as he frequently lined up out wide or in slot at Texas and is already lining up there in OTAs. 

To sum this all up, Robinson is likely to see a huge opportunity share as a rookie, potentially north of 250 touches. That is a rare opportunity share for a running back in today’s NFL. If he can average anything close to his career 7.0 yards per touch in college, he will break fantasy football in 2023. Add in the fact that he likely sees a majority of the Falcons’ red zone touches, an area where they ran on 68% plays, and the 10-touchdown benchmark is well within reach for Robinson. With all that considered, I think there’s a real chance Bijan Robinson finishes as the overall RB1 in most fantasy football formats in his first year.

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