Target Practice: The 2020 Atlanta Falcons (Fantasy Football)

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If you’ve been following along throughout the summer, our writing staff has taken aim at projecting the floor and ceilings of each pass-catching unit around the NFL. The Target Practice series features a team-by-team analysis that now boards a “midnight train to Georgia”, to borrow a phrase from the great Gladys Knight.

The Falcons finished 2018 at 7-9 after starting an abysmal 1-7 out of the gate. This team was bent on throwing the ball because of their lack of success on the ground ranking 30th in rushing yards per game. Matt Ryan led the league in completions despite missing a week. We know the yardage will be there as Ryan has averaged 4,600 passing yards over the last nine years. He trails only Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger in that stretch in yards per game. Why do we care about yardage? Because they give us a piece of the puzzle in projecting offenses from a 10,000-foot view. I wrote more about this last year in Projecting Offenses and Who Owns the Targets if you want a deeper dive into the process.

Vacated Targets

One of the first places to begin projecting an offense is by examining opportunity and pace. How much of the passing pie is available, how often does this team throw and how do we split up those targets? I recently published an article highlighting a trend between Vacated Targets & the RB Position in Fantasy Football. Another question that often comes up when evaluating multiple pass catchers is Do Offenses Have ‘Too Many Mouths to Feed‘? If you want a deeper dive into those subjects, feel free to give them a read before going any further.

For the 2020 Atlanta Falcons, they head into the season with the most targets up for grabs in the NFL. TE Austin Hooper signed a massive free-agent deal with the Browns leaving behind 97 targets, although his poor aDOT suggests a majority of these targets were of the dump-off variety. Free-agent Devonta Freeman had only seven double-digit fantasy games en route to an RB21 finish. However, 70 targets is a significant amount to divide out. The Falcons fleeced a second-round draft pick from New England for Mohamed Sanu halfway through the year and if you add up the remaining vacated targets, almost 40% of the passing pie is available.

Player Vacated Targets from 2019 Market Share
Austin Hooper 97 14.8%
Devonta Freeman 70 10.7%
Mohamed Sanu 42 6.4%
Justin Hardy 26 4.0%
Others 21 3.2%
TOTAL 256 39.1%

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