Atlanta Falcons Team Preview

  • QB Michael Penix Jr. at 8th overall. That’s the headline. If there were only a few words to describe the Atlanta Falcons offseason, those would be them. We will come back to that, but first lets talk about what else they have done. Coming off of a fairly disappointing 7-10 season both in terms of fantasy and in real-life, the Falcons expectedly canned HC Arthur Smith and brought in Raheem Morris. Morris has ties to the Rams and Falcons and comes in after winning a Super Bowl with the Rams as defensive coordinator. Morris promptly hired former Rams QB coach, Zac Robinson as offensive coordinator and former Wash U head coach and Rams defensive assistant Jimmy Lake to run the defensive side of the ball (D/ST 28). Morris filled out his staff with numerous former Rams coaches.

    While 2023 QB Desmond Ridder did not engender much hope going into last season, fantasy managers still had lofty expectations for the talented RB/WR/TE trio consisting of the young and highly-touted Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts. Abysmal QB play coupled with Arthur Smith’s absolute refusal to get his best offensive weapons the ball led to a good deal of frustration when it was all said and done. Robinson finished the year at a respectable RB9 (PPR) but showed flashes of brilliance when he touched the ball. The issue was that he was simply not featured enough. London disappointed even more at WR37 (PPR) as did Pitts as TE13 (PPR). With a new regime in charge as well as a flurry of off-season moves, there is a general consensus that things can only improve from here.

    The Falcons have been hard at work in the offseason signing long-time Vikings QB Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million deal in hopes he can bring stability to the position. They brought in a trio of burner wideouts in Darnell Mooney, Rondale Moore, and Ray-Ray McCloud to complement London and Pitts as pass catchers. In addition to that, they re-signed key players from last year on both ends of the ball as well as blocking TE Charlie Woerner to replace Jonnu Smith. Now that brings us to the NFL draft. GM Terry Fontenot and the Falcons made the single most controversial pick in the 2023 Draft in taking Michael Penix Jr. 8th, a player they deemed as the best available. Reports state they were under the belief that he was going to be taken within the next few picks behind theirs, so they had to get their guy. Despite Penix Jr.’s illustrious college career, he was expected to go much later due to the depth of this years QB class as well as injury concerns, his relatively older age for an incoming rookie NFL QB, and his lack of mobility. With Cousins locked up and high expectations with the new coaching regime, many believe the Falcons could have used that pick at WR or to fill in needs in either line or on defense.  Penix Jr. will now presumably sit as an understudy to Cousins for a few years and learn the ropes despite being older for his class.

    After taking Penix Jr., they finally focused on defense in the draft taking Clemson DT Ruke Orhorhoro in round two, Penix’s teammate at Washington, edge rusher Bralen Trice in the third, Oregon DR Brandon Dorlus in round four and Notre Dame LB JD Bertrand in the fifth. In the sixth and seventh rounds, they went against the grain taking Alabama RB Jase McClellan from and Illinois WR Casey Washington. They closed out the draft with yet another DT in Georgia’s Zion Logue. If you’re’ noticing a pattern here, you’re not going crazy. We will talk more about some of Atlanta’s defensive woes below. Key losses for the team include TE Jonnu Smith (MIA), CB Jeff Okudah (HOU), WR Mack Hollins (BUF), OL Matt Hennessy (PHI), RB/WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson (PIT) and QB Desmond Ridder (ARI).

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