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Matt Ryan Traded To Colts: Fantasy Football Takeaways & Implications (2022)

Mar 21, 2022
Matt Ryan Traded To Colts

Word came out on Monday morning that the Indianapolis Colts were the likely landing spot for quarterback Matt Ryan if the Falcons decided to move him. Apparently, a deal came together quickly as the Colts agreed to acquire the veteran signal-caller for a 2022 third-round pick. The Falcons will incur a $40.525 million dead cap charge in 2022—the largest in NFL history—as a result of the trade.

What does Ryan’s trade mean for the veteran quarterback, his new weapons in Indianapolis, and the offense he leaves behind in Atlanta? Andrew Erickson and Derek Brown are here to break down the fantasy football implications of the deal.

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Let the QB carousel continue. The Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Colts for a 2022 third-round pick. It’s a massive move that has fantasy football implications across all cylinders.

Starting with Ryan himself, it’s a solid spot for 2022 and beyond. I didn’t like him last season in fantasy because Atlanta lacked a strong supporting cast. Calvin Ridley barely played, and the Falcons owned the league’s second-worst blocking offensive line per PFF.

That’s not the case in Indianapolis with a better offensive line in place, a stable running game, and playmakers like Michael Pittman Jr. and Jonathan Taylor to boot.

Ryan was also vastly underrated as a passer despite the ongoing turmoil ranking above average in many of PFF’s sticky efficiency metrics in 2021: 12th in PFF passing grade from a clean pocket, second throwing at the intermediate level, and ninth throwing on early downs.

Entering a Frank Reich system that prides itself on churning out play-action (5th) and screen passes (10th) will make Ryan’s life a helluva lot easier than it was in Atlanta.

Ryan ranked 33rd in screen rate and 12th in play-action rate in 2021.

As for the Colts’ main offensive pieces, this is a major boost. An overall better offense increases scoring opportunities for Jonathan Taylor. Doesn’t hurt either that Ryan’s profile as a statue-esque quarterback encourages targets to the running back position.

Last season Mike Davis (44) and Cordarelle Patterson (52) combined for just under 100 catches. Taylor (40) and Nyheim Hines (40) combined for fewer with Carson Wentz at quarterback.

But the biggest winner is easily third-year wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

He was treated like a true alpha in 2021, running a route on 96% of offensive dropbacks – third to only Cooper Kupp (WR1) and Ja’Marr Chase (WR4) through 17 weeks. He also finished the season with the league’s 11th-highest target share (24%), which was 11 percentage points higher than the next closest Colt, Zach Pascal at 13%.

The only reason he didn’t finish higher than WR22 was that the Colts ranked 29th in pass-play rate and 27th in pass attempts. If Indy throws more with a trustworthy quarterback – strong possibility with Ryan under center – Pittman has the volume potential to be a top-12 fantasy option.

His 31% target share from Weeks 13-18 is a signal that his dynasty stock will continue to rise.

Now that the Colts have obtained a solid quarterback – with a history of fueling top-end fantasy WRs like Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley – top-5 isn’t all that crazy for Big Mike.

Don’t forget that last season Ridley as the Falcons’ No. 1 receiver owned the sixth-highest target rate per route run and ranked second among all wide receivers in expected fantasy points per game (16.5).

Ryan’s ability to throw downfield – 11th in PFF passing grade on throws 20-plus air yards – should also gel well with Pittman as a vertical threat.
– Andrew Erickson

The quarterback carousel continues for the Colts with the acquisition of Matt Ryan. Ryan under center in 2022 will be the fifth different starting quarterback for the franchise (Carson Wentz, Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, and Andrew Luck) in as many years. Ryan is an instant upgrade for the Colts’ offense that can hopefully last for multiple seasons. 

Last season Ryan’s fantasy stock bottomed out as the QB27 in fantasy points per game. This move to Indy should allow him to rebound as a mid to low-end QB2 in an offense that could pass more than many expect and will be tailored to his strengths. Before Wentz fully proved he wasn’t the answer to the quiz (Weeks 1-9), the Colts were ninth (60%) in neutral passing rate. After Week 10, they were the third-most run-heavy team (52%) in close games. We could easily see Frank Reich go back to allowing his quarterback to sling it around.

Ryan proved he isn’t washed last season, ranking ninth in on target rate and third in deep ball completion rate. Reich’s love for play-action will help Ryan as well. Last year, Wentz was fifth in play-action drop back rate (32.5%, per PFF). Ryan has consistently held high marks on play-action throws and last season was no different as he was third in adjusted completion rate (83.3%, per PFF) on play-action passes. 

Ryan in town will help the entire offense, but specifically Michael Pittman the most. Pittman was well on his way to a massive breakout season before the Colts run-centric approach tanked his season. The offensive shift crushed him and left him as nothing more than a WR3 or flex play. With Ryan in town, there’s hope that he can bounce back with a top 24 season in 2022.

Weeks Targets per game Receiving yards per game Receiving Touchdowns per game Fantasy points per game (PPR)
1-9 7.9 3 0.600 WR15
10-18 7.3 53 0.100 WR37

 

The remainder of the Colts’ pass-catching depth chart is a mess with Zach Pascal and T.Y. Hilton on the free-agent market, and only the often injured Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin, Mike Strachan, Dezmon Patmon, Keke Coutee, De’Michael Harris, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, and Quartney Davis left. The Colts moved their third-round pick for Ryan, but they still possess their second-round selection (42nd overall), which is prime territory to add a wide receiver in the draft. Jonathan Taylor is unfazed by this movement as a top-three fantasy option at the position. 

The Falcons will now be in the running to add a quarterback in free agency (Marcus Mariota?) or the NFL Draft, or possibly both. With the eighth overall selection in hand, they should be in the running for Malik Willis if they desire. They also have two second-round picks (43rd, 58th) if they like one of these prospects that could fall into that range more. With Kyle Pitts and a laundry list of aging running backs headlining their skill position players, the Falcons’ offense will likely look far different when Week 1 rolls around, so stay tuned.
– Derek Brown

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