Fantasy Football 2017: Is Matt Ryan’s Stock Trending Down?

Matt Ryan had a tremendous 2016 season and assisted many owners to a fantasy football championship. Yet, is it possible his stock is already trending down?

For the first time since 1998, the Atlanta Falcons went to the Super Bowl and in many ways, were one play away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. A lot of their success in 2016 can be attributed to the play of their quarterback Matt Ryan. Many fantasy football owners can make the same claim.

Playing in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s system for the second consecutive season, the former first-round pick out of Boston College flourished. Ryan set career highs in completion percentage (69.9), passing yards (4,944), passing touchdowns (38), yards per attempt (9.3), Quarterback Rating (117.1) and QBR (83.3). Ryan was marksman-like efficient as he also set a career low in interceptions (7). Although there were other deserving candidates, Ryan was rightfully award the NFL MVP Award in 2016.

Ryan finished the season as the second highest-scoring fantasy football player and quarterback in 2016 only behind Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Due to the immense success Ryan had last season, it’s hard to believe he wasn’t more coveted in fantasy football circles back in August and September.

Believe it or not, according to Fantasy Football Calculator and Fantasy Pros, the Falcons quarterback on average wasn’t even among the first fifteen quarterbacks selected in drafts. Yes, the 2016 MVP started the season on the waiver-wire in a majority of fantasy leagues. Why was this?

In 2015, Ryan had a down year and that’s putting it nicely. In his first season in Shanahan’s offense, Ryan only threw 21 touchdown passes. The only other season where he threw less touchdown passes (16) came back in 2008 when he was a rookie. His 16 interceptions that season was the second-highest total of his career as well.

During the 2016 preseason, Ryan’s comfort level and understanding of Shanahan’s offense didn’t look any better. In fact, it looked worse. Across three preseason games, he only completed 48.6 percent of his passes on 37 attempts while throwing zero touchdowns and one interception. He finished the preseason with a QB rating of 54.7. Based on the small sample size, there was no reason to believe Ryan was going to be significantly better or better at all in the offensive system.

As we all know now, Ryan not only improved in his second year in the system but he did it in leaps and bounds. He may have finished 2016 as the second-best fantasy player and quarterback but in terms of value, he was the best fantasy football player in 2016. So why is his stock trending down in 2017?

The Falcons offensive coordinator over the last two seasons, Shanahan, left the team to be the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. As a result, the Falcons have brought in former college coach/coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, to be the team’s new offensive coordinator. Other than 2004 when he was the quarterbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders, Sarkisian has never coached in the NFL.

The Falcons have gone from an offensive coordinator with 13 years of NFL coaching experience (nine of them as an offensive coordinator) to a guy with one year of NFL coaching experience and zero as an offensive coordinator. Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has already said the Falcons offensive system won’t change under Sarkisian. Although that sounds nice on paper, it’s not that simple.

Although the same “system” will be in place, that doesn’t mean the game plans, play-calling or flow of the offense will be the same. In fact, it’s going to be awfully difficult for Sarkisian to duplicate all of the little ins and outs that made the Falcons the No. 1 scoring offense in 2016. It took Shanahan and Ryan over a year before they became comfortable with each other and between the two, they had two decades of NFL playing and coaching experience.

It’s difficult to play at a MVP level every season. That’s why over the last seven years only one player (Aaron Rodgers) has won the NFL MVP Award multiple times. Are we honestly expecting Ryan to recreate or even improve on last year’s MVP numbers with a coordinator who has never called plays in the NFL?

Remember, in 2015 Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton won the MVP and was the number one fantasy football quarterback and player. In 2016 the Panthers returned their same offensive coordinator, same system and their No. 1 wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, returned from injury after missing all of 2015. Yet, Newton’s numbers drastically fell off and he finished 2016 as the 18th fantasy football quarterback.

Is this to say Ryan’s numbers, fantasy production and play are all going to fall off a cliff like Newton’s did? Not at all. It is saying just because the Falcons will have the same system in place doesn’t mean we should expect the same type of production. The truth is, expecting Ryan and the offense to produce like it did in 2016 with an offensive coordinator who has no experience calling plays in the NFL is a stretch.

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