Fantasy Fallout: Kirk Cousins to Falcons


We hope you enjoy this FREE article preview! In order to access our other articles and content, including livestreams, projections and rankings, stat analysis and more, be sure to sign up today. We are here to help you #ScoreMore Fantasy Points!

Fantasy Fallout: Kirk Cousins to Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons have their quarterback. Kirk Cousins just got absolutely paid (again) to the tune of $180M over four years ($100M guaranteed). If he plays out the life of this contract in Atlanta, then Cousins will have earned over $400M in his career.

The Falcons are clearly in a winnable division, and their improved defense necessitated a move at quarterback. Atlanta is all-in for 2024-25 with Cousins while their core on offense remains on their rookie deals.

After Matt Ryan left the club in 2021, the Falcons offense struggled mightily with Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder, and Taylor Heinicke at QB. Last season was rock bottom. Despite Drake London, Bijan Robinson, and Kyle Pitts all staying reasonably healthy, the Falcons sunk to a lowly 27th in points scored per drive (1.60).

Over the last two seasons, Atlanta’s talented receiving group (combined WR/TE) has finished 31st and 24th in Half-PPR points per game. That won’t happen again this season.

Cousins has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in seven out of his nine seasons as a starter. His 2019 campaign (3,603 yards in 15 games) and last season (2,331 yards in eight games) stand out as the two lone exceptions.

The 2022 Falcons pitiful passing offense put up just 2,927 yards (31st) while last year’s attack was improved — but not too much better (3,775 yards – 22nd).

Even if Cousins isn’t exactly his old self coming back from an Achilles injury, this was the best possible addition for the Falcons weaponry in fantasy.

Drake London and Kyle Pitts to the moon?

Along with the huge upgrade under center, the Falcons are obviously going to get out of the basement in pass rate. Over the last two seasons under former HC Arthur Smith, the Falcons ranked 32nd (-5.5%) and 31st (-11.2%) by pass rate under expectation.

We don’t know exactly what new OC Zac Robinson’s tendencies will be, but one thing is for sure – the Falcons passing offense will finally be unleashed.

Drake London is clearly not short on ability, yet he has not lived up to his expectations in fantasy football. Not by a long shot.

London’s rookie season (WR41 – 8.6 Half-PPR FPG) and sophomore campaign (WR47 – 8.6 FPG) were near mirror images in production and efficiency (2.20 YPRR in 2022 vs. 1.98 last year).

The same applies for Kyle Pitts.

Pitts air-balled in 2022 as the TE3 by average draft position (finished TE20 in FPG) and did it again last year (TE7 ADP vs. TE19 finish). At least he’s consistent.

(Full disclosure: I was banging the drum to draft Pitts in the 7th round last year, and, well, that was wrong. We faded him in Round 3 in 2022. But I’m a masochist, and I will be back in on Pitts this year.)

Of course, some of Pitts’ poor 2023 season was due in part to his health. Pitts was running with a noticeable hitch in his running gait early last year, and he confirmed that he was dealing with the effects of an MCL and PCL injury sustained in 2022.

With an offseason to get healthy, it’s really easy to sell yourself on a Pitts breakout campaign. After averaging 2.07 yards per route run (TE5) as a rookie and then 1.87 YPRR (TE6) in 2022, Pitts’ efficiency dropped off last year (1.51 YPRR – TE16).

It will also be interesting to see how the Falcons change up Pitts’ deployment. One thing that the former staff didn’t do nearly enough was scheme up Pitts some designed targets off of screens. Pitts is a freak talent in the open field and needs opportunities to make slower linebackers miss. Now, this could be a direct result of his knee injury, but Pitts did not see a single designed screen target last year according to FP Data. That’s right. Oh, and if you’re wondering, Pitts saw just three designed screen targets in 2022. (That’s the correct answer to Just Arthur Smith Things in Jeopardy! for $600.)

There are clearly some quick easy fixes that the Falcons will look to install for 2024.

Injury or not, Pitts’ 19.3% first-read target share was cut into by Jonnu Smith (14%) last season. Smith is now in South Beach.

Meanwhile, Drake London continued to command a true alpha WR1 target share with a 28.6% first-read share (WR20) last season. This is after London earned a 31.5% first-read target share (WR15) as a rookie.

The problem isn’t just that the Falcons rarely threw the ball — it was London’s catchable volume that was the deep-rooted issue.

Last year, London averaged just 5.2 catchable targets per game (WR33) and that was barely better than his rookie campaign (5.0 CTGT per game – WR40).

Kirk Cousins will not only throw way more than the Falcons' previous two quarterbacks, but he will deliver London and Pitts more catchable targets than they’ve ever enjoyed. That’s the largest takeaway here. Cousins has his limitations, but for fantasy, all we care about is his ability to get the ball to his pass catchers on time and accurately.

Cousins has delivered a catchable, accurate pass on at least 77% of pass attempts in three straight seasons, and he peaked at 81.4% last year. That was just barely behind Dak Prescott (81.5%) for the league lead.

For reference, Atlanta’s quarterbacks threw an accurate pass just 72.3% of the time last season. That ranked 30th. It was, unfortunately, an “improvement”, though. In 2022, Atlanta’s QBs gave their receivers a catchable ball 71.8% of the time.

The biggest winner… Bijan Robinson

Beyond the deserved excitement around their pass catchers, the biggest beneficiary of the Cousins signing might just be Bijan Robinson.

Not only does he get to dump the Falcons' broken offense after one season – he should never split work with any running back, let alone Tyler Allgeier – but Robinson’s touchdown expectation just went through the roof with Cousins under center. A more efficient offense will lead to more red-zone chances.

Just how bad was it last year? Well, Atlanta ranked a lowly 27th in drives ending in a touchdown (15.8%) last season. When they did actually get into the red zone, their coach self-sabotaged by giving the ball to everyone but their first-round RB.

Allgeier handled a team-high 36 red-zone carries (3 TDs), while former WR Cordarrelle Patterson mixed in for 10 totes (and, unsurprisingly, he scored 0 TDs).

This left Robinson with just 23 carries (4 TDs) inside-the-20. At the very least, Robinson did somewhat make up for it with 12 RZ targets (2 TDs).

Still, 35 running backs ended the 2023 campaign with more red-zone carries than Robinson. Dameon Pierce (23) had the same number of carries inside the 20 as Robinson, and Pierce was benched halfway through the season because he was ineffective. Then, he injured his ankle.

With a new staff in town, Robinson stands to benefit the most from any increased role in the red zone. Maybe he’s never a true bell cow, and he splits carries in some fashion again. OK, that’s fine. But, there is a very low likelihood that Robinson will end up with just 47% of the red-zone carries as he did as a rookie.

There really was no comparing the Falcons runners last year. Robinson delivered the goods on defenders with 0.28 missed tackles forced per carry according to FP Data. Allgeier forced just 0.16 MTF per carry.

Looking even deeper underneath the hood, Robinson crushed Allgeier by YPC on zone carries (4.4 vs. 3.7) and especially on man/gap-blocking concepts (5.2 vs. 3.6).

Falcons TL;DR

1. This was an ideal fit for Cousins as he enters a weaker division with great weapons on offense. Cousins is capped as a low-end QB1 at best for fantasy because he doesn’t scramble, and he has added risk coming back from injury. I’ll bet he settles around QB15-16 by ADP. 1b. Cousins’ 4,000 yards and 25 TDs will feel like heaven for London and Pitts.

2. I can’t imagine new OC Zac Robinson will want Cousins to push over 640 pass attempts as he did in 2022. Cousins paced for 620+ passes again last season. Bijan Robinson will be the most featured piece of what could be a greatly improved scoring offense. It is still close between him and Breece Hall, but I’m moving Bijan up as the RB2 behind Christian McCaffrey.

Closing thoughts on the Vikings

In a corresponding move, the Vikings picked up Sam Darnold on a backup/bridge deal worth $10M. Minnesota is going to make a move in the NFL Draft at this point because it seems highly unlikely that Chicago would trade Justin Fields to an in-division rival.

For the time being, Cousins’ departure is a downgrade for ancillary pieces like T.J. Hockenson (coming off an ACL-tear) and Jordan Addison.

Hockenson averaged a robust 9.9 targets per game in seven games without Jefferson, but that dipped to 7.3 T/G with Jefferson in.

Addison fell from 15.8 PPR FPG in eight starts with Cousins to just 10.5 FPG with the Vikings' backups.

If there is any dip in Justin Jefferson’s early best ball ADP – buy. Jefferson put up 30/476/2 receiving (on 44 targets) in four games without Cousins to close out the season. That’s 22.1 PPR FPG with Josh Dobbs and Nick Mullens chucking him the rock. He’ll be just fine because he will command a 33% first-read target share – no matter the QB.

Graham Barfield blends data and film together to create some of the most unique content in the fantasy football industry. Barfield is FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and formerly worked for the NFL Network, Fantasy Guru, and Rotoworld.