This article is part of our Team Previews series.
An 8-9 record won the NFC South in 2022, and with much-needed additions to the defensive line and secondary, Atlanta is one of the most-improved teams in the division. Arthur Smith's rushing scheme was effective in his second season as coach, and coupled with a trio of top-10 picks at the skill positions, the offense could be more explosive in Year 3 if QB Desmond Ridder shows progress. The Falcons are breaking out of their rebuild and in a position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
2023 Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Room
- Veteran Additions: Taylor Heinicke (from Commanders)
- Draft Picks: None
- Departures: Marcus Mariota (to Eagles)
Desmond Ridder took over at quarterback for the Falcons near the end of his rookie 2022 season, and it's his job to lose in 2023. He wasn't prolific in limited time, completing 73 of 115 passes for 708 yards and two touchdowns while carrying 16 times for 64 yards, but he showed some promise, and the team went 2-2.
Atlanta boasts one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and has selected a trio of skill players with top-10 picks over the last three years – Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Bijan Robinson – so Ridder has the pieces to succeed in the coming campaign. Ridder also may have a short leash, as the Falcons are closing in on win-now mode.
Heinicke signed a two-year, $14 million contract to join Atlanta after two-plus seasons in Washington and has a decent track record as a starter, including a notable playoff game versus Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in January 2021. The Falcons opted not to take a QB in the 2023 Draft, so they've put their trust in the duo of Ridder and Heinicke.
2023 Atlanta Falcons Backfield
- Veteran Additions: None
- Draft Picks: Bijan Robinson (Rd. 1, No. 8 – Texas)
- Departures: None
The surprise selection of Robinson at No. 8 in this year's draft completely shifted the Falcons' expected RB depth chart. Tyler Allgeier, a 2022 fifth-round pick, was in line to be the guy after surpassing Cordarrelle Patterson as a rookie, but both of the returnees will move down a notch to make room for Robinson, who is coming off 1,894 yards from scrimmage and 20 TDs in 12 games for Texas last season.
Atlanta boasts one of the best O-lines in the NFL and averaged 32.9 carries per game in 2022. That usage isn't expected to change this season, so Allgeier should still be utilized consistently in Year 2. Robinson profiles as the lighting to Allgeier's thunder, and both are versatile enough to handle most situations. If the top two options stay healthy, Patterson likely will be relegated to a gadget piece.
Behind that trio, Caleb Huntley may start the season on the PUP list due to an Achilles injury, while Avery Williams and B.J. Baylor are slated to miss it entirely with their own health concerns. As a result, rookie UDFA Carlos Washington is left as the top healthy reserve.
2023 Atlanta Falcons Receiving Corps
- Veteran Additions: WRs Mack Hollins (from Raiders), Scotty Miller (from Buccaneers); TE Jonnu Smith (from Patriots)
- Draft Picks: None
- Departures: WRs Olamide Zaccheaus (to Eagles), Damiere Byrd (to Panthers); TEs MyCole Pruitt (FA), Anthony Firkser (to Patriots)
Drake London flashed as a 2022 first-rounder and flourished when QB Desmond Ridder took over down the stretch, securing 25 of 36 targets for 333 yards across the final four games. London again will be the Falcons' WR1 this season, but behind him, things look different, with Hollins and Miller replacing Zaccheaus and Byrd this offseason. Considering the lacking talent, Cordarrelle Patterson could fill some of the void behind London due to his prior experience at wide receiver.
At tight end, Kyle Pitts leads the way and will be the team's No. 2 option through the air, while Smith, a newcomer, should be involved periodically. Given Atlanta's run-heavy offense and the frequent usage of RBs and TEs in the passing game, Hollins or Miller may have difficulty finding regular opportunities.
Overall, Ridder's development is key, but even if he doesn't take a step forward, London should still see enough looks to flirt with a 1,000-yard season. As for Pitts, he reached that threshold as a rookie in 2021, but his true potential hasn't been tapped yet, with just three touchdowns on 169 career targets.
2023 Atlanta Falcons Sleepers
⬆️ Sleeper: Desmond Ridder
Currently, Ridder is among the low end of starting quarterbacks to be considered in fantasy drafts, and for good reason. However, if things go according to plan given Atlanta's offensive line and skill-position talent, Ridder could have as much upside as signal-callers like Kenny Pickett and Jordan Love, who are being selected much earlier. Managers across the board are trying to dig up the Jalen Hurts or Justin Fields of 2023, and it may be the unsuspecting, second-year QB in Atlanta.
😴 Super Sleeper: Carlos Washington
The Falcons have lost Avery Williams and B.J. Baylor for the season, and Caleb Huntley will likely start the year on the PUP list, leaving Washington, an undrafted product out of Southeastern Louisiana, as the top depth option behind Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson. Washington may be one injury away from seeing regular snaps as a rookie but profiles as a one-dimensional downhill rusher. The 5-11, 220-pound running back tallied 15 rushing TDs during his final collegiate campaign.
2023 Atlanta Falcons Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Arthur Smith (Year 3)
Offensive Coordinator: Dave Ragone (Year 3) – West Coast / zone run
Defensive Coordinator: Ryan Nielsen (Year 1) – 3-4 scheme
2023 Atlanta Falcons Depth Chart
Kicker: Younghoe Koo
Stats to Know for the Atlanta Falcons
2022 Record: 7-10
2022 Points Scored: 365 (T-15th)
2022 Points Allowed: 386 (23rd)
2022 Point Differential: -21 (20th)
2022 Run-Play Rate: 55.3 percent (2nd)
2022 Offensive Snaps: 1,011 (26th)
2022 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 5
2023 Atlanta Falcons Schedule
|1||Sep 10||Carolina Panthers||1:00 PM|
|2||Sep 17||Green Bay Packers||1:00 PM|
|3||Sep 24||at Detroit Lions||1:00 PM|
|4||Oct 1||at Jacksonville Jaguars||9:30 AM|
|5||Oct 8||Houston Texans||1:00 PM|
|6||Oct 15||Washington Commanders||1:00 PM|
|7||Oct 22||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1:00 PM|
|8||Oct 29||at Tennessee Titans||1:00 PM|
|9||Nov 5||Minnesota Vikings||1:00 PM|
|10||Nov 12||at Arizona Cardinals||4:05 PM|
|12||Nov 26||New Orleans Saints||1:00 PM|
|13||Dec 3||at New York Jets||1:00 PM|
|14||Dec 10||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1:00 PM|
|15||TBD||at Carolina Panthers||TBD|
|16||Dec 24||Indianapolis Colts||1:00 PM|
|17||Dec 31||at Chicago Bears||1:00 PM|
|18||TBD||at New Orleans Saints||TBD|
Atlanta Falcons Odds To Win Super Bowl LVIII
- Falcons Super Bowl 58 Odds: 60-1
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook as of 4:00 PM ET on July 22, 2023.