The Fantasy Football Impact of Kirk Cousins to the Atlanta Falcons

Mar 12, 2024
The Fantasy Impact of Kirk Cousins to the Falcons

On Monday, March 11, Kirk Cousins agreed to a four-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons. After tearing his Achilles in 2023, the soon-to-be 36-year-old Cousins will start a new chapter with the Falcons offense now led by Zac Robinson, who was the Rams’ pass game coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the last two years.

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Kirk Cousins’ Career

Since taking over as a full-time starter in Washington in 2015, Cousins has arguably been the most underrated quarterback in the league. Over the past nine seasons, 36 active quarterbacks have attempted at least 1,000 passes—among them, Cousins ranks sixth in both adjusted yards per attempt (7.8) and touchdown rate (5.35) with the ninth-lowest interception rate.

Before tearing his Achilles in 2023, Cousins’ numbers were on par with what we’ve come to expect—second in passing yards, first in touchdowns, fifth in adjusted yards per attempt, and fifth in touchdown rate. As a passer who barely runs, Cousins should be fully recovered from his injury by Week 1 and will find himself with weapons that will give him every opportunity to maintain the high bar he has set for himself.

The Falcons’ 2024 Passing Game Outlook

With Arthur Smith calling plays and the combination of Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke at quarterback in 2023, the Falcons were one of the least exciting offenses in the league, ranking last in passing rate over expectation and 27th in total EPA per play. One of the biggest failures of the offense was their inability (or unwillingness) to get their best players the ball with Jonnu Smith and Tyler Allgeier given outsized target and touch shares.

Cousins and Robinson should usher in a more pass-friendly system with improved efficiency. In addition to Cousins’ effective quarterback play throughout his career, Robinson’s offenses have had success, as well. As the pass game coordinator in LA, Robinson’s Rams ranked 20th in passing rate over expectation in 2023 and 11th in pass EPA per play.

This presents an extraordinary opportunity for Drake London, Kyle Pitts, and Bijan Robinson, who return as the top three target-earners from last season (all with at least 86 targets) with virtually no ancillary options to speak of. Going into free agency, 36% of Atlanta’s targets from 2023 are vacated, the third most in the league.

Not only is this offense likely to see an uptick in passing volume but London, Pitts, and Robinson could all see their target shares grow to truly elite levels at their respective positions.

The Falcons’ 2024 Fantasy Football Outlook

Cousins finished his shortened 2023 season averaging 18.7 fantasy points per game, good enough for a QB6 finish on a per-game basis. With virtually no rushing ability, nearing 40 years old, and coming off of a torn Achilles, Cousins should offer fringe QB1 output. In 4for4’s Never Too Early Rankings, Cousins is the QB12, suggesting he is a value as the QB20 in early Underdog drafts.

The players with the most upside relative to their 2023 finishes are London and Pitts, who finished 46th and 16th at their respective positions in half-PPR leagues. Unless Atlanta signs a big-name free agent or spends a first-round pick on a wide receiver, London could approach a 30% target share in 2024, which means WR1 upside as long as Cousins is under center. London is being drafted as the 24th wide receiver on Underdog and is ranked as 4for4’s WR20.

Pitts had a down 2023 campaign after a high-volume rookie season but he was hampered by play-calling, quarterback play, and injuries. While Pitts may be a magnet for fantasy hate, he’s undeniably a great target-earner, even when in a low-volume offense—his 169 targets in his first two years are the 11th-most ever by a tight end. Among the 38 tight ends to see at least 40 targets last year, only 73.3% thrown to Pitts were deemed catchable (SportsInfoSolutions), the second-lowest rate in the sample.

Cousins should boost Pitts’ efficiency while Pitts could easily surpass 100 targets again. The Falcons tight end is still ranked and being drafted as a top-10 player at his position but if things break right he could go from a fringe starter/streamer to an every-week lineup lock.

While the Falcons' rushing rate may go down, Bijan Robinson should inherit a bigger touch share than he did last year. Cousins certainly doesn’t hurt Robinson’s passing game outlook and after ranking third at his position in targets last season, Robinson is set up for a top-five fantasy campaign in an offense that figures to offer way more scoring opportunities in 2024.

The Bottom Line

  • The additions of quarterback Kirk Cousins and offensive coordinator Zac Robinson set the Falcons up to make a significant leap in passing volume and overall efficiency.
  • As one of the more prolific passers in recent history, Cousins projects as a low-end QB1, even after tearing his Achilles in 2023.
  • Atlanta has the fourth-most vacated targets in the league, suggesting elite target shares for Drake London, Kyle Pitts, and Bijan Robinson in an offense that should see an overall uptick in passing volume.
  • London is being drafted as the WR24 on Underdog but has WR1 potential with Cousins at quarterback. He is 4for4’s WR20.
  • Pitts has the widest range of outcomes among the Falcons’ big three. If he commands a target share near 25%, he could be an every-week fantasy starter. For now, he is a low-end TE1.
  • Bijan Robinson is likely to see an increased touch share with Arthur Smith gone and will remain an elite pass-catching back. Scoring should go up for the Falcons, making Robinson a top-five player at his position.
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