Fantasy Sleeper: Matt Ryan
I've already made my case as to why quarterback is the most important position on draft day, and I strongly believe that any team without an elite quarterback is at a severe disadvantage. Those elite quarterbacks are Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, and Cam Newton. I understand that you can't spell "elite" without "Eli," but unfortunately you don't get fantasy points for Super Bowl victories, and I can't see Eli's numbers reaching that top-5 quarterback level.
However, there is one, and only one, quarterback that I would recommend you sleep on and grab in the middle rounds. That quarterback is the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan.
Matt Ryan has been a solid quarterback ever since coming into the league in 2008, but he has yet to provide the breakout season that the Falcons' front office hoped for when they drafted him third overall. Coming into his fifth year, everything is falling into place for Ryan and a dominant air-attack in Atlanta.
Roddy White has firmly established himself as a top-tier NFL wide receiver, and he is once again likely to be Ryan's top weapon. The Falcons also added the ultra-talented Julio Jones via the 2011 draft to catch passes opposite of White. After putting up good numbers in 2011, many expect Jones to build on his rookie campaign with a breakout season in 2012. In addition, Ryan has a formidable slot option in Harry Douglas, and a future Hall of Fame tight end in Tony Gonzalez. Second year running back Jacquizz Rodgers also figures to help Ryan in the passing game, as he has been praised for his pass-protection and receiving abilities.
Despite the Falcons' wealth of talented skill position players, none of them provide the biggest reason to expect a breakout season from Matt Ryan. The Falcons have openly stated that their team will transition from a ground-and-pound, smashmouth offense that featured big running back Michael Turner, to an offense featuring a much more uptempo style that will look to frequently air out the ball.
This is huge news for Ryan, as the Falcons are essentially putting the team in his hands and basing their whole offensive structure around his ability to pass the ball. The offense will feature the quarterback-friendly no-huddle, lots of screens, and frequent deep balls to the Falcons' freak athletes. Based on his play through his first four years, there is reason to believe Ryan will have an exceptional season in this new offense.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King says that Ryan eclipsing the 5,000 yard passing mark is "very realistic." If he could put up those type of numbers, he'll join the ranks of the elite.