With the fantasy playoffs fast approaching, one of this season’s biggest fantasy revelations will not be available to help anyone for at least a week and possibly more. Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson, a breakout fantasy star in his ninth NFL season, sprained his ankle Sunday in Atlanta’s blowout loss to the Cowboys.
Patterson is currently ninth in fantasy scoring among running backs. Nobody saw that coming before the season. Patterson, a wide receiver for most of his career, was moved to running back at the start of this season, his first with Atlanta. He’s still technically the backup running back on the Falcons behind starter Mike Davis -- yet Patterson has been far more productive. Patterson has rushed for 303 yards (14 more yards than Davis, on 11 fewer carries). His biggest value has been as a receiver out of the backfield, with 39 receptions for 473 yards.
Through nine games, Patterson’s 776 scrimmage yards are already a career best and his seven total touchdowns tie his career best, which he attained as a rookie in 2013.
At 4-5, the Falcons are only one game out of a wild card spot in the NFC, though it seems hard to imagine Atlanta as a playoff team after losing 43-3 in Dallas. Without Patterson for any amount of time, following the loss of receiver Calvin Ridley last month, the offense is certainly at a disadvantage.
What’s the fantasy impact of Patterson’s injury? In addition to hurting fantasy managers that had Patterson on their rosters, his loss makes QB Matt Ryan virtually unplayable. Ryan’s only viable weapon is rookie TE Kyle Pitts. But without Patterson and Ridley in the lineup, defenses will smother Pitts and dare Ryan to throw the ball to anyone else. Tajae Sharpe (17 receptions) and Russell Gage (16) are the leading active wide receivers for Atlanta, and neither is worth starting.
If anything, the situation presents Davis with an opportunity to establish himself as a productive back. Most fantasy managers had given up on that possibility this season, but Davis will at least get the bulk of the carries. What he does with that opportunity remains to be seen.