In December 2020, Russell Gage was firmly entrenched as the Falcons’ No. 3 receiver. 10 months later, he was the new No. 1. Now that the Buccaneers have added him, what is Gage’s dynasty fantasy football outlook ahead of 2022, and what impact will this move have on his former and new teams?
Russell Gage’s dynasty fantasy outlook
Every franchise endures bridge seasons—years when post-prime veterans play alongside young future stars. The 2021 Falcons began that way, with Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts teaming with an aging quarterback and two-headed backfield. And for a while, the team looked fairly promising, particularly thanks to Cordarrelle Patterson’s breakout campaign.
But when Ridley stepped away from football after Week 6, the team needed help. Gage, a 2018 sixth-round draft pick, showed very well the year before while compiling a 72-786-4 receiving line. Then, last season, while an ankle injury sidelined him in Weeks 3-5, he quickly asserted himself as the team’s No. 1 wideout in Ridley’s absence. He often outperformed Pitts in the box score and caught an impressive 70.2% of passes.
How good is Gage?
We might conclude that Gage has the skill set to be a steady fantasy contributor as a team’s No. 2 or even No. 3 receiver. It would need to be a pass-friendly team, and the Falcons certainly fit that mold in 2020. They were No. 4 in the league in pass attempts — enough volume to feed Julio Jones, Ridley, and Gage.
We might also express caution about his ceiling, and in most fantasy leagues, high ceilings make champions. Gage is more Jakobi Meyers than Chris Godwin — safe points but not always great points. After Week 5 last season, aside from Pitts and the backfield, Gage’s primary receiving competition consisted of Olamide Zaccheaus, Tajae Sharpe, and Hayden Hurst.
In all likelihood, Gage’s fantasy value peaked in 2021. Gage dropped a whopping 12 passes in the past two seasons. He’ll play alongside stiffer competition and probably will need to adapt to a less consistent offensive role. This makes him a WR4/5 in the near term, with a WR3 ceiling if things break perfectly — though WR5 seems more likely.
Fantasy impact on the Buccaneers
Give it up for Tom Brady. Life can’t keep him down for long. Coming off a shockingly disappointing end to a statistically phenomenal 2021 campaign, he’s back and (we have to believe because this is how God or science made him) better than ever.
Exit Antonio Brown. Enter Gage. Not the same talent level. Not the same ceiling. But certainly, a savvy free agent signing for a team eyeing not one but many more Super Bowl runs. With Godwin recovering from a torn ACL, Gage could be a sneaky fantasy starter in September.
That said, once Godwin returns to form, Gage’s presence should not downgrade Godwin or Mike Evans as significantly as Brown did. And if Rob Gronkowski returns, from a positional fantasy perspective, Gronk should be more valuable than Gage over the course of the season.
Essentially, this is a near-best-case scenario for the fantasy values of Brady and his core receivers. Gage can make decent waves early on and then smaller waves later. But Godwin and Evans should monopolize targets more than they did last year when AB was healthy.
Fantasy impact on the Falcons
The Falcons are in the midst of a multi-phase rebuild. There are still many moving parts. The one long-term constant, Pitts, remains my favorite TE dynasty. Losing Gage creates no net negative or net positive. The all-world TE simply will get new teammates, as expected.
Matt Ryan loses his top receiver, though the NFL Draft should net him at least one wideout of equal or greater abilities. And it could be argued that Ryan will be much better next season. The chaos surrounding 2021 and the unexpected overreliance on Gage and Pitts capped Ryan’s upside. With Gage gone, the team can focus more on rebuilding, which should translate into an instant-impact playmaker to serve as a true No. 1 WR.