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Ryan will put up nice numbers, but not elite-type stats

Will Matt Ryan develop into an elite No. 1 fantasy quarterback this season?

Most of the time, fantasy football falls right in line with the real thing. I mean, when Adrian Peterson is a beast for the Vikings, it's generally equally good news for both his team and for his fantasy owners. If Aaron Rodgers has a huge day for the Packers, chances are that both his coaches and his fantasy owners are likely to be happy.

Matt Ryan, though? Well, there's where you might see the occasional dichotomy between fantasy and reality.

When the Falcons are at their best, winning games the way head coach Mike Smith prefers it-by running the ball on offense and stopping the run on defense-Ryan does not have to post gaudy statistics. In other words, he's today's version of Troy Aikman.

The Cowboys of the 1990s had an explosive offense that could win games on the ground or through the air, but Aikman rarely was called upon to produce monster fantasy numbers. In fact, his career bests were just 3,445 yards and 23 touchdown passes. Instead of statistics, it was Aikman's leadership skills and other intangibles that landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Ryan has similar leadership skills and other intangibles, plus a little better numbers. But among today's hyper-inflated passing statistics, his career bests of 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns last year didn't even rank as high in the league as Aikman's career bests did in 1992.

This year, Ryan has an additional weapon in rookie wideout Julio Jones. But the Falcons dropped back to pass a whopping 600 times last season. Given Smith's history, it's reasonable to think he'd like to bring a little more balance to his offense and take some of the pressure off his defense by controlling the ball a little more. That means even as the Falcons continue to win games, Ryan's fantasy numbers might not always follow.

Bottom line:Matt Ryan is on his way to becoming one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. He's more than a serviceable fantasy quarterback, too. Just don't expect Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers numbers.

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