The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season: Calvin Ridley

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Editor’s Note: This profile is part of our annual Path to a Fantasy WR1 Season series. For our methodology and an outline of the process, make sure you read the 2023 Path to WR1 Series Primer.

The latest installment of our captivating “Path to a WR1” series shifts the spotlight towards Calvin Ridley, the highly intriguing new weapon for the Jacksonville Jaguars. As we eagerly anticipate the 2023 NFL season, Ridley’s potential outlook is filled with both excitement and uncertainty. After his breakout 2020 season, Ridley took a leave of absence in 2021, followed by a suspension for the entire 2022 season due to a violation of the league’s gambling policy. Consequently, we have not witnessed Ridley’s offensive brilliance since October 2021. However, in light of these circumstances, his immense talent and previous accomplishments make him a tantalizing selection to finish the 2023 season as a top-12 wide receiver.

Production Recap (2018-2021)

Considering Ridley’s absence from football activities exceeds 700 days, it is fitting to rewind time to when he was still viewed as an elite talent in the league. The Atlanta Falcons selected Ridley in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He immediately lived up to his high expectations, showcasing his exceptional speed, elite route-running ability, and reliable hands. Ridley finished his inaugural professional season with 64 receptions, 821 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns, earning a spot on the NFL All-Rookie Team.

In his sophomore campaign, he further showcased his talent and made significant contributions to the team’s offense. He played in all 16 games of the regular season and formed a formidable connection with quarterback, Matt Ryan. Lining up alongside superstar wide receiver Julio Jones, Ridley played a pivotal role in balancing Atlanta’s aerial attack. He finished the 2019 season with 63 receptions for 866 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns while boasting an impressive average of 13.7 yards per catch. He ended up finishing the season as the WR25, firmly establishing himself as one of the most promising wide receivers in the league.

The 2020 season marked a definitive turning point for this exceptionally talented wide receiver. Julio Jones struggled to stay healthy, creating a massive opportunity for increased targets. As the Falcons’ primary receiving threat, Ridley embraced the opportunity and wasted no time in wreaking havoc on the league. In 15 games, he compiled a staggering 90 receptions for 1,374 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. He additionally averaged a remarkable 15.3 yards per catch, showcasing his rare splash-play ability. These outstanding statistics firmly established himself as an elite fantasy option, as he finished as the WR4 on the season.

Despite Ridley’s on-field success, he encountered significant personal challenges throughout the 2021 NFL season. Although he produced at a respectable level to begin the season, his outings were modest in relation to what fantasy managers have grown accustomed to expecting. After deciding to take a leave of absence from the team to prioritize his mental health in 2021, he faced further adversity when he received a suspension for the entire 2022 season. Now, at the age of 28, Ridley is poised to make his long-awaited return as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. As he enters the upcoming season, he finds himself surrounded by a chorus of doubters who question his ability to regain the form of his prior self.

The Return of the King: 2023 Path to a WR1 Season

After a significant hiatus, Ridley is set to emerge from the shadows for the 2023 NFL season. With all potential obstacles aside, his landing spot could not be more promising. Jacksonville is a team that exceeded all expectations last season and is poised for further glory. With an exceptionally talented quarterback in Trevor Lawrence and a respected coaching staff, Ridley finds himself in an ideal situation to thrive. If Lawrence fulfills his anticipated leap into superstardom this season, it is reasonable to expect Ridley to reap the rewards as the primary beneficiary.

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Target Share

With Trevor Lawrence at the helm, the Jaguars ranked in the top-5 of teams who targeted their wide receivers the most in 2022 (64.2%). While the team showcased a collection of intriguing receiving options, it was Christian Kirk emerging as their standout performer. In his first season with the Jaguars, Kirk made an immediate impact, finishing as a top-12 wide receiver in 2022. However, it is worth noting that his average of 11.9 fantasy points per game was the lowest among any WR1.

For Ridley to cement his status as a WR1 in 2023, he must assert his presence with a minimum 20% target share. While this objective appears well within reach, the team’s current roster presents a wealth of competition for targets. Outperforming the likes of Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram by a notable margin will be essential for Ridley’s success. However, if he can elevate his target share closer to 30%, his prospects of finishing inside the top-12 at the position will substantially improve.

When Ridley finished as the WR4 in 2020, he ranked as the seventh-most targeted wide receiver in the league that season (143 targets). This resulted in an impressive 24.8% team target share. Notably, the Jaguars boasted two wide receivers who finished among the top-20 in total targets last season. Christian Kirk claimed the fifteenth spot with 133 targets, while Zay Jones secured the eighteenth most with 121 targets. Furthermore, Evan Engram emerged as one of the top-5 tight ends in terms of team target share, commanding 17.1%. However, if Ridley reclaims his alpha status, it is highly plausible for all three of these players to take a significant step back in team target share, making way for Ridley’s renewed dominance.

Catch Rate

As noted by Kyle Borgognoni in the Path to WR1 Primer, a catch rate holds greater value for projections rather than predictions. The primary reason why catch rate is not viewed as a sticky statistic is that it is uniquely driven by the type of opportunities that a player receives. This observation particularly resonates when evaluating a player like Calvin Ridley. Ridley has historically excelled as a downfield threat, showcasing his elite speed and diverse route-running ability. It would be unfair to compare his catch rate metrics to a wide receiver who does their damage on short-yardage targets. Taking all factors into account, Ridley maintains a career catch rate average of 65.3%, representing his overall effectiveness in capitalizing on his unique skill set.

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It is worth noting that his catch rate has progressively declined throughout his years in the league:

  • 2018: 69.6%
  • 2019: 67.7%
  • 2020: 62.9%
  • 2021: 59.6%


As stated previously, it is significant to recognize that not all receptions should be viewed equally. With that said, they can serve as a valuable indicator when forecasting a player’s potential fantasy outlook. Excluding his incomplete 2021 season, Ridley has consistently achieved respectable reception totals over his three full professional seasons. Prior to his remarkable breakout in 2020, where he hauled in 90 receptions, Ridley had already surpassed the 60-reception mark in consecutive seasons to start off his career.

The Jaguars ranked ninth in the league in total receptions last season with 394. However, what made their reception totals truly remarkable were the unexpected performances of their top two wide receivers. Christian Kirk erupted for 84 receptions last season, closely followed by Zay Jones with 82. While some might view this as a potential drawback, it highlights how Trevor Lawrence prefers to target the wide receiver position at an extremely high rate. If Ridley can emerge as the WR1 in this offense, achieving similar reception totals appears likely. If he can secure 75-90 receptions this season, a top-12 finish is well within his range of outcomes.


Ridley’s yardage total has increased throughout his three full seasons in the NFL. Starting with his rookie year, he hauled in 898 receiving yards, closely followed by 900 yards in the subsequent season. However, it was his performance in 2020 that truly showcased his potential amassing 1,375 receiving yards. By examining his historical data and factoring in the projected offensive efficiency that Jacksonville is poised to exhibit in 2023, it becomes evident that Ridley is primed to surpass the coveted 1,000-receiving-yard mark upon his return to action.

In the previous season, Christian Kirk achieved a significant milestone in his career by amassing 1,000 receiving yards for the first time. Undoubtedly, Kirk possesses immense talent, but it is unlikely that he ever evolves into a player as gifted as Calvin Ridley. The only real, remaining question that lingers is whether Ridley still has enough left in the tank to continue where he left off in 2020.

aDOT & Air Yards

As stated in the primer, the average depth of target (aDOT) is one of the better predictive metrics for wide receivers. Air yards are an equally significant metric because they measure the potential yards that would be produced if a player caught the ball and then was immediately tackled. Both of these statistics could be utilized to help predict a player’s potential fantasy outlook. Luckily for Calvin Ridley, he has historically excelled in both. Playing alongside a cannon-armed quarterback like Trevor Lawrence, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to their potential deep-ball connection. 

Assuming that Ridley is set to take over the role previously occupied by Zay Jones in the offense, it becomes imperative to compare the two players based on these metrics. Last season, Jones maintained an average of 994 air yards, a mere one-yard advantage over Ridley’s rookie season. However, Ridley showcased remarkable progress in his sophomore campaign, accumulating 1,266 air yards. Notably, in 2020, Ridley led the league in air yards with 2,063. It is worth noting that Ridley has consistently maintained an aDOT above 10 yards throughout his career. In contrast, Jones recorded an aDOT of 8.2 last season, ranking 86th in the league. This should change significantly with Ridley stepping into this role.

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Year Air Yards aDOT
2018 933 (#48) 10.1 (#69)
2019 1,266 (#30) 13.6 (#26)
2020 2,063 (#1) 14.4 (#11)


In fantasy football, accumulating yards alone may not hold much significance if a player fails to deliver touchdowns. However, when it comes to Calvin Ridley, all the metrics indicate that he is poised to make a significant impact in this department. In addition to excelling in air yards and aDOT, Ridley has consistently showcased his ability to find the end zone throughout his career. In his rookie season, he impressively secured a career-high of 10 touchdowns. He followed his remarkable season by recording 7 touchdowns the following season and then tallying 9 in 2020. These numbers underline Ridley’s consistent and prolific scoring ability, making him an intriguing option in 2023. 

Trevor Lawrence ranked ninth in the league with 83 red-zone pass attempts last season. He additionally concluded the season with a respectable 25 passing touchdowns. Furthermore, the Jaguars secured the tenth most total touchdowns in the league with 45. Notably, Christian Kirk stood out among wide receivers last season, securing the ninth most red zone targets in the league with 22. Additionally, Zay Jones claimed the 22nd most among wide receivers with 16. Considering neither of these players is the red zone threat that Ridley is, it is reasonable to assume that a significant portion of these red zone targets will be directed toward Ridley in the upcoming season.


While there are still several uncertainties surrounding Calvin Ridley, there are only a handful of wide receivers who ranked outside of the top-12 at the position last season who hold a more compelling argument to finish as a WR1 in 2023. Strengthening the case, Ridley previously secured a top-5 finish among wide receivers in his last complete season. Additionally, we just witnessed Christian Kirk accomplish a similar feat in this system during the previous season. Therefore, if (and when) Trevor Lawrence elevates his performance to elite status this season, Ridley stands to benefit the most.

Factoring in Ridley’s projections from the Ultimate Draft Kit, it becomes quite conceivable to envision Ridley finishing as a WR1 in 2023. In fact, based on his projected statistics, he would have finished as the WR7 last season, just behind CeeDee Lamb. There is a decent amount of risk involved in assuming that he can return to performing at an elite level after such a substantial hiatus. However, it is worth noting that Ridley is still in the prime of his career and will be operating within a system that has the potential to elevate his game to new heights. Considering these factors, the potential rewards outweigh the risks, as Ridley appears fully equipped for a sensational 2023 season.


James Decker says:

Great article, so many awesome supporting numbers. Totally agree, I think it’ll be a great year for Ridley

Matthew Behan says:

Joe is the best. Puts in serious work

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