Fantasy Court: The Case Against Calvin Ridley in 2020

This article is part of The Fantasy Court series, be sure to check out The Case For Calvin Ridley by Jeff Greenwood.

Check out where Andy, Mike, and Jason have Calvin Ridley projected in the Ultimate Draft Kit.

Opening Statement

Let me start by pointing out that Calvin Ridley is a good football player and a good wide receiver. I’d be happy to have him on any of my fantasy football rosters. His future is bright and he deserves most of the hype he’s getting in the dynasty community. 

However as we near redraft season, I feel it’s my civic duty to slow down the Ridley hype train. The arguments I’ll layout are intended to give you pause if you consider drafting Ridley anywhere before round five in 2020. 

Ridley’s 2019 Season

Ridley had a fine fantasy performance in 2019, finishing as the WR23 on the season. It was, however, actually down a few spots from his WR20 finish as a rookie in 2018. Granted, his rookie season was carried by his ten receiving touchdowns and he only played 13 games in 2019, but that fact remains that Ridley produced more fantasy points in 2018 than he did in 2019.

Let’s take a closer look at his 2019 season. Over the first nine games of the season, Ridley was a good receiver, but he wasn’t putting up eye-popping stats.

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Targets Receptions Touchdowns Fantasy Points
Totals 56 36 4 93
Average 6.2 4 .4 10.3
16 Game Pace 100 64 7 164.8

That nine-game sample size even includes two games without Mohamed Sanu, who was traded away after Week 7. In the ninth game of the season, however, Austin Hooper went down with a knee injury. From that point on, Ridley exploded. Take a look at the numbers he put up in the four games after Hooper went down, but before Ridley himself suffered a season-ending abdominal injury.

Targets Receptions Touchdowns Fantasy Points
Totals 37 27 3 72.5
Average 9.3 6.8 .8 18.1
16 Game Pace 148 108 12 289.6

It’s a small sample size during a time that Hooper was injured, but it’s this late-season burst that stuck with fantasy managers and has him skyrocketing up draft boards this summer.  

Expectations for 2020

Before I dive headfirst into my objections to the Ridley hype train, take a minute to peruse Ryan Weisse’s recent article exploring what could go wrong for Ridley in 2020. He touches on a few pieces of evidence, namely Matt Ryan’s history of yo-yoing fantasy seasons and the sub-par numbers for wide receiver twos in Dirk Koetter offenses. I submit these facts as evidence, but won’t rehash them here.

Let me begin with the most obvious argument. Barring an injury to Julio Jones, Ridley has nearly zero percent chance to become the number one target on his own team. I’m sure even my opposition and the most ardent Ridley truthers would agree with that sentiment.

Getty Images / Hannah Foslien

I can provide evidence that he may not even be the number two option on his own team. As referenced earlier, Ridley and Austin Hooper were both healthy, fulltime players through Week 10 last season. During those nine games, over half of a full season, Hooper was out-targeting Ridley. Had they played a full season at that nine-game pace Hooper would have compiled 119 targets, 19 more than the 100 Ridley was on pace to see.

While Hooper has moved on to Cleveland, his replacement Hayden Hurst should be an even bigger threat to Ridley’s target share. Atlanta went out of their way to trade for Hurst before the ink was even dry on Hooper’s contract with the Browns. Matt Ryan recently praised Hurst’s speed and athleticism, calling him “a matchup problem” for defenses. Ryan’s praise makes sense; Hurst is faster and taller than Hooper at the same weight. He needs to be considered a legitimate contender for the number two pass-catching role in Atlanta. 

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Touchdowns

Scoring touchdowns is a good thing, and Calvin Ridley has scored a lot of them so far in his career. In fact, it can be argued that he’s scored them at an unsustainable rate. I recently declared that D.J. Moore could be fantasy football’s top WR in 2020, in part due to his likely positive touchdown regression. Moore has produced one touchdown for every 327 receiving yards in his career, practically the definition of a statistical aberration. Ridley is on the other end of the outlier spectrum, scoring one touchdown for every 99 receiving yards so far in his career. Even the most optimistic Ridley supporter wouldn’t project him to maintain that rate into 2020. 

Assuming Atlanta continues to be a high-powered offense, which I believe they will be, where will all those touchdowns go? Sure, Julio and Hurst could see a fair share, but I’d argue that Todd Gurley could be the top threat to Ridley’s touchdown share. Gurley has been a touchdown machine, finding the endzone an average of 14 times per season for his career. He’s only failed to hit double-digit touchdowns once in his five-year career. Atlanta doesn’t have a history of racking up rushing scores, but they’ve also never had Gurley in the backfield. 

Closing Argument

I could go on and on. I could mention that even the oft-forgotten Russell Gage could have a bigger role than most are projecting. I could mention that the wide receiver fantasy landscape is saturated with young, talented wideouts that are ready to break out. It may be as deep as we’ve ever seen it.

But I’ll leave it at this:

We all want to find this year’s version of the 2019 Chris Godwin breakout, but the truth is those kinds of massive breakouts are rare. Calvin Ridley is a good football player, but he’s rapidly becoming overpriced. If this continues throughout the summer, there will be a lot of disappointed fantasy managers come winter. 

Comments

Aaron Larson says:

yahaveh,

I really do believe in Hurst in Atlanta. Kyle Yates wrote an awesome piece for him over at FantasyPros that I read as I was researching this article. I think he has a chance to be the number two target like Hooper was trending before his injury last season, but I do have Ridley projected to see a few more. I’m not trying to trash Ridley, but he’s getting top-12 hype and I think he’ll be more of a top-24 player in 2020.

OrbisDacia,

I wish there was an easy to find yards/TD list, I just did the calculations myself. JJ Zachariason talks about the stat a lot and I’ve found it very useful.

Thanks for reading!

yahaveh says:

gosh ; sorry i cannot help myself; aaron i do not mean to trash on u really; its just so easy; u make a point about matt ryan’s praise and that hurst taller and faster;

the praise from ryan is encouraging but statistics on the field outweigh any measurable s; why ? because the measurable that trumps them all is what happens on the field; the leap to considering hurst as the possible 2nd target although possible is very unlikely ; gurley if he plays 16 games could be that 2nd target after julio much more likely then hurst ; but there ya go ; the history of some TE or any other skilled position that has better measurables but oh btw unfortunately they weren’t very good at football is too numerous to count; ok now im gonna stop beating this dead horse; and i hope someone enjoys it ; hope to hear your thoughts aaron ? if u get a chance to read this

yahaveh says:

if matt ryan throws say 25 to 32 TDs; which is a decent number but certainly possible; how many of just the receiving TD’s of that number do u think that calvin ridley might get; is 10 unreasonable ? aaron ? u say even the most avid ridley supporter wouldn’t expect it to continue ; well i most fervently disagree; 8 to 12 TDs is not unreasonable at all; but yes TDs historically at all positions are very hard to predict; if falcons offense for whatever reason is garbage and can’t score points then everyone including gurley and calvin’s TD’s go down; also i should say the gurley argument is sound particularly if u think gurley plays 16 games ( i personally think that would be a miracle ) ; the hurst argument that aaron makes , well what i think about that is there 😉

yahaveh says:

TD’s very hard to predict; so much dependent on team and coaching; but i like my chances with calvin; yes perhaps gurley commands a few more red zone looks from the RB position but with hooper gone maybe those red zone looks are less and some of those go to ridley; it will be fun to see 😉 i guess its pretty clear i like ridley ; he one of my main guys on my dynasty team 😉

yahaveh says:

phillies; to your point ; agreed gurley if his arthritic knee holds up will command some of the vacated targets that left; calvin ridley’s targets could go down it is certainly possible; as far as red zone use ; i think calvin will be someone falcons consistantly look for in that area; particularly even before red zone; like 30 yards out ; ridley deadly from there; even 40 yards out ; but with 10 his base TD and 7 in an injury shortened year last year; 10 TDs or 8 to 12 would be a realistic prediction imo; with upside of near 1000 yrds and 90 receptions; but i do believe in the guy; he could crush those numbers but this is not an unreasonable line for calvin; thoughts ?

Ryan Weisse says:

yahaveh, apology accepted. I remember when my boy Nate was anti-CMC, that did not age well!

I would love to find the list of all players who have a TD per so many yards like Footballers articles keep presenting. TD for receiving yards, TD for rushing yards, and TD for passing yards.

“Moore has produced one touchdown for every 327 receiving yards in his career, practically the definition of a statistical aberration. Ridley is on the other end of the outlier spectrum, scoring one touchdown for every 99 receiving yards so far in his career.”

Phillies348 says:

yahaveh,

vacated targets in an offense have been proven to shift to the running back position. With Gurley’s chops in the receiving game, is it possible that a lot of those targets go to Gurley? Thoughts?

yahaveh says:

i am sorry correction that is nate hamilton that was against CMC ; please accept my apology to ryan and correction 😉

yahaveh says:

aaron check out ryan weisse; made the case against CMC; talking about the younger version of stewart cj anderson and such; nice read 😉

yahaveh says:

” went out and traded for before ink was dry ” – really u think that makes him someone they believe in ??? very shallow and just poor assessment ; IMO – putting aside the value of hayden hurst as a football player on the field at the NFL level; some one they grab in desperation right after trading away a suppossed top flight TE is not someone that will get more targets for sure ” will be an even bigger threat to ridley’s targets ” ( u are joking) and no evidence to support that claim; moreover this is an insurance policy ; they would love to see this guy succeed ; this is no replacement of hooper by any means

the argument that this is a significant downgrade could mean less TE targets and more targets for ridley and probably much more likely then ” will be an even bigger threat to ridley’s targets ” that is just plain silly ………………….. we celebrating early in the morning this day we whipped out this writing we guess…………………… nice take though

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