Fantasy Court: The Case for Calvin Ridley in 2020
In the Fantasy Court Series, two of the writers for The Fantasy Footballers choose sides on a player and present their argument to help you decide whether or not you should be drafting these players at their average draft position (ADP). It’s important to acknowledge that draft cost is the most important factor when it comes to loving or hating a fantasy player come draft day. Today’s case is all about Calvin Ridley, third-year wide receiver (WR) for the Atlanta Falcons. I believe Ridley is the real deal, so I play the role of the truther in this article series. Conversely, you can read Aaron Larson’s Case Against Calvin Ridley for the counterargument.
ALL RISE! Today we will be discussing Calvin Ridley, the Falcons’ first-round pick of the 2018 draft. Ridley has the talent and opportunity to become a top-tier NFL wide receiver who can deliver top-12 fantasy production. He is entering his third season, a common time for wide receivers to break out. It helps that he plays on a team that was top-3 in passing yards last season, and there are now 97 vacated targets due to Austin Hooper’s departure. Ridley has a surprisingly safe floor and has the upside to become a top-5 fantasy WR.
Do you want consistency? Ridley scored 11+ fantasy points in 11 of his last 15 games. By comparison, Mike Evans scored 11+ fantasy points in eight of his last 15 games. For reference, scoring 10+ fantasy points qualifies as a good game (top-24 on avg) according to the Truth About WR Article Series.
Do you want upside? Ridley was the WR2 overall from Weeks 11-14 last season…before missing the remainder of the season due to injury. As of this writing, Calvin Ridley is being drafted as WR13 at pick 3.12 according to Fantasy Football Calculator. The hype train is real…Calvin Ridley is the NFL’s next big star, and you’re going to want a piece in 2020!
Ridley played 14 games and racked up 63 receptions on 93 targets for 866 yards and seven touchdowns in his 2019 sophomore season. His 12.7 fantasy points per game put him at WR16 overall on a points per game basis through Week 16. Ridley was a consistent, solid fantasy asset this past season. The nice thing about Ridley is that you knew what you had every week, and he never had to leave your lineup.
Ridley is a truly great NFL football player. He’s a solid route runner, he has 1st round NFL draft pedigree, he’s on a prolific offense, and he has amassed an impressive 17 touchdowns in just 29 career games. I’ll admit that some of his production has been the result of seeing lesser defensive back coverage due to his teammate Julio Jones, arguably the best receiver in the game. But while Ridley benefitted from Julio’s presence on the field, he deserves credit as a legitimate offensive threat on the field.
In the Ultimate Draft Kit, there are over 50 wide receiver evaluations presented by Matt Harmon, creator of Reception Perception. Harmon, Yahoo’s WR Savant, scored Ridley in the 95th percentile in success vs man coverage and the 86th percentile in success vs press coverage. The illustration below shows his impressive success by route in 2019.
Expectations for 2020
Ridley provided top-end WR2 value in 2019. He improved as the season went on, and showed elite WR production for stretches during the season. There are 209 vacated targets due to departures from Austin Hooper, Devonta Freeman, and Mohamed Sanu. That being said, Atlanta has added a couple of intriguing offensive weapons in Todd Gurley (RB) and Hayden Hurst (TE).
So do we expect a surplus of targets leftover for Ridley in 2020? Let’s take a conservative approach and say that Gurley gets 70 targets, Hurst gets 85 targets, and Julio gets 170 targets in 2020. That leaves 134 targets for Calvin Ridley based on Ryan’s 2019 pace. If Ridley maintained his 2019 efficiency, that would put him on pace for 91 receptions for 1,248 yards & 10 touchdowns in 2020. He’s already seen 10 touchdowns in a season once in his young career, and 1,248 receiving yards are certainly achievable in a high powered Falcons offense. That stat line would have put Ridley at WR5 overall (14.9 fpts/g) in 2019, just behind his own teammate Julio Jones (15 fpts/g). How does the WR5 sound at a late 3rd round draft cost?
But what if Ridley actually takes a big step forward AND sees a bigger opportunity in 2020? Or what if one of the other Falcons gets injured during the season (hopefully not) and Ridley becomes a bigger part of the offense?
The sky is the limit. Ridley has WR1 overall upside and a floor barely behind his asking price of a high-end WR2.
Calvin Ridley is this year’s Chris Godwin. I know, I know…I’m not the first person to say that as our Editor Kyle Borgognoni recently highlighted. It’s a different situation, but the point of the matter remains – sometimes there are wide receivers that are universally hyped to the point that you wonder if it’s too much. I get it – Ridley is a darling among fantasy analysts, and his draft cost is rising. But there is good reason for that. Ridley is the real deal, and he is more proven than people give him credit for. Ridley is a safe gamble, and I think he will be one of the most popular players on fantasy playoff teams come December.