What Could Go Wrong: Calvin Ridley (Fantasy Football)
I want to start this article by clearing up some pushback I got on my “What Could Go Wrong in Tampa Bay?” article. This type of article is hypothetical. I am looking over a situation that appears to be perfect (a la the 2019 Cleveland Browns) and trying to see how it could go wrong. I think Tampa Bay will be great next year and I love Calvin Ridley…I also adored everything about that Cleveland offense.
If this game were easy to predict, fantasy football would not be very fun. While I BELIEVE THAT CALVIN RIDLEY HAS WR1 POTENTIAL (is that loud enough?), we have to consider the fact that things can go wrong. This becomes far more important when we have to spend a 3rd or 4th round pick to draft a WR that has never cracked 1,000 yards in a season. As long as everything falls into place, Ridley will have a solid 2020…but what if it doesn’t?
Matt Ryan Stays in the Valley
Most, maybe all, of the reason people are expecting Ridley to improve in 2020 is the now infamous career roller coaster of Matt Ryan. If you don’t know what I mean, here is a snapshot of Ryan’s fantasy points over the last eight years:
Peaks and valleys. Since 2020 is scheduled to be a peak year, there are high hopes for the Falcons’ pass-catchers. Matt Ryan is also 35 years old and competing against Father Time. During this same eight-year span, Matt Ryan has posted seasons with just 20 and 21 TDs thrown. In one of those seasons, Julio caught eight TDs, in the other, he caught three. If Ryan starts to regress and Julio has an eight TD year, that does not look good for Ridley. In the season where Ryan threw 21 TDs and Julio caught eight, all of the other WRs combined for just three TDs. Which Matt Ryan will we get? Which Julio Jones will we get? Those answers may be way more important than anything Ridley is able to do on the field.
Dirk Koetter Might be a Problem
In his first year with Koetter, while Ridley did slightly improve his yardage numbers, but his TDs dropped from 10 to seven. Overall, he still put up solid numbers while playing in just 13 games. We can only speculate what might have happened if he played all 16 but looking over Dirk Koetter’s history with WR2s, I’m not sure we would have been all that happy with what we may have gotten.
Basically, you’re looking at two great seasons, two decent seasons, and four very disappointing seasons. Koetter’s system could prove problematic for the 3rd-year breakout. The average yardage and TDs for a Koetter WR2 are 815 and five and he was only able to get 842 yards and seven TDs out of Chris Godwin. Godwin went on to add 500 yards and two TDs in his first year after Koetter left. Dirk Koetter’s offense has clearly favored the WR1 and until Julio retires, that ain’t Calvin Ridley.
He’s Too Good to Be True
In Aaron Larson’s recent article about D.J. Moore, he dove into a very interesting statistic: Yards/TDs. Basically, this stat shows how much work a WR has to put in, on average, to score a TD. Two startling stats were revealed in that article:
- Julio Jones is way, way behind the curve
- Calvin Ridley is ahead of the curve
Looking over the top-10 TD scorers of the last three seasons, on average, they total about 116 yards for every TD they score. For their careers, Jones is at 213, Ridley is at 99. I’m not going to waste a lot of time trying to convince you that Julio could improve. His TD-scoring, or lack thereof, is basically fantasy legend at this point, but this article is all about what can go wrong and a more efficient Julio could kill Ridley’s fantasy value.
The bigger concern here is that Ridley takes a step back. Over his first two seasons in the league, Ridley finished with 821 and 866 yards respectively, and 17 total TDs. After missing three games last year, everyone expects his yardage to go up…but what if it doesn’t? There are scenarios where Matt Ryan regresses or his offensive coordinator pigeon-holes him, and if Ridley were to stay around the 850-yard mark and drop to an average TD rate, he’d be stuck at seven TDs. The 2019 average for Yards/TDs was even worse at 129 yards per TD and that would drop Ridley to six TDs. Clearly, 850 yards and six TDs is not the expectation for fantasy owners drafting him so early.
As I mentioned in my intro, these are not scenarios that I think will happen, at least not all of them. I bought my ticket to the Calvin Ridley hype-train a long time ago but we have to prepare for the worst. Ridley paced as a WR1 in 2019 but missing time caused him to fall to WR24 for the year. Things can go wrong and every sentence about Ridley in 2020 starts with “As long as”. As long as Matt Ryan improves, as long as he keeps scoring TDs, as long as Julio Jones is still allergic to the end zone, Calvin Ridley is going to be great. My point is that Ridley is currently being drafted in the 3rd Round as the WR13 and that should feel risky to you. If he continues on last year’s pace, you’re going to get exactly what you paid for, but if there is any regression, with him or his teammates, you may have just gotten a back-end WR2 (or worse) at the expense of your 3rd pick in the draft.