Fantasy football is a game that can be prepared for no matter what time of the year it is. Although the NFL season doesn’t start until the fall, the league has proven to be a year-round talking point with something going on at all times.
Today, we look at Atlanta’s latest rising star at the wide receiver position in Calvin Ridley. Ridley finished as the overall WR27 in NFL.com PPR leagues last season — 15.1 points away from being ranked as a statistical WR2 in 12-team leagues (defined as one of the 24-highest scoring players among WRs) — despite missing the final three games of the season. He was a WR2 in standard scoring leagues, coming in as the WR23 in that format.
Ridley was the overall WR20 in PPR in his rookie season, indicating that his fantasy floor will likely be at least that of a WR2 barring injury.
2019 Fantasy Production
Standard League Points: 134.0 (23rd among WRs)
PPR Points: 197.0 (27th among WRs)
Stats: 63 receptions, 866 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Calvin Ridley has organic growth in his corner as we go into the 2020 campaign. He’s one of the most talented young wide receivers in the game and is expected to take another step in his development going into year three.
Ridley was third on the team with 93 targets last season after missing essentially the last quarter of the season. Austin Hooper, who was narrowly second (with 97), missed the same amount of games as Ridley.
Through increased internal development and (hopefully) good health, Ridley should theoretically eclipse the 120-target mark next season, which will put him in the minimum range where all of last year’s fantasy WR1s were (Kenny Golladay had the fewest targets among all WRs who ranked in the top 12 in PPR with 116; A.J. Brown was the outlier among WR1s in standard leagues with 84 targets).
It’s not too farfetched to say that Ridley could enter the ranks of the WR1s in 2020 (defined as being one of the 12-highest scoring WRs in 12-team leagues). Had Ridley continued at the pace he was at without getting injured late in the year, he would have come close to being a WR1 in 2019. If you disregard Antonio Brown (who played in only one game), Ridley was 13th among all WRs in fantasy points per game in standard leagues and 17th in fantasy points per game in PPR.
The departure of Austin Hooper should free up a few more targets for Ridley as well. While new tight end Hayden Hurst will step into the Hooper role as the safety blanket over the middle, he likely won’t command the 97 targets that are suddenly vacant. Granted, a number of these targets will also go to Russell Gage in the slot, Ryan could look Ridley’s way a bit more as the receiving target he trusts most after Julio Jones.
In each of his two seasons, Ridley has led the team in receiving touchdowns. He’s proven to be effective in and around the red zone, and the extra attention Julio demands near the goal line won’t be going away in 2020.
Because of Jones’ mammoth presence, it seems inevitable that Ridley will be underrated in fantasy drafts despite being a key contributor in a high-octane offense. If you can get him at any point in the 4th round in a 12-team league, as your WR2, then you should feel really good.