Why You Should Avoid Calvin Ridley in Fantasy Football in 2019
Calvin Ridley has a lot going for him in 2019.
Ridley is fresh off a season in which he led all rookie receivers in targets (92), receptions (64), receiving yards (821), and touchdowns (10).
Given his success as a rookie and his role on what should be an elite Atlanta Falcons offense, there is a lot of excitement about what Ridley can do in his second season.
Should we expect Ridley to improve on his rookie campaign or is a sophomore slump more likely? Most importantly, is Ridley worth his current price with an average draft position (ADP) as the WR23 in half-PPR leagues (per Fantasy Football Calculator)?
Ridley was the only rookie to finish inside the top 20 receivers last season (half-PPR). A big reason for that was Ridley's insane touchdown efficiency as rookie.
Since 2000, only one rookie with more than 80 targets has ever posted a touchdown rate above 10%. Spoiler alert: it was Calvin Ridley. Scoring 10 touchdowns on only 92 targets (10.8%), Ridley posted the most prolific rookie touchdown rate we have seen since Randy Moss (13.7%) in 1998.
Using our numbers, Ridley's Target Net Expected Points (NEP) per target (0.50) ranked 21st out of 84 receivers with at least 50 targets in 2018. This was significantly higher than the league average of 0.31. However, his 52.2% Target Success Rate ranked 47th in the same group, slightly below the league average of 52.59%. This means that 52.2% of Ridley's targets increased his team's expected points on a given drive. (You can read more about NEP and Success Rate in our glossary.)
Ridley's Target NEP was significantly above the league average, but his Target Success Rate was slightly below the league average. This tells us that his efficiency was propped up from a few big plays. This makes sense given what we know about Ridley's hyper-efficient touchdown scoring last season.
So the question is -- should we expect Ridley to sustain his touchdown efficiency?
For receivers with more than 75 targets in 2018, the average touchdown rate was 5% and the average percentage of fantasy points scored from touchdowns was 17%. Ridley's 10.8% touchdown rate and 29% of fantasy points from touchdowns were significant outliers.
How have outlier seasons like this been followed up in the past? There have been 14 players since 2010 who have posted a touchdown rate above 10% and scored more than 25% of their fantasy points from touchdowns while seeing at least 75 targets. Below is a chart of the average change in statistics in the following season for these players (minimum seven games).
|Player||Years||Targets||TDs||TD Rate||Percentage of Fantasy Points from TDs||Half-PPR PPG|
|Calvin Ridley||2018, 2019||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Kenny Stills||2016, 2017||+24||-3||-5.0%||-11.0%||-0.1|
|Doug Baldwin||2015, 2016||+22||-7||-8.0%||-14.4%||-1.8|
|Ted Ginn Jr||2015, 2016||-2||-6||-6.1%||-17.5%||-3.3|
|Dez Bryant||2014, 2015||-64||-13||-7.6%||-10.2%||-8.8|
|Torrey Smith||2014, 2015||-32||-7||-5.3%||-15.0%||-4|
|Marvin Jones||2013, 2015||+23||-6||-8.6%||-18.0%||-1.4|
|Jerricho Cotchery||2013, 2014||+2||-9||-11.9%||-30.7%||-3.6|
|Eric Decker||2012, 2013||+14||-2||-2.6%||-5.4%||0.6|
|James Jones||2012, 2013||-5||-11||-11.1%||-25.6%||-3.9|
|Calvin Johnson||2011, 2012||+46||-11||-7.7%||-18.0%||-1.9|
|Jordy Nelson||2011, 2012||-23||-8||-6.0%||-6.3%||-3.8|
|Laurent Robinson||2011, 2012||-37||-11||-13.8%||-32.1%||-7.8|
|Dwayne Bowe||2010, 2011||+9||-10||-7.8%||-19.2%||-3.5|
Every player on this list saw significant touchdown regression and only one player from this list saw an increase in points per game in the following season. This goes to show how unsustainable a touchdown rate above 10% is from season to season. What is even more concerning is even the players who saw an uptick in targets saw their half-PPR points per game dip the following season.
We see a similar story if we widen our sample size by looking at only players with more than 25% of their fantasy points coming from touchdowns. Since 2010, there have been 67 receivers who have gained more than 25% of their fantasy points from touchdowns in a season with 75-plus targets. When looking at the 57 players who played in at least 10 games the next season, 69% saw a decrease in half-PPR points per game in their next season. An astounding 96% of these receivers saw a decrease in the percentage of fantasy points scored from touchdowns in their next year.
In short, you should expect to see significant touchdown regression for Ridley in 2019.
As you already know, fantasy football is a game about cost. Just because Ridley is due for regression does not mean we should avoid him in drafts. We need to look at what pick it will take to land Ridley in drafts before ruling him out completely. So how early of a draft pick will it take to get Ridley in 2019?
As we mentioned in the intro, Ridley is being drafted as the WR23 in half-PPR leagues, typically costing a fifth-round draft pick in 12-team formats. Ridley is going ahead of guys like Tyler Lockett, Tyler Boyd, and Allen Robinson, all three of whom are ranked ahead of Ridley by our projections.
Ridley's pending touchdown regression is not accounted for at his current price. Going ahead of receivers who are expected to be the top receiver on their teams -- such as Lockett and D.J. Moore -- Ridley will need to maintain his unsustainable touchdown rate to return value at his current ADP.
With touchdown regression imminent, Ridley will need to see a significant increase in volume to improve on his 11 half-PPR points per game from last season. Our models have Ridley projected for 63 receptions in 2019, one less than he had in his rookie campaign. A player destined to see touchdown regression who is unlikely to see a large increase in volume is an easy fade in the fifth-round of fantasy football drafts.