Buy Into Calvin Ridley’s Fantasy Football Ceiling in 2020

Calvin Ridley’s sophomore season gave Atlanta Falcons fans a glimpse into the future of the wide receiver position. In an injury-shortened season, Ridley was able to match his rookie year production, finishing with 63 receptions, 866 receiving yards, and 7 touchdowns in three fewer games.

The Falcons made significant changes to the offense over the offseason. With the departures of Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman, there remains a major void in touches from the 2020 season. Even though there is new competition in Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst. Ridley figures to be the primary beneficiary of the vacated targets from the 2019 passing game.

Going into this season, Ridley is coming off the board as the WR15 and just after the 39th pick overall, according to BestBall10s’ 12-team July average draft position (ADP).

Will Ridley take the next step in 2020 and achieve WR1 status? Let’s discuss.

2019 Production

In 2019, the Falcons were by far the highest passing volume team in the league, shown by their 2.03 pass-to-run ratio. They were an effective passing attack by numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, ranking sixth in raw Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) and ninth in Adjusted Passing NEP per play. Atlanta is notorious for their high-volume passing attack, and that is unlikely to subside, especially in the NFC South.

Ridley was extremely productive with his opportunities. According to Player Profiler, he ranked 6th in production premium (+25.9) and 12th in target premium (+24.3%). He also ranked ninth in catch rate (67.7%) among wide receivers with at least 60 receptions.

Similarly, among receivers with at least 60 receptions, Ridley finished third in Target NEP per target, fourth in Target Success Rate, and eighth in Reception NEP per target.

Another bonus to Ridley’s fantasy upside is his touchdown production. Despite missing three games in 2019, he recorded 7 touchdowns after reaching pay dirt 10 times his rookie season.

Possibly the most important stretch of the 2019 season came in Hooper’s absence in Weeks 11-13. In Week 12, Ridley saw a season high in targets (14), and in Weeks 11 and 13, he tied his previous season high in receptions (8). When Hooper returned in Week 14, Ridley immediately fell from these numbers.

Another subtle change in Ridley’s production came after Mohamed Sanu was traded in Week 8. Without Sanu, Ridley averaged more receptions (1.53), targets (1.88), and receiving yards (28.88) per game. At this pace, he would finish with over 1,300 yards on 91 receptions.

Ridley’s upside was most obvious towards the middle of the season. Let’s see if this can translate to full season production.

2020 Outlook

There may not be a WR2 who is in a situation with as much upside as Ridley. He is in an offense that has the potential to support two WR1 fantasy options, similar to that of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019.

In 2020, Ridley will line up next to a future Hall of Famer in Julio Jones, whose presence will continue to draw defenses' attention. Also, with Matt Ryan commanding the offense in his 13th season, Ridley is ensured to have solid quarterback play similar to 2019.

Ridley was on pace for his first 1,000-yard season before his injury. If he continues to find the end zone and match his per-game pace after Week 8, the sky is the limit for his ceiling.

numberFire's model projects that Ridley will finish with 1,085.7 receiving yards and 6.9 receiving touchdowns on 83.4 receptions and 129.1 targets. This projection would be good for a fringe WR1 finish at the WR13.

It is clear that Ridley’s target pace increased over the course of the season and should hold firm. Although newcomers Hurst and Gurley figure to soak up some of the vacated targets Hooper and Freeman leave behind, Ridley also has the chance to benefit. The result should be his first 1,000-yard season and continued touchdown production.

Overall, Ridley is a high-upside pick, who has the potential to outperform his already high average draft position. He will make for an elite WR2 option in any format.