Few players are receiving more offseason attention than Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley. After two promising seasons in the NFL, the former first-round pick is projected by many to have a breakout season and establish himself as one of the best receivers in fantasy.
Last year at this time, many were making the same argument for Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin. Godwin obviously lived up to the hype, ending the season as the WR2 in PPR scoring. Of course, offseason hype doesn’t always lead to on-field success (see: O.J. Howard), so does Ridley have what it takes to take his game to the next level in the upcoming season?
Will Calvin Ridley Have A Chris Godwin Type of Breakout
Calvin Ridley has already proven that he is a good NFL-caliber receiver. Over the past two seasons, the former first-round pick has recorded a combined 127 receptions for 1,687 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s more than just a stat accumulator, as Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 29th-best receiver in football last year. Ridley has talent, but you need more than that to be a star in fantasy football. In addition to talent, the ideal fantasy receiver has an unquestioned target share and is part of a high-scoring, pass-heavy offense.
Calvin Ridley should be a key piece of the Atlanta Falcons passing attack. While he’ll never usurp a healthy Julio Jones for targets, he should still see a healthy target share. Outside of Jones and Ridley, it’s hard to find any source of consistent targets in Atlanta’s offense.
The Falcons brought in Hayden Hurst to replace Austin Hooper’s targets, and he should be a strong fantasy-relevant tight end. However, even as the conductor of the Hayden Hurst hype train, I have to admit that it could take Hurst a while to find his role thanks to the shortened offseason. The next receiver on the depth chart is Russell Gage, and he’s obviously not a threat to steal too many targets.
Even if Hurst seamlessly fills in for Hooper, we’ve already seen what Ridley can do in this situation. Ridley ended the season as the WR27 but saw a massive rise in production following the trade of Mohamed Sanu. From Weeks 8-17, Ridley was the WR7 on a per-game basis, ahead of guys like Tyreek Hill, Kenny Golladay, and, interesting enough, Chris Godwin. During this stretch, he was on pace for 91 receptions, 1,315 yards, and eight touchdowns and only had one week where he scored fewer than 11 fantasy points.
It’s no secret that having a high-volume passing attack is a good thing for wide receivers in fantasy. Additionally, having a reliable quarterback is also a good thing, as they’re more likely to deliver catchable targets, keep the chains moving, and increase scoring opportunities. In a similar vein, having a bad defense means that your offense has to throw the ball more, which is also great for wide receiver production. Whether it’s a shootout or just garbage time production, it still counts the same in fantasy.
Last year, Ridley had a good quarterback in Matt Ryan and an absolutely atrocious defense. This situation should repeat itself in 2020, as Ryan is still around and the defense still looks horrible. Some may worry about Ryan’s statistical decline last season, but further research shows that he was doing just fine before suffering an injury. He still has what it takes to support two fantasy studs in Jones and Ridley.
Nobody can predict a breakout season with 100% certainty, but Calvin Ridley is as safe a bet as anyone. Just like Godwin a season ago, Ridley is a talented youngster in a high-powered offense with a reliable target share. He already proved he can produce like a WR1 over the back half of 2019, and he’s at the point in his career where he should only improve with time.
According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Ridley is currently going off the board with the 41st overall pick. This is a great value to grab a guy that could end the year as a top-five fantasy receiver.
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