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Why Calvin Ridley Will Be A Top-10 WR (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Kyle Yates | @KyleYNFL | Featured Writer
May 27, 2020

Throughout the offseason, Kyle Yates will be highlighting several marquee fantasy players as he walks through his projection process. These projections are subject to change based on injuries, signings above/below them on the depth chart, new information regarding scheme or player usage, etc. They’ll serve as a way to give a “peek behind the curtain” into Kyle’s projections thought process and whether or not a player will be a fantasy value in 2020.

In this article, we look at how Calvin Ridley is well-positioned to finish as a top-10 WR in 2020.

Calvin Ridley

Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen players rise up to become fantasy football superstars as everything falls into place. There’s a recipe for fantasy football superstardom, that I talk about frequently, which is talent plus opportunity. Chris Godwin is a player that comes to mind that had everything fall into place to create a fantasy superstar last season…

At this time of the year, it’s important to look ahead and identify some of the players that could be walking into an incredible opportunity in 2020 and Calvin Ridley fits the bill. This is an offense that loves to air it out, the defense still needs work, and there’s little competition for targets behind Ridley. He certainly has the talent and has shown that he can contribute for fantasy football over the past couple of seasons, but how does Ridley rise up to become a top-10 WR in 2020?

Let’s look at the projections.

Projections

Since 2014, Dirk Koetter offenses have averaged 610 passing attempts a year. When you look around the NFL over that time frame, you’ll realize that that’s a significant tendency towards the passing game as opposed to the rest of the league and Koetter’s offenses have typically been a fantasy goldmine for that reason.

Last season, the Falcons (with Koetter back as the OC) threw the ball an astronomical 684 times. That inflated number is due, in large part, to the fact that defense was atrocious for the majority of the season and the Falcons were forced to pass more to keep up in games. While the Falcons are unlikely to throw the ball 684 times again in 2020, this defense still has some holes on it that will prevent the Falcons from fully relying on the running game.

Additionally, the Falcons seem intent on relying on the oft-injured Todd Gurley to be the predominant ball-carrier in 2020. However, we’ve seen that Gurley struggles with an increased workload and his injury concerns may force the Falcons to keep his workload fairly light.

With those factors in mind, it seems reasonable to project the Falcons for 620 passing attempts this season. This is slightly above Koetter’s average over the past 6 seasons, but still much less than the absurd passing total from last season.

As for Ridley specifically, we’ve seen his average targets per game increase year over year since he entered the league. In 2018, he averaged 5.8 targets/game with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu in the fold. In 2019, he saw a significant increase to an average of 7.2 targets/game, which would’ve equated to 115 targets had he played all 16 games.

Looking at 2020, the Falcons didn’t bring in any competition for targets at the WR position and seem keen on moving forward with Julio Jones, Ridley, and Russell Gage. Julio will still be the predominant target hog in this offense, but Gage will never be a player that demands targets. He’s a fine slot WR, but is unlikely to average more than 4 to 5 targets per game.

If we take the projected 620 passing attempts from before, it’s arguably reasonable to break up the receiving options with the following target percentages:

Ridley’s walking into a large target share and he’s already shown that he can make a big impact when he’s on the field. In just 13 games last season, Ridley put up 63-866-7 and finished as the WR25 in Half PPR.

Projecting Ridley’s catch percentage and yards per reception is fairly simple on that target share, but it’s projecting Ridley’s TDs that become fairly interesting. Last season, a WR scored a TD (on average) every 168.13 yards. When we take Ridley’s target share (124 targets) and project him with a 66% catch percentage and 13.5 yards per reception, which is what he’s been around up to this point in his career, we end up with 82 receptions for 1105 yards. If we use last year’s WR average to determine Ridley’s expected TDs based off of this yardage, we can safely project 7 TDs.

However, we know that Ridley scored at a higher Yards/TD rate last season. While the league average was 168.13 yards per touchdown, Ridley averaged 123.71 yards per touchdown. That is a bit higher than the average, so we can expect a little bit more regression to the mean in 2020 and yet still feel comfortable with projecting 8 receiving touchdowns.

If all that is the case, Ridley’s final projections look like 124 targets, 82 receptions, 1105 receiving yards, and 8 touchdowns.

Fantasy Outlook

With those projected statistics, Ridley finishes just inside the top-10 at the WR position in my Half PPR rankings. Ridley has an incredibly safe floor this season, but there’s an added bonus with drafting the young and talented WR…

We all know that Julio isn’t exactly the most durable player in the NFL and he often misses drives, plays hurt, etc. If something were to happen to Julio, Ridley now becomes the de facto WR1 on this team. His target share would increase dramatically and he could potentially finish within the top-5 at the position when all is said and done.

There aren’t very many slam dunk selections in redraft ADP currently, but Ridley is one of them. He’s tied to a very good QB in Matt Ryan, he has an elite WR across from him to draw away attention, and he’s in an offense that is going to throw the ball a ton this season.

Chris Godwin had a lot of the same arguments in his favor last year and he burst onto the scene in a big way. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people that didn’t buy into the hype…make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again this year and snag Ridley everywhere that you can.

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Kyle Yates is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive and follow him @KyleYNFL.

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