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Fantasy football players love to compare players across different years. According to some, Kyler Murray is 2020’s Lamar Jackson, like how Jackson was 2019’s Patrick Mahomes. Similarly, some expect Calvin Ridley to be 2020’s version of Chris Godwin.
To be fair, Ridley has the first-round cachet and on-field skills to break out. He finished as the WR27 last season after playing in just 13 games, but if you expanded his 15.3 points per game across a 16-game season, he would’ve finished as the WR12. That would’ve put him between DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry.
Ridley currently sits at the WR17 in FantasyPros’ expert consensus rankings (ECR), two spots above his WR19 ADP. With his overall ADP sitting at 46, he’s a strong high-upside pick in the third or fourth round. The Falcons’ offense should look much the same in 2019, as both Dirk Koetter and Dan Quinn are returning, so I’m buying the industry hype around Ridley.
Week 1: vs. Seahawks
The Legion of Boom is no more. Seattle still hosts a top-15 passing defense, however, and the additions of Quandre Diggs and Quinton Dunbar should bolster their secondary (well, if Dunbar can resolve his legal issues). The Seahawks held Ridley to 70 yards on four receptions last year, but even a small uptick in his volume would increase his fantasy value.
Predicted Stat Line: 9 targets, 6 receptions, 92 yards (15.2 fantasy points).
Week 2: at Cowboys
The Cowboys’ 21st-ranked passing defense from last year lost its star corner, Byron Jones. They replaced him with Alabama’s Trevon Diggs, but it may take a year or two for him to meet his potential. This game should be a high-scoring affair between two NFC franchises with rapidly closing Super Bowl windows, so expect Ridley to put up solid numbers.
Predicted Stat Line: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 83 yards (14.3 fantasy points).
Week 3: vs. Bears
The Bears’ passing defense ranked eighth in 2019, but the loss of cornerback Prince Amukamara may complicate things. Yes, they retained Kyle Fuller and added Artie Burns, but a repeat performance is no sure thing. The Bears don’t have a particularly potent offense, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Falcons get out to an early lead and run out the clock. That wouldn’t be good for Ridley’s volume in this one.
Predicted Stat Line: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 45 yards (7.5 fantasy points).
Week 4: at Packers
The Packers’ secondary looked a lot better last year than it has in the past. The unit ranked ninth against the pass after Jaire Alexander’s strong sophomore season, but CB2 Kevin King hasn’t been as impressive. He’s flashed brilliance at points, but he’s also surrendered big plays on occasion. If Ridley lines up against King, he should break one or two big plays in what’s likely to be a high-scoring game.
Predicted Stat Line: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 113 yards, 1 TD (23.3 fantasy points).
Week 5: vs. Panthers
The Panthers’ defense ranked 11th against the pass in 2019, but that was because opposing teams could exploit their 32nd-ranked rushing defense. That’s an issue that new head coach Matt Rhule has tried to address head-on — perhaps at the expense of the secondary. Carolina parted ways with corners James Bradberry and Ross Cockrell, and their only additions at the position are three Day Three draft picks and Eli Apple. Ridley exploited their remaining corner, Donte Jackson, for 23.45 points per game last year. I think he’ll score more than 20 points in this spot.
Predicted Stat Line: 11 targets, 7 receptions, 87 yards, 1 TD (21.7 fantasy points).
Week 6: at Vikings
The Vikings’ passing defense finished seventh last year. They parted ways with cornerback Xavier Rhodes in the offseason, and they drafted Jeff Gladney in the first round to replace him. The Vikings also have 2018 first-rounder Mike Hughes on the roster, so I’m cautiously optimistic about their secondary. While Minnesota may not top their seventh-place finish, they should still play respectably. Ridley should have an average performance here.
Predicted Stat Line: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 68 yards (12.8 fantasy points).
Week 7: vs. Lions
Matt Patricia’s secondary should take make leaps from last year. The Lions ranked 29th against the pass last year, but their additions of Desmond Trufant and Jeff Okudah will give them a new lease on life. This game should be a fun battle to watch between former Georgia stars Todd Gurley and Matthew Stafford, as Dan Quinn may emphasize the run to avoid passing on the talented cornerbacks.
Predicted Stat Line: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 62 yards (11.2 fantasy points).
Week 8: at Panthers
Another game against the Panthers means another big day for Ridley. This game should be high-scoring as both teams try to stay in the division race.
Predicted Stat Line: 12 targets, 10 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD (28.5 fantasy points).
Week 9: vs. Broncos
I’m bullish on the Broncos in 2020. Head coach Vic Fangio’s defense should play a lot better next year with a healthy Bradley Chubb and the addition of Jurrell Casey. Yes, they lost star cornerback Chris Harris, but A.J. Bouye should pick up some of the slack. Denver will contain Atlanta’s offense as they fight for an AFC Wild Card spot.
Predicted Stat Line: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 33 yards (6.3 fantasy points).
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: at Saints
The Saints featured the 13th-best passing defense last year. Star corner Marshon Lattimore and P.J. Williams are both returning, and I’m expecting them to post a similar finish in 2020. That said, Lattimore underwhelmed when he shadowed Ridley in 2019, allowing him to catch eight passes for 91 yards. Ridley busted in Falcons’ visit to New Orleans last year, too, so I’m skeptical about him here.
Predicted Stat Line: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 67 yards (11.7 fantasy points).
Week 12: vs. Raiders
The Raiders added Prince Amukamara and Damon Arnette to their secondary this offseason. That’s a much-needed infusion of talent to a unit that ranked 30th against the pass, but it might not be enough to make them a formidable opponent. Atlanta should run away with this one early, but Ridley should get enough production early to notch substantial fantasy numbers.
Predicted Stat Line: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 92 yards, 1 TD (21.2 fantasy points).
Week 13: vs. Saints
While Ridley underperformed in New Orleans last year, his eight catches and 91 yards at home gave owners an excellent fantasy performance. This game should have enormous implications for the NFC South race, so expect Ridley to put his best foot forward in this one.
Predicted Stat Line: 9 targets, 6 receptions, 101 yards (16.1 fantasy points).
Week 14: at Chargers
The Falcons head west to play either Tyrod Taylor or Justin Herbert. They’ll likely need a win to stay in the playoff hunt, and the Chargers played better against the run than the pass last year, so Ryan should attempt plenty of throws. Ridley will see more than enough volume to help his owners win in the first round of the fantasy playoffs.
Predicted Stat Line: 10 targets, 7 receptions, 89 yards (15.9 fantasy points).
Week 15: vs. Buccaneers
Atlanta won’t play Tom Brady‘s Buccaneers until Week 15. Assuming both teams are still in the playoff hunt, both games should be high-scoring, pass-heavy matchups. Ridley toasted Jamal Dean for 22 fantasy points in the one game he played against Tampa Bay last year, and since the Buccaneers failed to overhaul their secondary, it’s safe to expect similar levels of production.
Predicted Stat Line: 13 targets, 9 receptions, 117 yards, 1 TD (26.7 fantasy points).
Week 16: at Chiefs
The Chiefs return most of their sixth-ranked passing defense in 2020, so they should be able to limit their opponents’ passing offenses. That said, since the Falcons should be fighting for their playoff lives — and Dan Quinn for his job — Atlanta will attempt plenty of passes in a desperate attempt to outscore Patrick Mahomes. Look for a disappointing performance from Ridley in your fantasy championship.
Predicted Stat Line: 11 targets, 6 receptions, 67 yards (12.7 fantasy points).
Week 17: at Buccaneers
Ridley ends his season with another game against Tampa Bay. Since his production will depend on the two teams’ playoff statuses, it’s hard to make any predictions here with confidence. Assuming that both teams are fighting for a Wild Card spot — or the division — Ridley is a safe bet to explode here, however.
Predicted Stat Line: 12 targets, 8 receptions, 91 yards (17.1 fantasy points).
Final 2020 Projections
Final Stat Line: 142 targets, 99 receptions, 1,332 yards, 5 TDs (262.2 fantasy points).
These stats would’ve given Ridley a WR6 finish last year, and his 16.4 points per game would’ve ranked seventh. That’s a big jump for the third-year wideout, but I’m comfortable making that projection as Atlanta lost Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, and Justin Hardy, a group that combined for 158 targets. Yes, Russell Gage and Hayden Hurst will get some of that workload, but it’s not unreasonable to project Ridley to get a third of those.
Ridley is an awesome pick in the third or fourth round of fantasy drafts. If you’ve taken two high-floor guys with your first picks, Ridley is a great upside candidate who could push your team over the top.