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  • Fantasy Impact of Calvin Ridley’s suspension on the Atlanta Falcons

    Jersey Giveaway
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    Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley was been suspended for at least the 2022-23 NFL Season after betting on NFL games in 2021.


    NFL Network’s James Palmer was the first to report that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Atlanta Falcons wide receiver, Calvin Ridley, through at least the 2022-23 season for betting on NFL games during the 2021-22 season.

    It was later reported that he placed the parlay bets on his phone during his leave from the team. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Ridley placed multi-legged parlay bets involving three, five, and eight games that included the Atlanta Falcons to win.

    Calvin Ridley is the fifth player in NFL history and the second in four years to be suspended for gambling.

    What does this mean for the Falcons?

    The Falcons are not only losing the best WR on their roster, but they were also expected to trade Ridley. Atlanta was likely expecting to receive a trade package with high-value draft capital in return.

    Even though the team had talks with other teams regarding Ridley, they couldn’t move him knowing that his suspension was going to happen. Atlanta will now likely have to wait another year to move Ridley.

    Ridley’s suspension will now have a trickle-down effect on the Atlanta Falcons offensive players from a fantasy standpoint. Notable players like Matt Ryan, Kyle Pitts, and the other Falcons wide receivers will be affected the most by Ridley’s suspension.

    The fantasy impact of Calvin Ridley’s suspension

    Matt Ryan

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    It has been a few seasons since Matt Ryan was a reliable starting quarterback in standard fantasy leagues. However, he has been a serviceable QB2 in two-quarterback and superflex leagues. This past season Ryan completed 67% of his passes for 3,968 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.  He finished as the QB20 in total points this season and QB31 on a points per game basis.

    Analysts expected Ryan to regress after the team traded former All-Pro receiver Julio Jones last offseason. Only having Calvin Ridley for five games last season was a major blow to his production. From Week 8 to the end of the season, Ryan averaged 11.24 fantasy points per game without Ridley.

    Prior to Ridley leaving the team, Ryan averaged 18.55 fantasy points per game over the first seven weeks of the season. He dropped from a low QB1/streaming option to a low QB2 without Ridley in the lineup.

    It is hard to be optimistic about Matt Ryan this year from a fantasy standpoint. At age 37 next season, Ryan has likely played his best football and could regress. The Falcons don’t have great receivers on their current roster and limited resources to address that position.

    Even if the Falcons address the wide receiver position early in the draft, you should leave Ryan on benches or on waivers in a majority of leagues this upcoming season.

    Kyle Pitts

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    The Atlanta Falcons made a controversial selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. With the fourth overall pick, they took Florida tight end, Kyle Pitts, over a potential replacement for Matt Ryan. This resulted in fantasy expectations for Pitts’ rookie season to be through the roof. It is fair to say that managers who had Pitts on their roster could have been disappointed in his production. However, statistically speaking, Pitts had a great rookie season.

    He finished as the sixth-highest scoring tight end in fantasy in PPR leagues and the ninth-highest scoring tight end in non-PPR leagues. Even though Pitts finished the season as a top-10 scoring tight end, many expected him to join the elite group of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller, and now Mark Andrews as the best tight ends in the league.

    Pitts did not enter that elite group of tight ends. However, he was voted to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. Pitts finished the season with 68 of his 110 targets for 1,026 receiving yards and one touchdown. His 1,026 receiving yards were the third-highest total by a tight end this season behind only Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce.

    Scoring

    Prior to Calvin Ridley leaving the Falcons, Pitts was the fifth-highest scoring TE in PPR formats and sixth-highest non-PPR formats. When Ridley left the team, defenses started showing Pitts more attention. As a result, his production dropped off for the rest of the season. From Week 8 to the end of the season, Pitts averaged the 18th most fantasy points per game in PPR. In non-PPR, he was the 16th highest scoring tight end during that stretch, averaging only 5.1 points per game.

    Even though Kyle Pitts struggled down the stretch without Ridley, it could boost his fantasy value next season. Falcons head coach Arthur Smith will have the entire offseason to frame his offense around Pitts being the featured piece. Many tight ends have thrived in fantasy being the number one receiver for their team in recent years.

    A few examples of this include Darren Waller, T.J. Hockenson, and Mark Andrews who are all unarguably the best pass-catching weapon on their roster and their fantasy production reflects it. Kyle Pitts is destined to enter that group of tight ends. His increased role could insert him into the elite group of fantasy tight ends that put up consistent production that is rare in fantasy.

    Other Falcons Wide Receivers

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    Olamide Zaccheaus

    As it currently stands, the Falcons’ current group of wide receivers are not great even with Calvin Ridley. Now that Ridley is going to miss the 2022-23 NFL season, their leading receiver will be fourth-year receiver Olamide Zaccheaus.

    In the three seasons Zaccheaus has played in Atlanta, he has not put up great numbers. Over the course of his career, Zaccheaus has caught 54 of 90 targets for 795 receiving yards and 5 receiving touchdowns.

    Russell Gage

    Fantasy Managers are probably more familiar with Russell Gage as Atlanta’s number two receiver opposite Calvin Ridley. However, Gage is set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason. In each of the past two seasons, Gage started at least eight games, caught over 65 of 90+ targets, put up over 750 yards, and had four touchdowns.

    He has shown the ability to step up into a consistent role for this offense. Gage is not a player a team should feel comfortable as their number one receiver. It is extremely likely the Falcons overpay to retain him and go into the draft as their number one wide receiver.

    Frank Darby

    A dark horse candidate to emerge as a prominent receiver in Atlanta’s offense is second-year wide receiver Frank Darby. Atlanta selected Darby out of Arizona State with the 187th selection in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Darby was the victim of being a part of an extremely deep group of receivers last season.

    This led to Darby falling all the way to the sixth round. Going into the 2021 NFL Draft, he was expected to be a day three selection. Bleacher Report compared Darby’s playing style and potential ceiling to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk.

    This feels like as good a time as any for Atlanta to see if Darby could be more than a backup at the professional level. Last season, he was only active for ten games and caught one of his four targets for 14 yards.

    Summary

    It is difficult to project the value of all three of these receivers going into the 2022-23 NFL season. Atlanta will likely bring in other receivers via free agency and early draft selections. Will Russell Gage will be on the roster next season?

    However, if the team was to resign Gage and didn’t add any other receivers this offseason the team’s number one receiver, whether it be Gage or Zaccheus, would have a peek at WR3 value. Any other receiver in Atlanta would have the ceiling of WR5 value or lower.


    Thank you for checking out my piece! You can find all of my work on my IDP Guys author page. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @Chris_Thomas98 and @IDPGuys (we have offense too). Please check out our website at idpguys.org. and subscribe to our IDP Guys Youtube page!

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