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WR1: The Case for Calvin Ridley

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Go get the WR1 Calvin Ridley! He’s the best receiver for the 2021 season and beyond. Draft him or trade for him and you’ll be one step closer to winning your league.


With so many options at wide receiver, it’s tough to make the right call. I’m here not to tell you who it will be. I’m just throwing my hat in the ring for who I think it could be – the now number one wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons, Calvin Ridley.

 

There are many reasons as to why I believe Calvin Ridley will be the WR1 for years to come, starting now. We’ll go over those reasons soon enough, patience is a virtue.

Many people in the fantasy wilderness have their own thoughts about who is the true WR1. And I love it. That’s an aspect of what makes the game so much fun. One of our very own writers, Clinton Holmgren, believes that Justin Jefferson is the WR1 and he makes a good case. We just differ in opinion and maybe you do too.

If I were you, I would be targeting Ridley in both redraft and dynasty. And I am you. Not in some weird introspective way, come on now. I am you because I play Fantasy Football. The way to win championships is by having the best players.

I’m all about practicing what I preach. I drafted Ridley in a start-up this year and am I’m in negotiations trying to trade for him in another league.

The value is there for the taking every day of the week.

Get WR1 quality at a WR6 price.

Calvin’s Qualifiers

Calvin Ridley was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the 26th overall pick on day one of the 2018 NFL draft.

For the past two years, he’s averaged approximately two fantasy points per target and increased his target share year after year. In 2018 and 2019 he received 92 and 93 targets. This past year he broke the 100-barrier and was targeted 143 times. Not a bad jump.

With this monstrous increase in his target share, he ended the 2020 season as a top-five WR.

Team Changes

Teams hardly stay the same year to year (except for the Buccaneers this year somehow).

Players come and go and this impacts a team’s entire locker room. We’ll go over a few key players who have left, along with others who joined the Atlanta Falcons.

The Departed

In the 2000 Martin Scorsese film, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon work as foils to each other and Jack Nicholson-

(I had to and I don’t regret it.)

On a serious note, Julio Jones has left the building.

Now, the intangibles he takes with him out of the building cannot be replaced. He was the face of the franchise for almost a decade, consistently a top-five WR in the game while doing so, and a future HOFer.

Something that can be replaced?

His targets.

To put his massive target-haul into perception, in the years he played at least 14 games, he averaged 157 targets a year. Not bad at all.

Now, I’m not saying Calvin Ridley will be the next Julio Jones for Atlanta but the team had to be pretty confident in what they had to let Julio walk.

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I have some stats for all the number crunchers out there. Without Julio in seven games this past season, Ridley averaged over 7 receptions on 11 targets a game and close to 110 yards. With Julio playing in eight games, he was averaging 5 receptions on 8 targets and 76 yards a contest.

Nice and simple now…with Julio= 12 fantasy ppg, without Julio=18 fantasy ppg. (Without TDS, we’ll get to that later.)

If we multiply 18 (for his 7 receptions and 11 points for his yards a game) by 15 games, you get 270 fantasy points. Now, I did 15 games because that’s what he played this year.

That little math equation leaves Ridley as the eighth-best fantasy WR last year.

I know you’re saying out loud, “But he finished as the WR5 so doesn’t that mean he would’ve been worse?” As Dwight would say, FALSE. This is without his nine touchdowns on the year. By adding them, he would have only needed 5 more fantasy points to leap-frog Hill and Diggs to be the WR2. (To be fair, he scored only three of his nine touchdowns without Julio but if you add those he still finishes where he would’ve with nine. Just slightly further away from Diggs and Hill.)

Of course, all of Julio Jones’ targets won’t be going to Ridley alone. Morgan McLane discusses how it also has an impact on the new WR2 in Atlanta, Russel Gage.

The Arrivals

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Mike Davis. He stepped up when Christian McCaffrey was only able to play three games during the 2020 season due to multiple injuries. Mike Davis became the man for the job. In the fantasy world (which is why we’re here) he finished as the RB12 in PPR with 206.5 fantasy points.

He did so well, he earned himself a 2 year $5.5 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons and has now become their starting running back.

I believe any improvement in the run game helps the receiving core for any team and vice versa. Football requires balance for a team to be successful.

There are those that may fear the 70 targets in the air in connection to the Atlanta wide receivers as opposed to Todd Gurley‘s 34 in the 2020 season. To counter this point, let me refer to the Atlanta Falcons 2015 season where Devonta Freeman finished as THE OVERALL RB1 and had 97 targets in the air. That same year, Julio finished as PPR’s WR2 with OVER 200 targets.

Again, I’m not saying Calvin Ridley is the next Julio Jones. All I’m saying is, the arrival of Mike Davis is nothing to fear.

(I know y’all are screaming “WHAT ABOUT KYLE PITTS?!” Don’t fret, we’ll talk about him down the line.)

High Tempo Offense

The Falcons have been top-five in passing attempts for the past three years as well as top-five in passing yards. It is essential for anyone to be the number one WR, they need targets, simple as that. You can be as efficient as you like but if you aren’t clearing at least 130 targets, you probably won’t be the WR1, barring a wild TD year.

Within this offense last year, Calvin Ridley ranked third in red-zone targets around the league behind Davante Adams and Darren Waller. Getting looked at that often in crisis situations is not a bad position to be in.

Reasons Against Ridley

Like the good English Major I am, I was taught to give not only reasons for my thesis but against. I got to show you both sides of the argument.

Plus, it looks better for me because other people can’t turn around and say “But what about- and also-“. BOOM. I’ve already said it.

It’s kind of like in “8 Mile” (I know I know, another movie reference but that’s just me. I have trouble remember people’s names because my brain is filled with obscure lines from “Hot Rod” and where I was when Billy Cundiff missed a field goal against the Patriots).

Anyways, in “8 Mile”, Eminem says all the negatives about himself so his opponents have nothing left. I encompass Eminem is what I’m getting at. Or he would’ve made a good English Major. Either way.

The Departed 2

Gift and a curse. Bittersweet. Yin and Yang.

Of course, Julio leaving will free up targets to be sprinkled around with a healthy portion going to Ridley. However, now Ridley will be the focal point for defenses to zone in on.

And even more so, the effect of losing someone like Julio Jones from your locker room goes beyond the numbers. I’m sure Calvin Ridley was able to learn so much from Julio, but it became time to pay the piper, and the Falcons just didn’t have that kind of money.

Here’s what Austin Hooper, a former tight end who played alongside Julio Jones, said about the impact the receiver has had on him.

Here’s from the man himself, Calvin Ridley, speaking about the effect Julio Jones has had on his career.

Hopefully, he’s been able to digest and absorb all that he could while playing alongside one of the greatest to ever do it.

The Arrivals 2

Now, let’s talk about The Unicorn, Kyle Pitts.

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The Atlanta Falcons used the number four overall draft pick to bring onboard the electrifying tight end out of the University of Florida.

Pitts became the highest-drafted tight end in the history of the NFL.

The Falcons did so a year after spending a 2020 second-round pick to acquire a Baltimore Ravens tight end, Hayden Hurst, who ended the 2020 season with 88 targets, 571 yards, and 6 touchdowns.

It’s obvious that Kyle Pitts may end up taking some amount of target share away from Calvin Ridley, but I still don’t believe it will be monumental enough to keep Ridley away from being the WR1.

Rookie tight ends rarely do well (in fantasy terms and production) in the first year of their careers. Pitts may be an exception but still won’t usurp Calvin Ridley for most targets on the team.

As the great J. Cole once said, “they act like two legends cannot coexist”. WRs and TEs, when used properly on the same team, can become more complimentary than harmful, dissecting and dividing opposing defenses together.

Exhibit A) Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Yeah, that’s a bit cherry-picking to pick these two but so what. It’s my article and I can pick all the cherries I feel like.

Fine, for Exhibit B) let’s go back to ATL with Julio Jones and Austin Hooper. While Julio Jones finished as a top-five WR in PPR, Austin Hooper was a top-six TE in back-to-back years.

Coach Carousel

Now, we’ve talked about the high-octane passing offense that Atlanta has cultivated for itself. However, it would be a disservice to this article and to all of you to not address their coaching situation in regards to the impact it can have on Ridley.

The Atlanta Falcons have gone through three coaches from 2020-2021. They’ve also hired a new offensive coordinator.

Their head coach going into the 2021 season is Arthur Smith, who was hired after working two seasons as the OC of the Tennessee Titans.

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Throughout these two years, the team had an impressive output of efficient offense. However, they were among the bottom three teams in passing attempts in both years of his time as the offensive coordinator.

This fact is what I believe will be one of Calvin Ridley’s biggest hurdles to become the WR1. I don’t believe the Falcons will go from top five in passing attempts to bottom three, but there is cause for concern.

I would also like to add, however, that the Titans had DERRICK HENRY. One of the best running backs currently. The man led the league in rushing yards and attempts both seasons as well. Mike Davis of course won’t receive this same workload so that is a saving grace.

Conclusion

Although it’s almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen throughout an NFL season, I believe the factors surrounding Calvin Ridley are putting him in a prime position to take over and become the league’s WR1 for the 2021 season and hopefully for more to come. I’m doing everything I can to get him on my teams and so should you.


Thank you for reading! Follow me on Twitter at @FFCAnabalon, and if you enjoyed the random assortment of letters and punctuation marks above, you can find more of my work here at idpguys.org
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