The Calvin Ridley Conundrum
There seem to be a lot of varying opinions on Calvin Ridley lately. Can he match the 10 touchdown total he achieved in his rookie season? Was it a fluke? Some say yes, some say no. As in all things fantasy football, it is a matter of perspective. One can spin the stats any way they would like to reinforce an argument for or against any one player.
The best we can do is make informed observations of the data that we have, albeit a small sample size in this case. We will explore both sides of the argument and try and draw the most logical conclusion. The signals are mixed on Ridley, but there is no questioning the immense potential the soon to be second-year wideout possesses. Time to dive in.
Calvin Ridley wasted no time getting his college career off to a sizzling start at the University of Alabama. The 6’1″, 190-pound phenom went over the 1,000-yard mark and hauled in 89 receptions while adding seven touchdowns his freshman year. From there he went on to add another seven touchdowns his sophomore year, collecting another 72 receptions for 769 yards. Finally, he finished out his junior season with another five touchdowns on 63 catches and 967 yards.
The numbers were pretty solid across the board. While college stats do not always predict future success in the NFL, Ridley actually had better numbers as a member of the Crimson Tide than that of current teammate Julio Jones. The elder Jones did have a younger breakout age than Ridley (19.6 to 20.7) but both achieved this lofty status as freshmen. This is by no means comparing the two, but rather simply examining the journey of the duo into the league.
The overall numbers were similar, yet Ridley outperformed Jones in every stat category minus yards per catch. The similarities do not end with their college numbers. Both superstar wideouts were drafted by the Atlanta Falcons and both were selected in the first round. During the combine review done by the NFL official website, Ridley drew a comp to Marvin Harrison. It is rare to be compared to a Hall of Fame wideout.
The Rookie Season
Calvin Ridley was selected with the 26th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. It did not take long for the rookie to burst on to the NFL scene, scoring 40.5 PPR points in Week 3. That was followed up with a 21.5 point performance in Week 4. Ridley was up and down throughout the year but still managed to finish as the WR20 in PPR formats for 2018. Some will argue that a repeat performance is unlikely because nearly half of his points for the year were accumulated in just four games.
Even though it was an up and down year for the exciting young wideout, he did manage to finish above league average in PPR points in seven of the 16 games played. Regardless of how the stats were accumulated, it is impressive nonetheless that this was all done on just 64 catches. Once again, Ridley fared better on the stat sheet (minus yards) in his rookie season than fellow teammate Julio Jones did his rookie year in 2011 (in 3 more games).
The stat that stands out is the catch%. Ridley hauled in 69.57% of the passes that went his way. This was good for 20th in the league amongst all wide receivers (minimum of 50 targets). Not too shabby for a rookie. Ridley played a limited number of snaps in 2018 but made the most of his time on the field. The flashy wideout was actually better than the WR1 and WR2 in PPR on a point per opportunity basis.
Efficient or No?
Another look at some numbers shows that Ridley actually scored more points on a severely reduced number of snaps than offseason darling Chris Godwin. The rookie also outproduced Alshon Jeffery in PPR points and fell just short of breakout receiver Tyler Boyd. These numbers break down the points per snaps, the points per target, and the points per snap per target ratio.
Here is a visual representation of the Points Per Snap Per Target formula referenced above.
Ridley was also a top-10 finisher in point per snap finishes with .32 points scored for every snap he played.
For comparison, Mohamed Sanu played 830 snaps and scored just 177.6 points on those snaps. Here is one last gem before wrapping this all up:
There have only been five wide receivers over the past five years that racked up 200+ PPR with fewer than 100 targets:
2018 Tyler Lockett
2015 Sammy Watkins
2016 Tyreek Hill
2014 DeSean Jackson
2018 Calvin Ridley 👀pic.twitter.com/ftIOohfHF5
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 11, 2019
Ridley’s 2019 Outlook and Conclusion
It is difficult to predict what we will see from Ridley in 2019. The worst case scenario is he takes snaps away from Sanu and puts up the same 208.8 points. Many will argue that the regression in touchdowns is certain. Even so, an increase in snaps should equal an increase in targets, catches, and yardage to offset and help achieve over 200 points yet again.
The best case scenario is he equals his 10 touchdowns from 2018 and improves on the receptions and yardage. This puts him in WR1 territory. The upside is too hard to ignore and at the current ADP of WR20, there is not much to lose.