In 2019, Chris Godwin broke out all over the place. Drafted at the 4.08 slot on average in FFPC drafts (WR15), he far surpassed his ADP. Godwin produced a massive 19.6 Fantasy Points Per Game, No. 2 among qualified wide receivers behind some guy named Michael Thomas. Ever heard of him? After the top 12 receivers are off the board, fantasy gamers are forced to navigate a plethora of pass catchers poised to take the next step in 2020. Today, we use advanced stats and metrics to lay out the case for Calvin Ridley becoming this years Godwin.
Writing this article in 2020 seemed unfathomable two years ago. I’m old enough to remember the days when Calvin Ridley was Best Comparable to Jared Abbrederis on PlayerProfiler. Back then, Ridley was the most polarizing player in his class, sparking massive debate between the film and analytics communities. On one side was Ridley and on the other was D.J. Moore for the WR1 in the 2018 class. Moore is the better prospect and player, but Ridley is not the bust he was touted to be.
The biggest flaw on Ridley’s prospect profile was a poor 20.7 (45th-percentile) Breakout Age. This is misleading because he was a 20 year old freshman. He was a five-star prospect in high school, but was ineligible for most of his senior season due to surpassing the Florida age limit of 19 years and nine months. The reasons for his old age coming out of high school are unknown, but posting 89 receptions for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns as a true freshman at Alabama is impressive nonetheless. For perspective, Amari Cooper logged a 59/1000/11 stat line as a true freshman.
Calvin Ridley is in elite company in terms of freshman production, albeit at an older age. Given his circumstances, it would be more concerning had he not broken out until later in his college career. In his final season, he posted a 29.7-percent (84th-percentile) Target Share competing with Irv Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Devonta Smith. He still remained the alpha in the offense and earned a 38.0 Breakout Rating after the draft process. According to the Breakout Finder, Ridley is in the same prospect tier as Jeudy, who came out in 2020 with a 39.6 Breakout Rating.
Ridley has become an efficient producer at the NFL level and has improved each season. In 2018, he led all rookie receivers with 12.9 (No. 26) Fantasy Points Per Game and was the WR26 overall. He improved on his rookie season in Year 2, finishing with 15.0 (No. 18) Fantasy Points Per Game. Ridley showed he is an emerging receiver in the league last year, posting three WR1 and four WR2 fantasy weeks in 14 games. He was a WR2 or better in 50-percent of his games. For comparison, his teammate Julio Jones had eight such weeks in 15 games. Ridley showed down the stretch that he can be a reliable WR2 with weekly WR1 upside.
Expect Calvin Ridley to become a fantasy WR1 in 2020. Not only because of his talent, but his expected volume. In 2019, the Falcons led the league with 684 passing attempts. According to Warren Sharp’s Strength Of Schedule, the Falcons have the toughest slate of games and will be forced to air it out again this year. The Falcons already led the league in Pass-Run Ratio in 2019, passing the ball on 67.3-percent of plays. They will be a gunslinging offense with a rough schedule and plenty of dome games for shootouts. Look for the receivers to benefit from massive volume again.
With Devonta Freeman, Austin Hooper, and Mohamed Sanu now gone, Atlanta leads the NFL with 258 Vacated Targets. That’s 68 more than the team with the next most in the Dallas Cowboys. The most important shift here is Sanu’s absence. In seven games with Sanu in the lineup, Ridley averaged 12.9 fantasy points on 6.3 targets per game. In the six games after Sanu was traded, Ridley averaged 17.5 fantasy points on 8.2 targets per game. This pace would have made Ridley the WR6 in Fantasy Points Per Game in 2019.
Check out Calvin Ridley’s 2020 Projection on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:
Ridley also netted a career-high 19.0-percent Target Share in the games without Sanu. With new additions Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst projected for less volume than their previous counterparts, Ridley will surely pass the coveted 20.0-percent mark. In an offense projected for over 600 pass attempts again in 2020, he will be looking at over 120 targets with the upside to push for 150.
Ridley is poised for a third-year breakout on an offense with high passing volume and an established WR1 in Julio Jones. Doesn’t this sound familiar? In 2019, Chris Godwin ascended in his third year alongside established WR1 Mike Evans. There were plenty of targets to go around with the Buccaneers passing the ball 630 (No. 4) times and leading the league with 4,845 passing yards. Godwin jumped from a 15.3-percent (No. 67) Target Share in 2018 to a 22.2-percent (No. 25) mark last season. This is the expectation we should have for Ridley.
Calvin Ridley will make the third-year leap in 2020 and post a Top-5 wide receiver season. Currently being picked as the No. 17 wide receiver off the board in FFPC leagues, you’re essentially drafting him at his floor. I haven’t left a seasonal league draft without Ridley, and I advise anyone reading this to do the same. He has league-winning upside and is the perfect receiver to grab after hammering RB in the first two to three rounds.