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Rookie Faceoff: Calvin Ridley vs. James Washington

Coffee or tea? Boxers or briefs? PPR or Standard? These are the age-old debates that define us. Over the coming weeks, our writers will add a few more to this list. That’s right — it’s rap-battle season.

In this Rookie Faceoff, Hasan Rahim and Matt Wispe square off over two wide receivers competing for picks at the turn of Rounds 1 and 2 in dynasty rookie drafts. Take a look at Hasan’s rebuttal.

Compared to most years, this year’s WR class would appear to lack upside, but both Calvin Ridley and James Washington landed with teams that elevated their draft stock1 to the last few picks of the first round of rookie drafts.

With similar ADPs, it’s likely that dynasty drafters will be forced to make a decision about whether to reach for Washington or follow chalk and select Ridley. And while Ridley doesn’t appear to be the superstar WR prospect that his early draft projections suggested, he’s poised to be a safe, consistent option.

Team Opportunity

Being drafted by the Falcons and Steelers made it clear that neither Ridley nor Washington would be the lead WR in year one and the opportunity to take the lead is, at minimum, unclear. Both receivers, however, landed in positive opportunity situations.

WR Opportunity

At first glance, Atlanta’s opportunity would appear to be significantly better, however, not included in this chart is the opportunity opened up by Martavis Bryant’s exit. And from a raw available targets perspective, this probably evens out the two opportunities. And while it’s true that Pittsburgh’s offense will have more pass attempts to spread around the offense, the placement within the depth chart.

Julio Jones commanded 27.92 percent of targets in 2017 and is the clear alpha dog in the receiving corps, but Mohamed Sanu’s place as the second WR appears to be less secure. With the addition of Ridley in the first round, there’s a reasonable expectation that he could push for the WR2 position that commanded 18.11 percent of team targets in 2017 and 15.08 percent in 2016. The Falcons also have a potential way out of Sanu’s contract after June 1, so Ridley could have the role solidified as soon as this season.

In Pittsburgh, Washington likely enters the season as the fourth passing option behind Antonio BrownJuJu Smith-Schuster, and Le’Veon Bell. And for four out of the last five seasons, Pittsburgh’s WR3 has received a smaller target share to the tight end. Because of his field-stretching production at Oklahoma State, Washington easily slots into Bryant’s role, which helps his weekly upside potential, but likely hurts him from a consistency standpoint as Bryant’s 2017 fantasy points would suggest.

MartavisBryant

Similar to Bryant, Sanu had peaks throughout the season, but nine of his 16 weeks finished above the average WR3. His average points per game was generally in line with a WR3. This is consistent with his finish as the WR30, compared to Bryant’s WR49 finish.

Mohamed Sanu

Reasonable Expectations

As noted above, Atlanta’s WR2 finished as WR30 in 2017. In 2016, the WR2 finished as WR53 and in 2015, WR73. While the 2016 and 2015 results aren’t reason for significant optimism, the steady improvement each year is worth noting.

WR2 Finishes

In addition to the steady improvement in fantasy ranks, the WR2 target share has improved each year under Dan Quinn. If this trend continues or, at a minimum, the share remains over 18 percent, the WR2 position in Atlanta could be a valuable one.

WR2 TS

Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have consistently had two fantasy relevant WRs, but it’s been five years since the Steelers produced a top 36 fantasy WR from the WR3 position and only twice since Tomlin took over in 2007.

The difference between Ridley and Washington is projectable opportunity. Washington appears to be a strong best-ball option who will have spikes when he scores a touchdown, but Ridley should have a chance to takeover a valuable WR2 position. If he takes over that position in 2018, he should be considered a low-end WR3 immediately. If it takes an extra season, he’s still a valuable stash until he receives significant volume.

  1. Or in Ridley’s case, solidified.  (back)
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