In the age of “buying low” on some players, fantasy owners shouldn’t be afraid to pivot and “buy high” on other players. This doesn’t mean breaking the bank for Patrick Mahomes in a single quarterback league or selling the farm for Christian McCaffrey. It does mean being okay paying for talented players who can help you win matchups and championships.
Acquiring youth and building for the future is undoubtedly a variable to keep in mind when playing in dynasty leagues, but it shouldn’t be your sole focus. You still need players to win on any given Sunday. You always want to be competitive and win.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why I believe you should buy high on Calvin Ridley.
Entering the league with first-round draft capital to a team that loves to throw the ball, Ridley exploded onto the scene and set the fantasy world on fire with an impressive, 10-touchdown rookie season. Best of all, he was efficient, albeit a bit inconsistent, with his production. During Ridley’s rookie season, Ben Battle talked about the importance of efficient rookie wide receivers.
His second season was much the same and, despite playing three fewer games, he just about matched his targets, receptions, and receiving yards, while still putting up seven more touchdowns. Again, he was efficient with his opportunities. As Blair Andrews noted this past fall, you shouldn’t fade efficiency.
A glance at his two-year production summary shows both the good and the not so good of Ridley. He has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to win you a weekly matchup single-handedly, but he has shown a bit of a tendency to produce some dud games as well.
Ridley’s sensational rookie season afforded him some robust comps, according to the RotoViz Screener. However, as you’ll see, it’s his second year, and potential third year, comps that get you genuinely excited about his future potential.
The Julio Jones Effect
Playing across from one of the most physically dominant wide receivers to ever play the game does come with some benefits. While Ridley will never be the true WR1 for the Atlanta Falcons as long as Julio Jones is on the field, it does allow him almost exclusively to face man-to-man coverage.
Oddly enough, for as much as Jones caps the upside of Ridley, this past season saw a brief return to the absurd production that we’ve come to expect from Jones. After Ridley went on Injured Reserve and missed the last three weeks of the season with an abdomen injury, Jones went on a hot streak.
Despite the incredible run of dominance that Jones has been on, the clock is ticking on his career. Over the last six seasons, he has finished no worse than WR7 but has become the standard for veteran “maintenance days” throughout the season. While he continuously manages lower-body injuries and toughs it out on Sundays, his advancing age coupled with repeated minor injuries signals the end is coming, whether it be this year or sometime soon.
Early last season, Jones signed a three-year extension worth $66 million that will keep him under contract through 2023. While that will put him in his age-34 season, fantasy owners will want to monitor the health of Jones moving forward.
During Ridley’s two seasons in the league, the Falcons have been the most pass-heavy team in the league on a per-game basis. Using the RotoViz NFL Pace App, from 2018-2019, the Falcons lead the league in percentage of passing plays at 66%. They also lead the league in pass plays per 60 minutes with 42. Only the Falcons and Buccaneers have averaged 40 or more passing plays per 60 minutes over the last two seasons.
Matt Ryan is still a high-end quarterback who has passed for at least 4,000 yards in nine straight seasons. At 34 years old, he has not shown signs of slowing down and should continue to post fantasy numbers on an offensive that has been one of the most fantasy-friendly over the last number of years.
The Falcons offense will likely look a bit different next season, and these changes have the potential to provide Ridley a chance to take a massive leap in his third year.
While vacant targets are hardly predictive of future success, it is worth noting that if the Falcons do indeed move on from both Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman, they will leave behind 167 targets in the passing game from this past season. While it’s a small sample size, take a look at how Ridley performed without Hooper in the lineup.
Included with those vacated targets, are 29 red-zone looks. While Ridley has not garnered the same attention as his teammates inside the 20-yard line, he has been efficient in turning those opportunities into touchdowns.
As mentioned, Ridley’s Year 1 comps were exciting, but they can’t hold a candle to the company he holds coming off of Year 2. This is where we start to see genuinely elite, alpha wide receivers rise to the top.
It’s hard not to get excited. To take this a step further, here’s how his Year 2 comps performed in Year 3.
The apparent roadblock is still the presence of Jones. However, I believe this transition period is a perfect time for both Ridley and the Falcons offense. Ridley has demonstrated elite route-running abilities and a penchant for finding the end zone. The vacuum of targets will likely direct Ryan to look for his veteran receivers. I don’t think it’s outside of the realm of possibility for the Falcons to support two top-end wide receivers in 2020, similar to what the Buccaneers did in 2019.
If you are in a 10-12-team, single quarterback dynasty league, I would gladly sell an early 2020 1st round pick for Ridley. I believe he’s on the brink of becoming a truly elite wideout, and his price will never be lower than it is right now.