Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley had a spectacular rookie campaign this past season, hauling in 64 receptions for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns.
As if Julio Jones wasn’t already enough to deal with, the Falcons now have Ridley as well, giving them one of the most lethal receiver duos in the NFL going into 2019.
Plus, with a fine, experienced quarterback in Matt Ryan, Ridley has a reliable guy throwing him the football.
The question is, just what can we expect from Ridley in his second season, and how good of an option will he be in fantasy leagues?
Well, one thing that we obviously need to get out of the way is that Ridley will not be a No. 1 receiver. Not yet, anyway. While he certainly has the talent to assume that role, it just isn’t going to happen as long as Jones is on the roster, and Jones racked up 113 catches for 1,677 yards and eight scores in 2018, so it’s not like the 30-year-old is going to slow down any time soon.
So, if you are expecting Ridley to post Jones or Antonio Brown numbers, it probably isn’t going to happen.
Now, to be fair, JuJu Smith-Schuster just had a monster year as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ No. 2 wide out, but the Steelers also did not exactly have a lot of options in the passing game outside of Brown and Smith-Schuster.
The Falcons, meanwhile, not only have Jones and Ridley, but experienced veteran Mohamed Sanu and tight end Austin Hooper. Plus, a healthy Devonta Freeman is a pretty big receiving threat out of the backfield.
Taking that into consideration, Ryan’s throws will likely be spread out to a bunch of targets, so it’s entirely possible that Ridley does not produce all that much more than he did in 2018.
Of course, that could change in the blink of an eye, as Atlanta apparently discussed trading Sanu (almost surely because of Ridley’s rise) before the draft, so if the Falcons end up dealing him at some point this offseason, Ridley’s targets will increase, but we have to assume that Sanu will be starting the season in Atlanta.
Ridley was targeted 92 times in 2018, about half as many as the 170 targets that Jones saw and nearly as many as Hooper and Sanu, who received 88 and 94 targets, respectively.
Now, realistically speaking, Ridley will probably see more balls thrown his way than Sanu in 2019, as it seems obvious that the Falcons now view him as the No. 2 receiver. So, we should probably expect the 24-year-old to see about 100-115 targets this coming season, meaning he should probably be catching 70-75 balls.
As for yardage? He averaged 12.8 yards per catch last season, and with good speed, he is threat after the catch, so it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility that Ridley finishes with over 1,000 yards in 2019.
What I will say, though, is his touchdowns may dip, as the 10 scores he recorded in 2018 seem like a lot. Keep in mind that with Devonta Freeman out most of this past season, the Falcons didn’t have much of a ground game and ranked 27th in the league in rushing, so with Freeman coming back healthy, Atlanta may look to run the ball more, which may decrease Ridley’s opportunities in the end zone.
A season of 75 catches, 1,000 yards, and eight touchdowns seems like a realistic goal for Ridley, and given his talent alone, he will represent an outstanding option as a No. 2 receiver for your fantasy team.