The 2023 fantasy football season is upon us. If you haven’t had your fantasy football draft yet, then you are probably neck-deep in your fantasy football player rankings.. Safe to assume you’ve already printed out and studied the Ultimate Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet? Good. What about doing some fantasy football mock drafts? Excellent. 

But even with all of that research, you are probably still staring at certain players, wondering if drafting them at their current fantasy football ADP is, not just giving you the proper value, but if they are even right for you or your team. Is the juice worth the squeeze? 

This is where we come in with our all-new Fantasy Football Player Debate series where two analysts go head-to-head and give you the pros and cons to help with your decisions.

Today, Colby Conway and Kevin Tompkins go head-to-head to help you decide whether you want to or even should draft Jacksonville Jaguars WR Calvin Ridley.


Why You Should Draft Calvin Ridley in Fantasy Football

By Colby Conway

Like Eminem in 8-mile, let’s start by attacking the main thing you’re (Kevin) going to say against me (Ridley)! I get that we haven’t seen Ridley since 2021, and he only played five games that season. I get it. How can a fantasy manager invest a premium pick in a guy who hasn’t played in a regular season game since October 24th, 2021. Sure, a year-plus away from professional football isn’t an ideal situation, but are we allowed to talk about the potential benefits from it? In a piece in The Players Tribune, Ridley said the following:

“Right now, I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt —  mentally and physically. On the field, I’m flying. Believe me, I’m flying. That GPS band don't lie. On my daughter’s name, if I’m healthy? With Trevor Lawrence? I’m giving Jacksonville 1,400 yards a season, period.”

In that piece, he acknowledges the mistake, talks about how he’s in a much better place mentally and emotionally, and while it may be taboo to say that he has a chip on his shoulder now because of this, a self-inflicted incident, it’s worth betting on, no pun intended. He’s a man on a mission to reassert himself amongst the league’s best, and Trevor Lawrence supported a WR1 last season (Christian Kirk).

Through his first three years in the league, Ridley had 60+ grabs for 820+ yards and 7+ touchdowns in each season, highlighted by a monster 2020 campaign where he posted career highs in receptions (90), targets (143), and receiving yards (1,374). Across those first three seasons, he had a floor of 184 fantasy points (PPR), which comes to 11.5 fantasy points per game (since they played 16 games per season at that point). Ridley can win at all levels of the field and is an exceptional route runner, which Trevor Lawrence is going to come to love quickly.

The AFC South may be a weaker division, but what if the Houston Texans take a step forward under Bobby Slowik and C.J. Stroud? What if the Titans’ offense is that much better with DeAndre Hopkins? What if Shane Steichen unleashes Anthony Richardson? Outside of the division, Jacksonville has games against the Chiefs, Bengals, 49ers, Ravens, and Bills, amongst others. Teams will score on Jacksonville, and for what it’s worth, Doug Pederson has never had a season as a head coach where his team ranked in the bottom half of the National Football League in pass attempts. There is enough to go around this year in Jacksonville, with Ridley being WR1.

Since June 1, he’s WR20 off the board, per NFC data. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Jacksonville, but alphas rise to the top, and Ridley is going to prove to be the alpha in this passing attack. Ridley is a value as the WR20 off the board, and he’ll end the year closer to a WR1 than a back-end WR2.


Why You Should Not Draft Calvin Ridley in Fantasy Football

By Kevin Tompkins

Calvin Ridley has been a household name in fantasy since 2018, when he was drafted as a first-rounder to Atlanta. Ridley took over the WR1 mantle from Julio Jones in 2020 and became one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL and in fantasy, where he was WR4 in fantasy points per game.

2021 was a mercurial year for the talented Mr. Ridley, as he only played five games in 2021 and stepped away from the Falcons due to mental health reasons. In March of 2022, Ridley was suspended for the 2022 season for betting on NFL games, including his own team’s games. The Jaguars traded a fourth-round and sixth-round pick for Ridley, and he was reinstated in early 2023 to pave the way for a return to NFL game action. But will Ridley pick right up where he left off in mid-2021?

I predict that it’s going to be an uphill climb for Ridley to get near the level of where he was in 2020/2021. Ridley has not played an NFL snap since October 24, 2021, so the first one he plays in 2023 will be a little less than 23 months since his first game action. There’s no replicating actual NFL reps against an opponent. Practice can approach it, but game speed is a different animal than a controlled practice setting.

The offensive environment Ridley was in during his 2020 breakout season (at a relatively advanced age of 26) is a stark contrast to the environment in Jacksonville in 2023. The Falcons only got about a half-season of Julio Jones, and guys like Hayden Hurst and Russell Gage had to chip in, but Ridley’s robust 2.48 yards per route run (seventh in the NFL), 41% air yards share (second), and 26% targets per route run (13th) were all quality numbers for a huge volume target earner. He had to be the alpha, and he delivered.

Fast forward to projecting 2023 with the Jaguars adding Ridley to a pass-catching group that was pretty consolidated to the three main targets: Christian Kirk (620 routes), Evan Engram (523), and Zay Jones (572). Even Marvin Jones came close to 500 routes last season as the WR3 in that offense, and all four had at least 80 targets. Jones is gone to Detroit, but even if the offense is consolidated yet again in 2023, the range of outcomes where it comes out to be Ridley as the alpha and then the other three pass-catchers vying for sizable pieces of the target distribution seems much thinner bet than a flat distribution where Ridley still comes out ahead in targets, but coming down from there is much more gradual where Kirk earns a little bit less target volume, then Engram, then finally, Zay Jones.

At a WR16 ADP on Underdog and a similar ADP range on FFPC (WR17), you’re not getting any sort of discount that maybe we would have gotten in previous years had running backs not been pushed down and wide receivers not been pushed up. Granted, the third-round landscape of wide receivers this season doesn’t instill the most confidence, with lots of questions on players like Deebo Samuel, Christian Watson, Amari Cooper and on from there, but the Ridley ADP is far too rich for a player who hasn’t played a snap since October of 2021 and now enters a very good offense but with three established options firmly in place.

I have no problem drafting Ridley if he falls into the fourth round or further in fantasy football drafts, but at his current price in the middle of the third round, I’d rather draft other positions and take what receivers are left coming back to me in what is a very flat tier.

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