Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley was touted as a breakout candidate heading into the 2020 season, and he delivered. He averaged 19 PPR fantasy points per game and finished as a WR2 or better in 60% of his 15 active games. Can Ridley’s fantasy football outlook be even higher in 2021 at his current ADP with the departure of Julio Jones?
Calvin Ridley’s fantasy outlook for 2021
The Falcons tied with the Chargers for the fourth-most pass attempts per game (39.2) in 2020. The Chiefs (39.7), Cowboys (39.9), and Steelers (42.6) were the only other teams who averaged more. This passing volume didn’t translate to yards and points scored for the Falcons.
Atlanta ranked 15th in total yards per game (368.4) and 16th in points scored (25). All of the blame cannot be placed on Matt Ryan’s shoulders, but he was inconsistent. The veteran quarterback only had 6 QB1 finishes in 2020. Ryan also recorded 6 QB2 and 4 QB3 finishes.
The Falcons’ running game also struggled. Atlanta averaged a dismal 3.7 yards per rushing attempt and 96 rushing yards per game. Ridley was one of the few bright spots offensively for the team.
The 26-year-old receiver caught 90 of 143 targets for 1,374 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. He maximized the high volume by setting career highs in multiple statistical areas due to wide receiver Julio Jones’ inability to stay healthy. A hamstring injury hindered the veteran receiver for the majority of the season.
Ridley averaged 11 targets and nearly 20 fantasy points per game without Jones last season, receiving a 30% target share. Jones finished with 771 receiving yards in nine games. His absence forced receiver Russell Gage into a more prominent role. Gage averaged 7 targets, 4.5 receptions, and 49 receiving yards across 16 games. He finished as a WR3+ in 69% of his games in PPR formats.
Tight end Hayden Hurst averaged 9.3 PPR fantasy points per game in his first year with the Falcons. Atlanta acquired him from Baltimore for a second-round pick, but Hurst only averaged a disappointing 5.4 targets, 3.5 targets, 35.7 receiving yards, and 0.4 touchdowns per contest.
Atlanta’s defensive woes
The Falcons defense struggled in 2020. They allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing offenses. This trend is likely to continue in 2021, as Atlanta made no significant additions to fortify its defense this offseason. However, their offense will look different in 2021.
The Falcons remodel its offense
The signing of former Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley did not end well for Atlanta. Thus, the team signed former Panthers running back Mike Davis in free agency.
Davis took over as Carolina’s lead back after Christian McCaffrey suffered an injury that derailed his 2020 campaign. Davis delivered for fantasy managers and finished as a top-15 fantasy running back in PPR formats.
The Falcons also drafted Florida tight end Kyle Pitts fourth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. He played in eight games for Florida last season, generating 43 receptions for 770 yards, and set the school single-season touchdown record by a tight end with 12.
The final domino fell in June when the Tennessee Titans sent a second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and a fourth and sixth-round pick in 2023 to the Falcons for Jones.
Jones has been one of the most productive receivers in NFL history. From his rookie season in 2011 to 2020, he’s averaged 10 targets, 6.3 receptions, 96.2 receiving yards, 123.7 receiving air yards (indicate how far a pass traveled in the air before it was caught), and 19 PPR fantasy points per game in 126 active games. The Falcons have 195 available targets and 1,000 air yards entering the 2021 season. What will Atlanta’s offense look like under new head coach Arthur Smith?
Is the new boss the same as the old one?
Smith was previously the offensive coordinator of the Titans. Last year, Tennessee’s offense averaged 385.4 total yards per game, which ranked fifth in the NFL. The Titans averaged 32 rushing attempts per game (second in NFL) and 30 pass attempts per game (30th).
The addition of Smith and the Falcons’ updated personnel positions the team well for a bounce-back in 2021. He leaned heavily on play-action passes and pre-snap motion last year with the Titans.
Calvin Ridley’s fantasy projection
The good times should continue to roll for Ridley in 2021. He projects for around 145 targets, 90 receptions, 1,500 receiving yards, and 7 touchdowns. Ridley provides you with a low-end WR1 floor with a WR1 ceiling in PPR formats.
Calvin Ridley’s ADP
Ridley is readily available in the middle of the second round of fantasy drafts when you review redraft ADP data from Fleaflicker. This trend is similar in pay-to-play fantasy formats such as the National Fantasy Championship, where Ridley has an ADP of 18.28 as the WR5 overall. Meanwhile, his ADP in half PPR formats on Sleeper is 20.2.
Should you draft Ridley in 2021?
Absolutely. Ridley will see a similar target-and-air-yards share that Jones was provided in his prime. If you are on the clock in the second round of your fantasy football draft and Ridley is available, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger. The Falcons have a favorable schedule and will have to score points to offset a poor defense.