Dynasty Dilemma: Calvin Ridley
Calvin Ridley makes his long-awaited return to the NFL and fantasy football rosters in the 2023 season, following a suspension in 2022 and an extended absence for personal reasons in 2021. Ridley is currently going as WR16, a high-end WR2, in startup/best ball drafts during the offseason and is one of the more polarizing players to roster in fantasy football this season; he certainly has the chance to be a massive boom-or-bust for fantasy owners.
Following a dominant debut for the Jaguars, Ridley showed no signs of rust and re-established himself as one of the elite wide receivers in the game with an incredibly high ceiling alongside Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were one of the bigger surprises during the 2022 season, the first under Head Coach Doug Pederson, winning the AFC South and advancing to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Trevor Lawrence enjoyed a breakout campaign in his sophomore season, and the ceiling keeps rising for the Jaguars. Last season, Jacksonville ranked 12th in the National Football League in passing plays (59.4%). In his first season with the Jaguars, Christian Kirk finished as the WR11, Zay Jones ended the campaign as the WR26, and Evan Engram posted a TE5 finish. Under Pederson, the Jaguars will continue to throw the ball and put up points - Jacksonville was also the ninth-best scoring offense in 2022 (23.9 ppg).
Christian Kirk led the Jaguars in targets during the 2022 season with 133, and Zay Jones was targeted 121 times. Jacksonville replaces Marvin Jones (81 targets) with an upgrade in Calvin Ridley. Building the rapport with Trevor Lawrence may take some time, but Jacksonville should continue to be an elite offense.
At 28 years old and nearly two full seasons removed from the NFL, Ridley enters the 2023 season in the final year of his rookie deal and the need to prove he is still an elite receiver. During the first three years of his NFL career, Ridley averaged 227.43 points per season, with his best year coming in 2020, where he scored 280.5 points, capitalizing on an increase in targets due to Julio Jones missing seven games.
In 2021, Chris Godwin played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the franchise tag and posted the second-best season of his career, finishing as WR16, scored 240.4 PPR fantasy points, and parlayed that into a three-year, 60 million dollar contract extension in Tampa Bay. Godwin and Ridley are a similar tier of wide receiver for fantasy purposes, with managers expecting both to contribute as a WR2 on competitive rosters.
In Dynasty formats, age always matters for a roster, and Ridley is closer to 30 than 25. At 28 years old, he will turn 29 during the season; Ridley has not played much football in the past two seasons. However, during his three full seasons in the NFL (2018-20), Ridley consistently ranked as a WR2 while reaching WR5 in 2020. Around the league, the other receivers that are currently 28 years old entering the 2023 season are Mike Williams, Zay Jones, Tyler Boyd, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Josh Reynolds, Richie James, and Kendrick Bourne - many of which are relegated to bench pieces or most likely found on your league's waiver wire. Additionally, in recent memory, we have seen impressive seasons by wide receivers during their age-28 season, specifically in the last two years with Cooper Kupp (2021) and Tyreek Hill (2022).
As previously stated, Ridley has been on the field a little in the last two years - playing just five games since his WR5 finish in 2020. We have yet to see him play a snap for the Jacksonville Jaguars (outside of training camp videos), but it does not appear he has lost a step. Do fantasy owners risk a soon-to-be 29-year-old wide receiver, with just five games in the last two seasons, with a starting spot on the roster?
Ridley’s debut for the Jaguars was eye-opening, as he dominated in his first game action with Jacksonville, posting the WR6 finish and 24.10 PPR points for fantasy owners. Ridley was targeted 11 times, which was tied for sixth across the NFL, and led the Jaguars offense.
Ridley has league winning upside and in dynasty formats, contending teams that are in need of wide receivers, should have no issue parting with a future first round pick and a later mid-round draft selection to secure an elite player from a rebuilding team. As a rebuilding team, now is an excellent time to sell extremely high on Ridley and set yourself up for the future by trading the veteran at his peak value.