One of the most intriguing questions every fantasy season is which rookies will have an impact in their first season. While quarterbacks and tight ends rarely see much fantasy success right away, running backs and wide receivers can turn in to fantasy superstars the instant they step on the gridiron.
Take Odell Beckham Jr. for example, he turned the the fantasy world on it’s head in 2014 by averaging a ridiculous 17.2 points per game in standard formats as a rookie. In all likelihood, if you had Beckham on your team that year, you won your fantasy championship. The same can be said for players like Alvin Kamara, who finished as a top running back option last season. Rookies are coming into the NFL more prepared than ever, and 2018 should be full of players who can make a significant fantasy impact.
Enter Calvin Ridley, the smooth wide receiver out of Alabama that joins a receiving core that already features Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Some might view that as a deterrent, as there is only so much bread that can be passed around in one offense. However, it very well may be the reason Ridley is able to have enormous success in his rookie campaign.
Ridley’s draft stock fell over the process, which is why Atlanta was able to sang him with the 26th overall pick. And for the life of me, I still cannot figure out why. Up and down the draft, there was not another receiver with the route running capabilities of Ridley. He went to three national championships, winning two of them, in his three seasons with the Crimson Tide and exemplified nothing other than professionalism while under Coach Saban.
The only real knocks on Ridley are his lack of elite size and his sometimes underwhelming production while in college. Ridley’s ability to run the entire route tree should make up for any size he is lacking, and in an Atlanta offense where he will be able to begin out of the slot, he should flourish in single coverage. There are not going to be a lot of nickel corners who can guard this guy one-on-one. With two monster receivers on both sides of him, Ridley will flourish in the middle of the field, and had a knack for making plays after the catch with Alabama. He will also benefit tremendously from catching balls from Matt Ryan, who is let’s just say a slight upgrade over Jalen Hurts.
Ridley enters the season as the ninth ranked fantasy option among NFL rookies and the first wide receiver, according to NFL.com.
Michael Fabiano writes, “Ridley entered the draft as one of the top wide receivers in the class, but he landed in a place where his statistical ceiling could be limited as a rookie. That’s due to the presence of fantasy superstar Julio Jones, not to mention Mohamed Sanu and a pass-catching runner in Devonta Freeman. With a lot of mouths to feed, Ridley would do well to catch 50 passes in 2018. He’s a late rounder in most re-drafts.”
It is hard to argue when Fabiano mentions the amount of mouths to feed in the Atlanta offense, but that did not stop Taylor Gabriel from becoming a legit fantasy option in 2016. There is no doubt Ridley is a better receiver than Gabriel and should become an integral part to the Falcons offense right away. Coaches around the organization have already been praising him for his focus and work ethic heading into the new season. Steve Sarkisian is also familiar with Ridley from his days coaching Alabama. It should be a smooth transition for him into the NFL, and I expect his floor to be around 50 receptions rather than his ceiling, as Atlanta will try to get him in space as much as possible. In a PPR league, Ridley should end up being a sneaky sleeper you can grab in one of the last rounds of your draft.