Justin Jefferson or Calvin Ridley? Now this is a tough one. Currently, according to Sleeper, Calvin Ridley’s ADP (average draft position) is 21, and Justin Jefferson’s is 22. Of course, in dynasty leagues, Jefferson is the more favourable pick due to his age. These two are so close together on boards that it’s a hard call if you have them both available to you, so let’s take a look at the pro’s and the con’s and try and make some sort of decision on this one…
Justin is clearly the more favourable, shiny pick of the two, after coming into the league and dominating as a rookie last season. Jefferson had an unbelievable year with 1400 yards and 7 touchdowns in his debut campaign, setting a rookie receiving yards record in the process.
After moving on from long term Viking and superstar receiver Stefon Diggs, the Vikings had to find a replacement for him, and quickly. They did just that. Jefferson came in and took over as Minnesota’s number one target, with 121 passes aimed his way. Adam Thielen had 106, and while he may have totalled more touchdowns than Jefferson (14), his yardage was far less (925). Thielen was targeted more in the red zone, while Jefferson broke off longer plays down the field.
The problem is, that everybody knows him now. As a rookie, you can consider yourself somewhat of an enigma, and playing opposite proven veteran Adam Thielen means you’re unlikely to be double covered at any time. Justin has openly said that he’s expecting more double teams this season, and that that will likely mean the offence will share the ball around more. The 1400 yards is going to be difficult to match while drawing so much more attention this upcoming season. Under new circumstances, if he does put up the same numbers, he’s in the superstar conversation. Jefferson has the game against the Rams and widely considered number 1 corner Jalen Ramsey circled on his calendar, and wants to put the league’s best on notice.
But what does it mean for us fantasy players? Realistically, even with a drop off, Justin Jefferson in that offence with Kirk Cousins throwing him 100+ targets should notch 1000-1100 yards and 7 touchdowns easily. So that’s probably your expected range with more eyes being on him this year. I’m very excited to watch him this year though, because it’s going to be a harder test, and everybody loves to see a new star really emerge.
Calvin Ridley went for over 100 yards a game on 8 separate occasions last season, 5 of those were while Julio Jones wasn’t on the field. Julio missed some time last year with niggling injuries and Calvin Ridley stepped up in a major way. Between week 14 and week 17, Julio didn’t play at all, and Calvin Ridley had his best spell of the season. 469 yards and 2 touchdowns in those last four games, equals just over 117 yards per game on average.
The former Alabama wide receiver has 26 touchdowns in 3 seasons in the league, but had roughly 600 more yards in last years campaign compared to his first two years. In 2018 and 2019, Ridleys receiving yards were in the 800s, before last year falling just short of 1,400, a major difference.
However, many believe that with Julio now in Tennessee, Calvin Ridley gets all the focus, and therefore again, in a similar fashion to Justin Jefferson, the possibility of regression from last years production is on the cards. Ridley finished the season with 1,374 yards and 9 touchdowns, very impressive outing.
The Falcons are under a new coaching staff, with head coach Arthur Smith taking over after a very successful spell as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. Under Smith, the Titans had their highest scoring season since 2019, so the potential for a lot of points and a lot of throws for Matt Ryan is evident. Plus, the run game in Atlanta is questionable. I’m far from convinced by Mike Davis as a full time starter, after a decent run filling in for Christian McCaffrey in Carolina last year.
Then we need to consider Kyle Pitts contribution. The 4th overall pick in this years draft is instantly considered one of the most dangerous tight end passing threats in in the league. He himself is being drafted high in fantasy leagues, and between Ridley and Pitts, there’s going to be a lot of yards and touchdowns put on the board. I actually feel like this might work in the favour of both of them, with opposing defences struggling with match ups for Pitts, while Ridley faces largely the number 1 opposing corners on the outside. Having some focus on Pitts will loosen the pressure on Ridley at times, and if the Falcons line Pitts up outside like they really should, even more so!
I know that Justin Jefferson is the glamorous pick here, and with 1400 yards and 7 TD’s as a rookie, the ceiling for him is wild. But opposing teams putting more focus on him with double teams and number 1 corners focusing on him, paired with the fact that Calvin Ridley displayed what he was capable of in a major way without Julio Jones on the field last year, I’m going to have to go with Ridley. Almost reluctantly! Everybody wants to have Justin Jefferson this year, but sometimes you have to go with the smart play to win out… and I think this is it. We will see come the end of the season…but make no mistake, both have an opportunity to ball in a major way this year, and you should be happy with either of them!
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