The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2022 season featured one of the most remarkable season-to-season turnarounds in recent memory. After a 3-14 season filled with disaster in 2021, winning the division last year seemed like a blessing from above. This was sponsored by a massive year from Trevor Lawrence, who took the step forward that many projected.
However, any Jaguars fan might tell you that, despite their success, the team might be looking for something more. The Jaguars’ target leaders were Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram. Kirk and Jones were paid handsomely in the 2022 offseason, so it wasn’t a surprise to see both of them with a high target share.
In general, Jaguars fans and fantasy football fans are in search of a true alpha wide receiver in this offense. If Lawrence makes even more strides this season, we’re looking for a star to put up top-10 numbers.
Enter Calvin Ridley.
Calvin Ridley 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook
Facts and Figures
I’d like to start this section by saying that drafting Ridley this year could be a gamble. Yeah, I went there. And I’m still smiling about it.
Jokes aside, Ridley’s current ADP is WR17 in PPR format, according to the latest from FantasyPros. He’s currently being drafted behind receivers such as Keenan Allen and DK Metcalf and just ahead of Amari Cooper, Deebo Samuel, and Jerry Jeudy.
As things currently sit, I think this is not only a fair draft position for Ridley, but I might even draft him sooner, depending on how my draft goes.
In his final full season in Atlanta, Ridley racked up 1,374 total yards, 90 receptions, and nine touchdowns. Ridley was the WR5 on the year, averaging 18.8 PPG. If he’s able to replicate this performance with a young, budding quarterback in Lawrence, he could be one of the most valuable picks in your draft this year.
The State of the Union
The 2020 season (as mentioned above) was the last time that Ridley played in at least 15 games. After stepping away due to mental health concerns, he played in just five games in 2021. As many football fans know, Ridley was suspended for the entirety of the 2022 campaign after violating the league’s gambling policies.
Ridley’s ADP might be considered high, especially since he hasn’t been on an NFL field in over two years.
However, I am confident in Lawrence, particularly in his ability to find Ridley in space, resulting in a massive fantasy season for both of them.
This isn’t to say that Ridley won’t have competition, and his role on this team is far from guaranteed. Kirk’s 2022 season was the best of his career, putting up 1,108 yards on 84 receptions, scoring eight touchdowns. This was good enough for a WR12 finish, again, the best of his career.
As I mentioned earlier, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram were the target leaders for the Jaguars in 2022. Kirk received 23% of the team’s target share, and Jones had 21%, leaving 17% for Engram. These three players were responsible for 61% of the Jaguars’ targets, which might initially indicate that there is a smaller piece of the pie for Ridley, rendering it difficult for him to produce for your fantasy team.
Realistic Expectations for Ridley
After all of this noise, you’re probably wondering where I’m projecting Ridley to finish on the year.
I’ll say this. I don’t think that, in his first year back to the NFL, Ridley will finish as the overall fantasy WR1 on the season. That’s probably a guarantee. Kirk’s WR12 finish leads me to believe that with Ridley’s track record, his ceiling is much, much higher. The Jaguars aren’t paying him over $11 million this season for nothing.
But, with all things considered, I certainly don’t think that a top-10 finish is out of the question. For this year, I’m projecting Ridley to finish somewhere in the WR8-WR12 range, finishing the season with 80 receptions, 1,100 yards, and seven touchdowns.
I also believe that at least 16 PPG in PPR formats is well within reach for Ridley. If he’s fully healthy, there’s no telling what he and Lawrence will be able to do together.
I understand if you have concerns about drafting Ridley this season. Using a fourth or fifth-round pick on a receiver with Ridley’s track record is a risk. I’m willing to take that risk in every single draft I partake in this season.
Happy drafting to all! May this year provide you with multiple championships, great times, and even better community building!
A Look Inside the Jacksonville Jaguars
Editor’s Note: We don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Andrew focused on Calvin Ridley in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the other fantasy-relevant Jaguars by Ryan Weisse
We saw enormous strides last year that resulted in his QB7 finish. Things should get even better in Year 2 with Doug Pederson, especially when factoring in the addition of Calvin Ridley. He’s not on the Mahomes/Allen/Hurts level, but he’s in good company with Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow in Tier 2.
In his rookie year redo, Etienne played far more of a bell-cow role than most expected. He carried the ball 220 times and added another 35 receptions. While his carries are expected to go down, his receptions could go up substantially, based on what we saw from him in college. Targets are worth more than carries, which keeps Etienne as a high-ceiling RB2 in fantasy.
The reason Etienne is expected to lose carries is that the Jaguars invested a 3rd-Round pick on former Auburn Tiger Tank Bigsby. He is a solid runner but not much of a pass-catcher. That means more receiving work for Etienne, with Bigsby spelling him as needed on 1st and 2nd downs. Bigsby’s value might be limited in Year 1, but managers who draft Etienne could consider him a late-round insurance policy.
The biggest mistake fantasy drafters are making in regard to Calvin Ridley is fading Christian Kirk. Kirk gave the Jaguars everything they asked for after getting a big contract last year He finished as the fantasy WR12 with 84 catches, 1108 yards, and eight touchdowns. He did all of this on just 133 targets. The Jaguars should throw the ball more in 2023 to accommodate their pass-catching weapons, and Kirk’s target volume should stay steady, even if his share drops a bit. He has top-15 upside and is being drafted as the WR25.
Jones stock falls the furthest with Ridley in town, but it’s not all doom and gloom. He was the WR26 in fantasy last year after being basically free in drafts. This year, he’ll compete with Evan Engram to be 3rd in the pecking order instead of 2nd. There should be plenty of passing volume in Jacksonville, though. Last year, Marvin Jones finished with 81 targets as the team’s WR3, so it’s not out of the question that Zay Jones finishes with 90-100 targets if the Jags throw more. He’ll be down from last year’s 121 targets, but a top-40 finish in fantasy is still very much in the cards.
Engram just secured the bag this week, getting $42 million over the next three years. Last year, he was the TE5 in fantasy, but his year-end standing doesn’t tell the whole story. He scored almost half his points in the four games from Weeks 13-16. He did far more for the streamers than anyone who drafted him. Don’t let his fantasy playoff heroics trick you into paying up for him in 2023. He’s only a value if you can land him after the 10th Round.
We will be covering every team this offseason. So check back here often for all of our A Look Inside articles.