Fantasy Football ADP – Draft Calvin Ridley or DeAndre Hopkins?


(All summer, Adam Pfeifer will be putting the tightest fantasy football picks under the microscope in our ADP Decisions series.)

After a brief hiatus, the ADP decisions make a return. 

With fantasy football drafts in full swing (especially this weekend), stress is mounting and preparation is as crucial as ever. I have made arguments for a ton of players over the last month so be sure to check out every article if you missed anything. This time we will discuss two of the top five wide receivers in all of fantasy football — Calvin Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins. Both wideouts are absolutely elite and make for fantastic selections in the second round of drafts. But who gets the nod in 2021?

Let’s break it all down.

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The case for Calvin Ridley

Ridley’s first two NFL seasons were productive, but he took it to another level in 2021, as he emerged as Atlanta’s top wideout. Julio Jones has been dominating for the Falcons for years, but injuries caught up to him last season and the veteran wideout missed seven games. More on that later. Anyway, Ridley ultimately enjoyed a breakout third season, hauling in 90 balls for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns, finishing as fantasy’s WR5. He was essentially top-10 in all major receiving categories, including touchdowns, targets and receiving yards. Meanwhile, his 2.44 yards per route run ranked eighth among qualified receivers. Ridley’s eight 100-yard games were as many as anyone, and because Jones missed seven games, we got to see a preview of what Ridley would look like as an offense’s No. 1 pass-catcher.

And it was glorious.

In the seven games Jones was out of the Falcons’ lineup last season, Ridley’s target share was over 30%. During that same span, Ridley recorded five 100-yard games, averaging just over 20 PPR points per game. He also led the NFL with 765 receiving yards during that stretch, averaging a strong 0.37 fantasy points per snap. And per FTN’s advanced receiving numbers, Ridley was the first read 26% of the time last year, which was good for the ninth-highest rate among all receivers. And now Jones is gone, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see Ridley reach that 30% mark this season. He also showed serious ability to make plays down the field, as Ridley easily led the NFL in air yards with 1,918, handling over 41% of Atlanta’s total air yards. Ridley also averaged 10.5 targets per game with Jones out of the lineup last year but if you look at his numbers without Julio since the 2018 season, the numbers look even better.

Per FTN Fantasy’s splits tool, Ridley has been an absolute cheat code with Jones out of the lineup since entering the league back in 2018. He is averaging over 11 targets and 107 yards per game on a very healthy 7.2 receptions per contest. Now we obviously can’t just project these same numbers for Ridley in 2021 with Jones now in Tennessee, but it just shows the massive ceiling that he is as the clear top target in an offense that has been as pass-happy as any over the last few seasons. And sure, new head coach Arthur Smith has orchestrated a run-first offense during his time with the Titans, but the Falcons don’t have anything close to the same personnel. They also don’t have a running back anywhere near the caliber of Derrick Henry to give the ball to 25 times a game. Smith has always heavily relied on setting up play-action off the running game and he’ll try that again here in Atlanta, so I do expect the passing volume to come down a bit. However, with Julio’s absence, Ridley could easily flirt with a 30% target share, so that increase in individual volume could make up for the slight dip in overall passing volume. There is every reason to be ecstatic about Ridley heading into the 2021 season and he has overall WR1 potential this year.

The case for DeAndre Hopkins

What else can be said about Hopkins that hasn’t already?

Arguably the best receiver in football, Hopkins took no time adjusting to his new team during his first season in Arizona. In fact, his first game as a member of the Cardinals was a 14-catch, 151-yard performance in Week 1. Hopkins finished the year with 115 receptions for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns and was the clear focal point of this Arizona passing game. He was third in reception share (29%), first in receiving yards share (34%) and third in first read share (31%). Hopkins’ overall target share of 29.3% trailed only Green Bay’s Davante Adams, while seeing double-digit targets in nine different contests. He was top-three in the main receiving categories (targets, receptions, yardage), and that usage isn’t likely to go anywhere ahead of his second season in Arizona.

The six touchdowns certainly weren’t great to see, as Hopkins only saw nine end zone targets on the year. He also wasn’t used down the field nearly as much as Ridley in the Cardinals horizontal raid offense, as Hopkins’ 8.89-yard average depth of target was bottom-25 in the NFL. In fact, Hopkins actually ranked second in the league in targets and receptions (20) off screens last season, while 13% of his targets came off the play type. The addition of Rondale Moore could lead to fewer targets off screens for Hopkins, which could then lead to more work down the field, presenting a bit more upside, perhaps. I would also really like to see the Cardinals move Hopkins around the formation more, as he really stayed on one side of the field for the majority of the season. But regardless of where Hopkins lines up in the formation, the targets are going to be among the league leaders, even with Moore and A.J. Green joining the team. Hopkins had at least seven catches in 10 different games this season and should continue to produce an extremely high floor every single week. At 29 years old, Hopkins remains one of the best in the game.

The verdict: Calvin Ridley

This is extremely close, but I am going with the massive upside of Ridley in his first full season as Atlanta’s clear top option. I also believe Ridley has a higher ceiling for touchdowns than Hopkins, and while the Falcons will try to establish the run, their personnel, defense and overall game script will likely lead to another pass-heavy season from this offense. Hopkins is basically guaranteed to finish as a top-five fantasy receiver, but I am very excited about Ridley’s massive potential. 

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