By Brendan Taffe
There are a lot of the same articles and podcast clips reacting to the Julio Jones trade. Everyone is excited about their player shares, i.e. Ridley, Pitts, Tannehill, etc., and for a good reason! Those players are extremely talented, and they are going to score a ton of fantasy points for your team this year. But dynasty football is all about finding opportunities to maximize value. Here are two players to go against the grain on to try to maximize value.
No Julio Jones means Calvin Ridley to the moon, right?? Pump the brakes. Last year, Calvin Ridley played 8 games with Julio Jones and 7 games without him. While playing alongside Julio, Ridley averaged 5 receptions for 76 yards and .75 touchdowns on 8 targets per game. Without Julio in the lineup, he averaged 7 receptions for 109 yards and .43 touchdowns on 11 targets per game. Aside from the touchdowns, it is absolutely safe to say that Calvin Ridley plays better without Julio Jones in the game. This difference was probably because the secondary options behind Ridley were Russell Gage, Hayden Hurst, and then, um, Todd Gurley? Yes, Gurley was 5th on the team with 35 targets in 2020. Todd Gurley is no longer on the team, and Mike Davis has replaced him. The same Mike Davis who caught 59 of his 70 targets for Carolina in 2020. Gage, Hurst, and the rest of the backups are still in the Big A, but they now are joined by someone else, and you can probably guess where I’m going with this.
Kyle Pitts doesn’t need an introduction, so I’m not going to waste anyone’s time by hyping him up. We all know he will demand targets right away, and we’re all expecting him to be a good NFL (and fantasy) player from day 1. But, considering his projections of 67/819/7, it would be a shock to everyone if Pitts did not surpass 68 targets. Why 68 targets? Well, that’s how many Julio Jones saw last year. So, should we be boosting Ridley’s fantasy value if Pitts is just going to take up all of Julio’s vacated targets and then some? I’ll put it this way: does the Julio trade improve Ridley’s outlook from what it was a week ago? Absolutely. But does it strengthen his outlook from where he was at the end of the season and pre-Kyle Pitts? I don’t think so.
Calvin Ridley was WR4 (!!!) last year while playing half the season without a good sidekick… apologies to Russell Gage and Hayden Hurst. Kyle Pitts is now that sidekick, and his presence will make it difficult for Ridley to demand 11 targets a game like he was when Julio was hurt last year. For context, Davante Adams led the league in targets per game last year with 10.6. So to wrap this up, I still think Ridley will be a stud and would love to have him on my team. But if somebody wants to give you value as if he’s going to replicate those non-Julio numbers, then jump on that opportunity.
Reynolds is now going to be devalued due to Julio Jones joining the receiver room. I think everyone agrees Julio and A.J. Brown are the most talented receivers on the team by a long shot, but there will still be plenty of opportunity for Reynolds this year.
Reason #1: Julio is very unlikely to play an entire (now) 17 game season. As a 31-year-old last year, he was only able to manage 9 games played, and in 2 of those games, he posted snap percentages of 21% and 35%. The reason for his absences was a thigh hamstring grade 2 strain, not exactly an injury that just goes away for a 31-year-old. Here is a quick timeline on his hamstring last season:
- 9/20/20 – strained left hamstring vs. the Cowboys (week 2) and missed the next game
- 10/5/20 – aggravated the hamstring vs. the Packers (week 4) and missed the next game
- 11/22/20 – examined the hamstring vs. the Saints (week 11) and missed the next game
- 12/9/20 – aggravated the hamstring vs. the Saints (week 13) and missed the final 4 games of the season
Based on this and the fact that he is entering his age 32 season, I would be astonished if Julio plays a full season.
Reason #2: The Titans have the second most vacated targets of any team in the league, only trailing the Lions. Most notably, Corey Davis (92 targets) and Jonnu Smith (65 targets) open up the door for Reynolds. Adam Humphries (35 targets), Kalif Raymond (15 targets), and MyCole Pruitt (8 targets) are also gone, and the only other WR they brought in was Racey McMath, who was selected with the 205th pick in this year’s draft. The vacated targets are not the only reason Reynolds can fill in for Davis and Smith. Corey Davis is 6’3, Jonnu Smith is 6’3, and Josh Reynolds is, wait for it, 6’3. Julio stands at 6’3, and Brown is only 6’0, but he plays much bigger due to his strength and athleticism. As NFL defenses have to adapt to smaller, quicker receivers being singled out in space, the average height on an NFL DB is under six feet tall. Because of this, most NFL defenses do not have the personnel to match up with the size that Tennessee will line up.
Groupthink is a powerful thing, and in dynasty football, it is usually best to zig when others zag. Calvin Ridley and Josh Reynolds are trending in two different directions right now, and I see two opportunities to maximize value on both of these players.
Brendan Taffe – Writer/Rule of Three Podcast
Ride or Dynasty