2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Calvin Ridley hoping to be standout rookie as right 'fit' in Atlanta

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Saquon Barkley had a 39-yard run on his first NFL carry for the Giants. Michael Gallup caught a 30-yard touchdown on his lone reception for the Cowboys. And Royce Freeman (Broncos), DJ Moore (Panthers) and Kerryon Johnson (Lions) looked NFL ready in their first games.

Others had strong performances as well, but a quality preseason outing does not guarantee a successful career. Conversely, a bad preseason game does not mean that player is a bust.

That's good for Falcons rookie receiver Calvin Ridley.

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Calvin Ridley ATL • WR • 18
2017 stats at Alabama
REC63
YDS967
TD5

On Friday against the Jets, Ridley was barely noticeable -- on the field and in the box score. He hardly played because prominent players typically don't get much action in the first preseason game, and he only had one catch for minus-2 yards.

But have no fear. Ridley is still set up to be a significant contributor for the Falcons as a rookie. And he could be a good reserve Fantasy option in 2018.

Despite not making any plays against the Jets in the first preseason game, Ridley has reportedly been a star in training camp. And he's excited about his role catching passes from Matt Ryan in an offense that features Julio Jones.

"I think I fit in perfect," Ridley said in an interview with CBS Sports after Friday's contest. "I fit in great. In practice, I see it and everybody sees it. I plan on helping."

CBS Sports NFL columnist Pete Prisco watched Ridley in practice during his training camp tour, and he came away impressed. Several members of the Falcons organization also raved about Ridley.

Prisco wrote that Ryan's "face lit up" when they talked about the rookie receiver.

"I think he's a dynamic player," Ryan said to Prisco. "He's different from some of the guys we have. Obviously, Julio is big, strong and just physical. When you see him walk through the door, you're going, 'Oh my gosh, this guy is intimidating.' Calvin is different. He moves differently. He has a great change of direction. He has some really good top-end speed. He's kind of impressed me with that. He's faster than I thought, and I thought he was fast coming in. He's got another gear he can kick into."

Ridley will likely be the third receiver for the Falcons behind Jones and Mohamed Sanu, but Ridley can still be a factor for Fantasy owners. In 2016, when Ryan was the NFL MVP, he had Jones (83 catches, 1,409 yards and six touchdowns on 129 targets), Sanu (59 catches, 653 yards and four touchdowns on 81 targets) and Taylor Gabriel (35 catches, 579 yards and six touchdowns on 49 targets) all make strong contributions.

Ridley should be a significant upgrade over Gabriel, who struggled in 2017 with just 33 catches for 378 yards and one touchdown on 51 targets. But you're probably reaching if you expect Ridley to come in and dominate for the Falcons this season, barring an injury to Jones or Sanu.

And Ridley might not be the best rookie receiver of this draft class. As of now, Ridley is the first rookie receiver being drafted based on Average Draft Position at No. 116 overall in Round 10. Moore is next at No. 133 in Round 12, followed by Antony Miller at No. 144 in Round 12 and Gallup at No. 146 in Round 13.

I currently have it ranked: Moore, Miller, Gallup and Ridley. I love Ridley's upside, but Moore and Gallup could be the No. 1 receivers for their respective teams, while Miller likely has a bigger role for the Bears than Ridley does for the Falcons.

You should definitely draft Ridley with a late-round pick in all formats, but his ceiling is somewhat limited given the talent around him. He'll have the chance to make plenty of plays for the Falcons, but he's not someone to consider as a Fantasy starter.

If you treat him as a reserve and someone you can use when the matchup is right, that's the right approach. And just know that he will definitely perform better than his first preseason game. 

So what sleepers should you snatch in your Fantasy Football draft? And which huge running backs do you need to jump all over? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Alvin Kamara's huge breakout last season and find out.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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