Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley will wear the number zero for the 2023 season — coincidentally, also the number of snaps Ridley has played in the NFL since late October 2021, after he took time off for mental health reasons and then received a season-long suspension for betting on games.
As a result, Jacksonville trading for Ridley during the 2022 season and his getting reinstated in March is one of the most under-the-radar roster additions for the 2023 season. He was once one of the most promising receivers in the game. So what does he bring to the table for the Jaguars this year and beyond?
Ridley improved over each of the first three seasons of his NFL career, with his PFF receiving grade going from 70.5 in his rookie season to 84.7 in his third season in 2020. He ranked 14th among wide receivers in PFF grade in 2020 and also finished with the ninth-highest average depth of target, the seventh-best receiving-yards-per-route-run mark and the most plays that gained 15-plus yards.
It is not an exaggeration to say Ridley was knocking on the door of becoming an elite NFL wide receiver. Over his second and third seasons, the former Alabama star turned into a consistent deep threat in the NFL, as 27.2% of his targets came on deep attempts, which ranked 10th among receivers. He parlayed that into the highest overall deep catch rate (62.4%) among the top 10.
Of note is that Ridley recorded these statistics while being a No. 2 wide receiver on the Falcons, playing behind Julio Jones, which makes it impressive but also suggests that stopping Ridley was not the top priority for opposing defenses. Jones did miss seven games in 2020, so we got a glimpse of Ridley as a WR1 — his expected role in Jacksonville. Ridley averaged 109 receiving yards per game with Jones out, which led the league in those weeks. He also picked up 2.70 receiving yards per route run, which ranked third, while his 81.2 PFF receiving grade placed him 13th among 104 wide receivers in that span.
While the Jaguars have Trevor Lawrence, one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, are an up-and-coming team and have heavily invested in the receiver position in recent years, the contributions they got from the wide receiver position in the 2022 season were average at best. Ridley should be a significant upgrade to the unit. Jacksonville receivers tied for the 13th-most explosive receptions in the league (63) last year, while Ridley alone had 40 such plays in his last full season in 2020. None of the Jaguars’ starting wide receivers averaged more than 1.75 receiving yards per route run in 2022, compared to Ridley's aforementioned 2.70 mark as WR1 in Atlanta.
Furthermore, Jaguars receivers dropped the most passes in the entire league last year (26), which led to a league-worst 9.3% drop rate. While Ridley has had his fair share of drops over the years — both in the NFL and at Alabama — his addition would represent a huge upgrade for the Jaguars if he was able to drop as many passes during the 2023 season as the number on his jersey.