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Falcons 2018 draft picks: Calvin Ridley joins Julio Jones in Atlanta

Atlanta gives Matt Ryan and Steve Sarkisian one of the best receivers in the class to work with.

NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Atlanta is always good for a curveball, and they just threw one again. Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley is the team’s first round pick, selected at #26 as the Falcons look to improve their explosiveness on offense. It’s a genuine surprise, and one I’m going to need some time to process.

Ridley, 23, is extremely fast and very advanced as a route runner, two attributes that will serve him extremely well in Atlanta. He’s likely to start his career playing heavily out of the slot with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu outside, giving the team a potentially absurdly effective trio at the wide receiver position. There’s little question that if Steve Sarkisian can rise to the occasion and Matt Ryan is slinging the ball well, this passing offense will improve dramatically in 2018 with Ridley added to the mix.

The chief reasons not to like this pick are Ridley’s drops—not a fatal flaw, but something to watch—and his lack of physicality on his routes. Both can be mitigated or fixed over time, but teams will challenge him with contact early and we’ll have to see how he responds.

I was not in love with a wide receiver in the first round, to put it mildly, but Ridley has the makings of a good one, and if I’m going to urge you to trust this team after their draft success from 2015-2017, I gotta live that. Hopefully Ridley is a dynamic weapon for a resurgent Atlanta offense, and the team snags the rest of their needs in the coming rounds.

A warm welcome to Ridley in Atlanta!


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