So the Falcons made Calvin Ridley their first round pick, with Thomas Dimitroff talking excitedly about his potential. Because he’s a first round pick—and because he’s objectively a good receiver—Ridley is headed for a major day one role with this Falcons offense.
Where is he going to play, though?
My initial thought was that Ridley would be going to the slot, but chances are he and Mohamed Sanu will both spend time there in 2018. Ridley’s a good enough route runner to challenge cornerbacks of all stripes, but his straight line speed will also get him some deep looks from Matt Ryan, and the team was sorely lacking capable, consistent deep threats in 2017. Regardless of whether he’s lined up inside or outside, you’d expect Ridley to play a fair number of snaps in 2018.
My guess is that you’ll find him working outside more often in his rookie season while Sanu cleans up on quicker routes. Turning Julio and Ridley loose down the sidelines is unlikely to be as productive initially as it sounds on paper, but it is a potentially lethal combination. Regardless of what the team does with Sanu over the long haul, though, Ridley’s refined routes will give him an opportunity to play often and play wherever the Falcons want to line him up. The team just needs to be creative with how they deploy all their weapons, because on paper being able to roll out some combination of Julio, Ridley, Sanu, Austin Hooper, and Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in your passing game is absurd.
So look for Ridley to step into a prominent role, as his draft status and those glowing scouting reports would suggest. This team didn’t shrug off the presence of Harold Landry and Taven Bryan to get a receiver they thought was a luxury, and Ridley’s advanced ability suggests he’ll be ready for it. May he be great immediately.
Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we’ll bring you more in-depth thoughts regarding Ridley and this offense from our draft analyst Eric Robinson.