With the Falcons sitting at 26th overall and the clock ticking, it became pretty inevitable that Atlanta would go defense at that selection. Especially with prospects such as Taven Bryan, Harold Landry, Isaiah Oliver, and Maurice Hurst still remaining on the board.
However, the Falcons contingent decided to throw a curve ball and select an offensive weapon from a pretty familiar school. The selection of former Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley gives Atlanta an injection of playmaking ability on an offense that has a few weapons at its disposal. Time to take a look at Ridley and what he provides to the Falcons offense.
Calvin Ridley Scouting Report
Weight: 189 lbs
Games watched: vs. Mississippi State (2016), vs. Kentucky (2016) vs. Clemson (2017), vs. Florida State (2017), vs. Georgia (2018)
Strengths: First thing that jumps out about Ridley is that he is smooth as silk as a route runner. Ridley is very sharp in that phase and is arguably the best pure route runner in the entire draft. His strides are fluid and his ability to plant on his break at the top of his stem route is borderline textbook. In space, Ridley is dangerous with his quick cuts and elusiveness to create tough angles for defenders.
In the Gif above, Ridley catches the curl with space to operate and sets up the oncoming defender with a swift cut back inside to extend the play which resulted in a 60-yard touchdown.
Ridley burst onto the college football scene in 2015 and led Alabama in catches (89), yards (1,045) and receiving touchdowns (7) while also on his way to earning second team All-SEC honors. This past 2017 season, Ridley averaged a career-high 15.3 yards per catch with five touchdowns on 63 catches. During his entire Alabama career (44 games), Ridley caught at least one pass per game, which shows his consistency and dependability. Ridley’s 4.43 40-yard dash at the combine was very solid and while he is equipped with good speed, his ability as a technician allows him to separate from defenders. Ridley has great footwork which is often on display on sideline catches as he shows the awareness to know where he is at all times regardless of location on the field. Ridley also has natural hands and you will rarely see body catches from the experienced pass catcher.
Weaknesses: Size will always be an issue for Ridley as he has a slim frame that does not carry a ton of muscle/weight. Once defenders are able to get into his pads, Ridley has trouble breaking away.
Ridley also posted other combine numbers that were puzzling at best including a below average vertical (31 inch) and a broad jump of only 110 inches. It would be great to see Ridley add strength at the NFL level but that definitely is not a sure thing as he has appeared to be maxed out with his frame. Physicality is not a part of his skill set. That is also a testament to his overall blocking ability, which also needs to approve.
Conclusion: It was a pick by general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn that for sure was unexpected. While I felt for a while that WR3 should be addressed in this draft, I did not foresee them to make a move such as this at that juncture in the draft.
On the bright side, Ridley is a playmaker and showed that every time he took the field for the elite Alabama program. Place the ball in his hands and a big play could be on the horizon. With the amount of talent that will be around Ridley in Atlanta, a selection such as this could actually elevate an already pretty good offense to greater heights. While he has the ability to play outside, to maximize his skill set, Ridley may see considerable time in the slot, where his craftiness would be on display. It should not take long for Ridley to get adjusted to the Falcons offense and his NFL-ready game gives the Falcons another weapon for defenses to truly worry about.