As is often the case when the Falcons make a draft pick, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about the Calvin Ridley pick when it happened. So I put my head down, wrote up some stories, and then took some time to chew it over.
Here’s how I feel: Ambivalent. I don’t doubt that Ridley will be a good player for this team, and perhaps even a great one, so on the merits it’s a perfectly fine selection. On the other hand, I really did want that long-term solution at defensive tackle or top-flight cornerback after I’d spent weeks talking myself into it, and I’ll need to see what the Falcons do from here on out to feel truly happy with the pick. But again, Ridley’s a good one, and it’s an extremely defensible selection.
Your average draft analyst, having no particular attachment to or expectations for this football team, was a lot more ebullient. Here are some grades and notes from across the spectrum.
Many of you wanted another receiver, and many of you are thusly thrilled.
Bill Connelly: Too low, just right, or too high? Too low! Ridley’s better than Moore, and he thrived as a junior despite being basically the only read his quarterback made before running quite a bit of the time. I’m not sure the Falcons needed another receiver, necessarily — the Falcons needed far more defensive help than offensive — but I’ll never complain too much about a Best Player Available (Non-QB Division) pick.
Andy Benoit: This is a clear example of a rich offense getting richer. Ridley is a polished route runner whom some believe has stylistic similarities to Antonio Brown. Atlanta’s scheme is flexible enough to move him around, and obviously, opponents will be game-planning to stop Julio Jones, making Ridley’s life easier. If the rookie can learn the system and the pro game quickly (NFL coverages can look very different than college coverages), he can contribute significantly outside, relegating Mohamed Sanu to purely a slot role. The thought of Matt Ryan with three top-flight wideouts and two big-time running backs (Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman) is terrifying.
Bleacher Report: A-
Mike Tanier: The Falcons have not selected a wide receiver in the first three rounds since they traded up for Julio Jones in 2011. Depth behind Jones and Mohamed Sanu is an issue with Taylor Gabriel gone. The last thing the Falcons need is a reason to make Steve Sarkisian even more predictable. Ridley may not be a great wide receiver. But he’s almost guaranteed to be a good one, and with Jones occupying the defense’s attention and Matt Ryan getting him the ball, he’s going to be a blast to watch.
Pete Prisco: They land a player who some thought was the best receiver in the draft. They do need more speed.
Ridley’s as game-ready as any receiver in this class: He’s got good hands, runs crisp routes, and can play outside or in the slot, but a worrisome lack of explosive athleticism (he tested very poorly in the vertical and broad jumps at the combine) is a legitimate concern. Still, physicality has never been a part of his game—he’s more of a technician who’s drawn comparisons to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne—and he’s most effective early in his route, creating separation to give his quarterback a target underneath. He should be an excellent addition to the Falcons passing attack and figures to play early in his career.
What would you give this pick?
Grade the Falcons pick of WR Calvin Ridley
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