One of the great surprises of the 2018 NFL Draft’s first round was the Atlanta selection of Calvin Ridley. Wide receiver was not an immediate impact need, most of us thought, and defensive line was. We may never know whether Ridley was the team’s absolute top target—we have heard rumors they were willing to go up for him—but Peter King’s recent, almost offhand post-draft report suggests he was not.
Here’s the relevant piece of King’s article, which would suggest that Da’Ron Payne and Vita Vea were high on the team’s wishlist before they were snapped up early in the teens. Much more surprising is the suggestion that Alabama’s Rashaan Evans was the next man on their list.
Atlanta. Weird offseason. No essential pieces to add. And the Falcons, trumped for the defensive linemen they liked and trumped by Tennessee for Rashaan Evans, plucked a falling wideout, Calvin Ridley, with the first-round pick. Second-round pick Isaiah Oliver should be an early contributor at cornerback.
Why Evans? If this report is true, it was likely to complete the team’s linebacker corps by bringing aboard a WILL linebacker with elite speed and athleticism, giving the team three absurdly great options at the position with Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, and the rookie. Having Duke Riley as the team’s fourth linebacker and Kemal Ishmael as an option of last resort would have been pretty damn absurd, and it’s not difficult to understand why Dan Quinn might have been interested in stacking up his talent at linebacker even further. Ultimately, though, the team decided not to move up (again, if this is true) and go with a potentially terrific receiver in Ridley.
Take this, like so many other draft reports, with an appropriate grain of salt. What is ultimately clear is that Ridley was the best player on the team’s board, they’re going to talk as though he was their very first choice, and once he gets on the field and starts succeeding, we won’t need to idly wonder about any of this again.