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‘Calvin Ridley will not be hard to use properly’ and more rookie receiver thoughts from Football Outsiders

Ridley’s headed for a strong first season, as Football Outsiders knows.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back with more Football Outsiders projections and expectations, this time for rookie receiver Calvin Ridley. You can buy the 2018 edition of the FO almanac right here.

Dave Choate: What can we expect from rookie Calvin Ridley in this offense? The Falcons didn’t get much out of Taylor Gabriel a year ago, but I’m wondering how much of that was a conscious choice versus Gabriel regressing.

Bryan Knowles: Gabriel is 5’8”, 165. The list of receivers who have ever had a successful year at that size is Gabriel and maybe Stephen Baker for the early-90’s Giants.

A receiver of that size is really, really hard to use properly, and his 2016 success is a credit to Shanahan’s use of pre-snap motion and other tricks to get him into space. Sarkisian’s more generic offense meant Gabriel ended was asked to beat one-on-one coverage more, and that’s not really in his skillset. Unusual players require atypical strategies to use, and Sarkisian’s generic offense really didn’t succeed there last year.

Calvin Ridley will not be hard to use properly. He’s a more traditionally built receiver, with experience running a full route tree. He’ll be a plug-and-play contributor as a third receiver as a rookie, with potential to do more going forward.

Our Playmaker Score rated him as the second-best receiver in this year’s draft class, meaning we like him a lot better at the 26th pick than some of his pre-draft top-ten hype. We would have liked to see more production in college (even when adjusting for Alabama’s run-heavy offense), but all in all, we think he’s going to be a solid contributor from day one. Think somewhere between 50-55 receptions and 750-800 yards as he slowly takes more and more of Mohamed Sanu’s role as the year goes along.