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Bright spots in a dim year: Falcons WR Calvin Ridley is a playmaker

Hindsight on the gift that fell into the Falcons’ lap on draft night 2018.

Atlanta Falcons v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley established himself quite well in Year 1 of his NFL career after being selected by the Falcons with the No. 26 overall pick.

No one expected it. Not me, not the writers on the Falcoholic staff, not the Falcons fan base. But lo and behold, as the clock on the 26th overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft dwindled down, the Atlanta Falcons found a prospect on the board who was considered the best at his position by plenty of draft prognosticators and decided to shoot their shot.

Entering the draft, wide receiver was a position that needed to be addressed thanks to the departure of former Falcon Taylor Gabriel to the Bears in free agency. While the team held pre-draft workouts with prospects such as Javon Wims and DaeSean Hamilton, it seemed apparent that the organization would be targeting a receiver in the mid-rounds at the earliest and not at the end of the first round.

Instead, the team took advantage and in Year 1, it absolutely paid off.

Ridley did not get things rolling until Week 2 against Carolina, where he recorded his first career regular season touchdown on an 11-yard reception late in the second quarter. He introduced himself to the fierce NFC South rivalry that is the Falcons and the New Orleans Saints in Week 3 — in sensational fashion, I might add.

In his first contest against the bitter rival, Ridley performed excellently with a seven reception, 146-yard, and three touchdown outing against the Saints. It was his only 100-yard performance of the season, and of course was the game that truly displayed how impactful he can be. The very next week against Cincinnati, Ridley posted two more touchdowns and continued to show why he was one of the top steals in the entire NFL draft.

On the season, Ridley led all rookie receivers in receptions (64), yards (821), receiving touchdowns (10), receptions that resulted in a first down (39), and receptions of 20 yards or more (11). In the process, he also established a new Falcons rookie record in catches and receiving touchdowns His biggest attribute coming out of the University of Alabama, his route running, was on display quite often as well. Lining up next to Julio Jones freed up plenty of attention for Ridley, and you could visibly see the amount of trust that was displayed on a weekly basis between Ridley and quarterback Matt Ryan.

The Falcons offense will see a new play caller in offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for the 2019 season, and in a scheme that is based on vertical passing and timely route running, Ridley could absolutely see a considerable uprise in production and development for the 2019 season. The future is glowing for the talented pass catcher and the Falcons offense.