Calvin Ridley’s rookie season was marked by astonishing highs, a franchise mark that will likely stand a very long time, and some very aggravating miscues. Where does that season stack up against other greats of yesteryear for Atlanta?
For today, we’ll look at elite tight end Tony Gonzalez (not, of course, a Falcon his whole career), Julio Jones, Roddy White and Andre Rison to see how Ridley’s first year stacks up. This is useful because Julio and Gonzalez were considered elite players more or less immediately, and Ridley has elite potential. Rison was one of the team’s true greats, if only over a short span, and enjoyed a very successful rookie year in Indianapolis. Roddy’s numbers are a lot more lackluster because of the slow start to his career, but as a true Falcons great, he still belongs on this list.
Calvin Ridley: 64
Julio Jones: 54
Andre Rison: 52
Tony Gonzalez: 33
Roddy White: 29
Ridley is part and parcel of a higher-volume passing attack than any of these other three men, which makes a genuine difference in his output. That said, he was targeted plenty for a reason, and that’s because his reputation as one of the more advanced route runners and receivers in this class proved to be true.
Julio Jones: 921
Calvin Ridley: 821
Andre Rison: 820
Roddy White: 446
Tony Gonzalez: 336
Again, Ridley had more opportunities, but he made the most of them. What’s truly incredible here is what Julio managed to do in his very first season in just 13 games with ten fewer receptions than Ridley, which illustrates that as good as Ridley is and will be, he’s probably not going to be Julio Jones.
Calvin Ridley: 10
Julio Jones: 8
Andre Rison: 4
Roddy White: 3
Tony Gonzalez: 2
This is where Ridley stands out, and where he’ll continue to be very dangerous for this offense. When things compress in the red zone, the receivers who tend to fare the best are the ones who are excellent at achieving separation. Ridley does that exceptionally well, and thus it’s no great surprise that he was a favored red zone target for Matt Ryan in 2018. Julio, meanwhile, was also stellar as a rookie, again in just 13 games.
This is a pretty simple stat that tells you what percentage of targets a receiver actually reeled in. This can be mitigated by a lot of things, including quality defense, drops, and inaccuracy from your quarterback. Still, it’s a useful snapshot of how good receivers are at corralling passes thrown to them.
Calvin Ridley: 69.6%
Tony Gonzalez: 61.1%
Julio Jones: 56.8%
Roddy White: 42.0%
Andre Rison: N/A
Ridley’s high percentage here is a testament to Matt Ryan’s accuracy, which has been better from 2006-2018 than it was back in 2011 when Julio Jones debuted. It’s also a testament to his route running prowess, as he’s able to get open, earn targets, and then reel them in. When you consider
Rison’s catch rate is not listed because catch rate was not tracked during his rookie season, as far as I can tell.
Julio Jones: 6
Calvin Ridley: 3 to 4
Roddy White: N/A
Tony Gonzalez: N/A
Andre Rison: N/A
I have some doubts that all of Ridley’s drops are being counted here, but even so, he stacks up favorably against Julio, who enjoyed a magical rookie year but certainly had his moments. Ridley’s drops were ill-timed and frustrating, but they were not so legion as they seemed.
Overall, then, Ridley looks as good as any receiver on this list not named Julio Jones, and very nearly as good as him across the board. The era we’re living in certainly is a factor in Ridley’s production, but if we step away from the quiet games and the miscues that frustrated us at times during the team’s losing streak, we see a pretty special rookie having a pretty special rookie season. As Julio Jones continues his assault on history, Ridley ought to be able to make his dent on the team’s leaderboards and opposing defenses alike, and I look forward to seeing his career in Atlanta unfold. It’s nice to remind myself of this given how frustrating some of those drops and mistakes truly were.
Just for fun, by the way, I thought I’d throw in highly-touted Panthers rookie D.J. Moore, who went ahead of Ridley to the Carolina Panthers. Here’s their season lines side-by-side.
Calvin Ridley: 64 receptions, 821 yards, 10 touchdowns, 69.6% catch rate, 12.8 yards per reception
D.J. Moore: 55 receptions, 788 yards, 2 touchdowns, 67.1% catch rate, 14.3 yards per reception
Both players should be pretty special, but I know which one I’d rather have.