Calvin Ridley had no business falling to pick No. 26 in the NFL draft last year. He essentially fell into Atlanta’s lap because of draft talk fatigue and general managers talking themselves out of love with the best wide receiver in the class, and he’s proven it.
Ridley came into his first NFL season as the most polished rookie wide receiver in his class, and he was expected to make an impact right away. His crisp route running was on display all year, and it was even better than I thought it was. RotoUnderworld, which is powered by NexGen Stats, highlighted just how effective Ridley was at getting himself open for quarterback Matt Ryan:
Separation at Target Leaders:— RotoUnderworld (@rotounderworld) January 28, 2019
1. Calvin Ridley: 1.84
2. Cole Beasley: 1.83
3. Taylor Gabriel: 1.77
4. Tyler Lockett: 1.77
5. Amari Cooper: 1.71
6. DeSean Jackson: 1.7
7. Marvin Jones: 1.68
8. Davante Adams: 1.67
9. Jarvis Landry: 1.66
10. Odell Beckham: 1.65 pic.twitter.com/aCliSmFMg8
Ridley did most of his damage on the outside, lining up in the slot only 19.2% of the time. Having Julio Jones taking away a lot of attention to the opposite side of him definitely helped make Ridley’s life a lot easier this year; and he, in turn, made the lives of corners covering him one-on-one into a nightmare.
In addition to creating the most separation among all qualified WRs, Ridley was also sixth among all players in the NFL in QB rating when targeted. Matt Ryan had a staggering 129.0 QB rating when throwing the ball in Calvin Ridley’s direction this season — the highest mark on the team.
Ridley finished the season leading all rookies in receiving yards with 821 and receiving touchdowns with 10. His 64 total receptions were second among all rookies, behind only Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley.
Ridley finished third among all Falcons in receiving yards, and he led the team in receiving touchdowns. The best is yet to come, as Ridley is expected to take up an even greater role in the team’s passing offense next season.