We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. After taking stock of the TE position, we now move on to WR. One of the strongest position groups on the roster, the Falcons retain most of their corps from 2019 in star Julio Jones, the up-and-coming Calvin Ridley, and the surprisingly productive Russell Gage.
Today we take a closer look at third-year player Calvin Ridley, a rising star in the NFL who is in line for an even bigger role in 2020 with the departure of Mohamed Sanu.
WR Calvin Ridley
Age: 25 (26 during 2020 season)
Contract: $2.97M cap hit in 2020, rookie contract through 2021 ($2.72M APY), possible fifth-year option in 2022
Career Production: 29 games played, 15 games started | 127 receptions, 1687 yards, 13.3 YPR, 17 TD | 8 carries, 61 yards, 7.6 YPC
2019 Production: 13 games played, 10 games started | 63 receptions, 866 yards, 13.7 YPR, 7 TD | 2 carries, 34 yards, 17.0 YPC
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 1st round (#26 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2018-present)
Heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, there was significant buzz that the Falcons had interest in drafting a WR in the first round—in particular, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. At the time, I thought this was utter nonsense, and was public with my belief that it was a smokescreen by the team or a made-up rumor by outside draft analysts. Even after a somewhat disappointing offensive season under Steve Sarkisian, the belief was still that Atlanta needed significantly more help on defense than offense. Turns out I was wrong, because the Falcons drafted Ridley with the 26th overall pick.
In truth, the Falcons were probably right to take Ridley over my preferred pick at the time, DT Taven Bryan. Bryan has been thoroughly mediocre, and while hindsight tells us Atlanta would likely have been better off taking a guard like Will Hernandez at 26 (both Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco wound up hurt in 2018 and cut in 2019), there’s no denying that Ridley has been an excellent addition to the offense. While only two WRs were selected in the first round, Ridley has arguably been the best—though D.J. Moore, who was drafted two picks earlier, has also been great for the Panthers.
Despite starting as the WR3 for the Falcons in 2018 behind two established veterans in Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Ridley had an incredible rookie season. His final stat line of 64 receptions for 821 yards (12.8 YPR) and 10 TDs led all rookie WRs, and he broke Atlanta’s rookie receiving TD record which had stood since 1980 (shout out to Junior Miller). Ridley was once again on his way to great things in 2019, but was slowed down by injuries and appeared in just 13 games. Still, he improved slightly on his overall numbers and was well on-pace to outperform his rookie season and reach 1000 yards had he played in all 16 games.
After the trade of Mohamed Sanu to the Patriots in late 2019—and the Falcons adding very little competition at WR heading into 2020—Ridley is now poised for a big role as the WR2 on offense next to Julio Jones. With Austin Hooper also gone, Ridley figures to be the #2 overall target for Matt Ryan this year. His combination of downfield speed, just enough size and strength, and ridiculous route-running and technical savvy have made him a very difficult coverage assignment for opposing CBs—and he’s still got room to improve in just his third NFL season.
Projection: Ridley will seize an even greater role in the offense in 2020 and post his best statistical season yet. I’d expect around 80 receptions for 1100 yards (13.75 YPR) and 10 TDs for the rising star as he continues his growth. If all goes to plan, Atlanta is likely to have two 1000-yard receivers for the first time since 2012 with Julio Jones and Roddy White.