How Does Calvin Ridley Fit With the Atlanta Falcons' Offensive Weapons?
Since the ridiculous 2014 Draft class, wide receivers drafted in the first round have been largely underwehlming. While there have been some hits like Amari Cooper and Will Fuller, the group on the opposite end of the spectrum is far more crowded, including hyped-up prospects like Laquon Treadwell, John Ross, Breshad Perriman and Kevin White.
In 2018, we've seen less attention paid to receivers leading up to the draft than we have in years. A weaker draft class certainly factors into this, but we could also be dealing with a healthy dose of recency bias. We didn't see a single wideout go until D.J. Moore at 24, and the Atlanta Falcons made Calvin Ridley the second receiver taken in the draft at 26 overall.
Who Is Calvin Ridley?
It was apparent that Ridley was a player to keep a close eye on right from his first year at Alabama when he led the Crimson Tide with 89 receptions in 15 games as a true freshman. He saw his volume drop off in his next two seasons, but his efficiency spiked in his junior season in 2017.
He turned in those productive numbers despite not being a stand-out player from a physical standpoint. His 4.43 40-yard dash and 6.88 3-cone times weren't bad marks, but they also weren't anything special, ranking in the 77th and 61st percentiles among wide receiver prospects, per Mockdraftable. His size stacks up unfavorably at the position, sitting in the 35th percentile or worse in all of height, weight, arm length, wingspan and hand size. His other combine drills also went very poorly with awful marks in the vertical and broad jumps as well as the 20-yard shuttle.
His top physical comparisons on Mockdraftable don't include many promising names, either, with Laveranues Coles being the only productive player in the group. That is unless you want to include Marquay McDaniel and his 554 receptions in the Canadian Football League, somewhere Ridley probably wants to avoid winding up.
PlayerProfiler's numbers aren't favorable for Ridley, either. His 40-yard dash does rank higher in their database, but his size-adjusted speed score reflects poorly. His good-but-not-great college numbers (51st percentile dominator rating and 35th percentile yards per reception) don't stack up well, either, and their top comparison for him is an unflattering one in Jared Abbrederis.
Ridley in Atlanta
Lacking game-changing speed or any dominant physical attributes, it's probably best-case scenario for Ridley that he lands in an offense where he won't be drawing opponents' top corner and where he'll have a quarterback capable of getting him the ball.
Being surrounded by Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman is going to limit his touches, but it's also going to limit the amount of attention defenses pay him. Matt Ryan is also an efficient passer, ranking top 12 in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per dropback (min. 100 dropbacks) in each of the last four seasons.
That being said, the amount of skill in that offense means there doesn't seem to be much volume to go around at this point. The only player who saw 30-plus targets in 2017 who isn't returning is Taylor Gabriel, who saw only 51, accounting for only a 10% market share of the team's targets and 12% share of the air yards.
His best path to volume will be beating out Mohamed Sanu as the team's number two wideout, but Sanu ranked a reasonable 47th among wideouts in Reception NEP per target (min. 50) in 2017 and has quietly seen 80-plus targets in both of his seasons with the Falcons.
An offense can never have too many weapons in the passing game, and while Ridley could have an impact for the Falcons' offense, it's not likely to come with a big stat-line.