A lot of receivers selected in the first round of the NFL Draft come into the league with massive egos. Calvin Ridley is the exception to that rule.
Given the career Calvin Ridley enjoyed at Alabama it would be easy to understand if he came into the NFL with a significant ego. Luckily for the Falcons, that isn’t the case. At least Atlanta can count on one former Crimson Tide receiver to do the little things on the field for them this preseason.
While Julio Jones continues to avoid the Falcons like the plague, Ridley is quietly going about his business. His humility is doing a lot to endear him to his new teammates. Safety Ricardo Allen particularly admires the fact that Ridley isn’t “walking around like he thinks he’s hot s#@#.”
Ridley was the first receiver taken in this year’s draft, but he might have been disappointed to fall all the way down to No. 26. Wide receivers typically go off the board much sooner. Ridley’s stock took a dip due to his good, but not great athletic testing leading up to the event.
However, if you watch film of him at Alabama you quickly see why he’s fitting in so well at Atlanta. Nick Saban requires his wideouts to be active participants in the run game. Ridley only had two choices. He could either block down the field or he could come sit on the bench. Predictably, he chose to work hard for his running backs.
His ability to boost the running game was a factor in Atlanta’s decision to take him in the first round. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones get a lot of attention from opposing defenses, but the Falcons offense is dependent on running the ball effectively as well. Devonta Freeman did rush for 865 yards in just 14 games last season.
Of course, most fans will judge Ridley based on how many catches and yards he’s able to produce as a rookie. His totals should fluctuate wildly based on whether or not Jones is lining up on the opposite side of the field.
If Jones is a full participant, Ridley is going to get plenty of opportunities to work against single coverage. He’s a talented enough route runner to get open against most NFL defensive backs from the very beginning of his career. Ridley might struggle some against press coverage, but that’s something he can handle once NFL coaching takes hold.
If, on the other hand, he’s forced to take on the number one receiver role in Jones’ absence he’s going to struggle. His lack of speed and quick-twitch athleticism will make him relatively easy to erase with press coverage combined with safety help over the top. Ridley profiles as a No. 2 receiver unless his functional athleticism improves as a professional.
The good news is that Calvin Ridley already has the trust of his teammates. A lot of rookies will search for that elusive target all season long. Ridley is free to worry about the finer things of being a quality NFL wideout.