Calvin Ridley is a Top 15 Talent at the Wide Receiver Position

Johnny Kinsley

It’s a great time for the Atlanta Falcons’ receiving corps. Julio Jones is one of the best receivers in the league, Mohamed Sanu is a solid receiver in his own right, and Alabama’s very own Calvin Ridley is a rising star in the league.

Taken in the first round with the 26th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, Ridley finished with an impressive season statistically, with 64 catches for 821 yards and ten touchdowns, including six TD receptions in his first four games. His efforts were enough for him to be selected to PFWA’s All-Rookie Team.

Ridley was also a fantasy success in his rookie season, finishing 18th among all receivers in fantasy points with 142.8 according to FantasyData. This also made him first in fantasy points among all rookie receivers. In addition, he was 12th on third down fantasy points (46.4) and 14th in red zone fantasy points (40.5). Not bad for a receiver who plays with Julio Jones!

As far as dynasty investments go, Ridley at the most is definitely worth a third-round startup pick, and can become a steal as a fourth or fifth round pick. Especially with Jones getting older (he’s currently 30), expect Ridley to be targeted more as the years and games go by.

Ridley’s age coming out of college (he turned 24 in December of his rookie season) was a concern to people, but that’s probably because he wasn’t viewed as an Odell Beckham-esque athlete who could catch any pass one-handed. But Ridley is no slouch as a receiver, and quality at any age ultimately matters. Based on the tape, he clearly offers that and then some, so let’s look at precisely why I believe Ridley is a top 15 talent at the wide receiver position.

word image 91

Ridley’s route running ability is crazy good. Here’s an example of such against the Saints in week three.

word image 92

It’s a stop n’ go corner route from Ridley here, and his stem move…

word image 93

…puts the corner in his tracks, resulting in an extremely impressive touchdown.

word image 94

Let’s see how it all looks in the clip below.

word image 8

As you may have guessed, Ridley faces off against bail technique, in which the corner has his eyes on the quarterback while maintaining a feel on the receiver. I love the violently quick stem Ridley showcases here. The corner takes the bait and can only help but watch Matt Ryan put this in the receiver’s breadbasket for the touchdown.

word image 95

This is probably Ridley’s most famous route of his pro career to date, so naturally, it just has to have a spot on this write-up!

word image 96

The Bengals defense was hot trash last season, but this is still an impressive route from the then-rookie.

word image 97

Ridley toasts the corner on this double move and he’s completely uncovered. This results in…

word image 98

…what else? Another easy touchdown!

word image 9

Ridley sells the out route beautifully on his initial break. His quickness going back to the go route is simply unfair, and one on one it’s not even a contest here.

word image 99

I think it’s safe to say I never really bought any of the criticisms against Ridley coming out of college. Granted, I never watched his tape at Alabama, but his success against man coverage makes me question why several people were so down on him in the first place.

word image 100

Take this route against the Giants for example.

word image 101

This goes for 10 yards and a first down, and wouldn’t you know it…

word image 102

Eli Apple is put on skates here. Now let’s see how this all develops in motion.

word image 10

Look at the detail Ridley puts into this curl route. With a combination of hesitance and quick, violent movement, he’s able to create enough separation to make an open window throw for Ryan. He’s able to secure the toss cleanly.

When it comes to facing man or press coverage, there’s no doubt in my mind Ridley will continue to grow and get better against tighter, tougher coverage thanks to his instincts against it.

word image 103

word image 104

word image 105

word image 106

Here’s one more example for good measure. As is indicated, Ridley hauls in the pass just barely outside the numbers. Now let’s look at how this all transpires with the magic of clips.

word image 11

The one step move from Ridley’s push off creates the separation on this slant route versus press coverage. The pass is thrown slightly behind him, but the receiver manages to adjust and further moves the chains for the Falcons.

One issue Calvin Ridley had in his rookie season was a considerable amount of drops, as he left a good chunk of plays on the field. This would be more of an issue if he wasn’t constantly able to create separation though, and it’s not like it’s a severe issue for him. And with his ability versus man or press, it gives a strong foundation for his skill set, enough for him to clean up whatever issues he does have.

As aforementioned, drafting Ridley as far up as the third round would be wise for you and your dynasty team. He should be projected for bigger and better things in his sophomore season, especially in a Falcons offense rich in passing ability. Invest in Calvin Ridley and never look back.

johnny kinsley