#26 Falcons: WR Calvin Ridley

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Overview
A three-year starter at Alabama, Ridley took the baton from Amari Cooper as the Crimson Tide's No. 1 receiver, lining up all over the formation. His stats took a dip his final two seasons (only four 100-yard receiving games in 28 starts), but that was due to a limited offensive identity with inconsistent quarterback play by Jalen Hurts and defenses rolling coverage to Ridley's side of the field - while it hurt his production, an inaccurate quarterback helped his evaluation because it forced Ridley to consistently bail out poor throws. Ridley is electric and elusive in his movements to create his own separation and threaten the defense after the catch. He is a dynamic, yet composed route runner with the savvy, explosiveness and twitch reminiscent of Stefon Diggs.
Ridley isn't a power finisher and his lack of body strength is the main hurdle keeping him from being a premier NFL pass-catcher, but he is a natural hands-catcher with reliable ball skills. Since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has produced two top-10 wide receiver prospects (Cooper, Julio Jones) and Ridley could be the third, projecting as a No. 1 wideout in the NFL.

BACKGROUND
A five-star wide receiver recruit out of high school, Calvin Ridley spent much of his youth in the foster care system (along with his three younger brothers) after his father (Colin) was deported to Guyana and his mother (Kay Daniels) dealt with personal issues. Academics were an issue for him and he attended Fort Lauderdale Dillard as a freshman and Hollywood Chaminade as a sophomore before flourishing at Monarch as a junior, leading the team to the state playoffs. However, he played only three games his senior season due to age restrictions. Ridley narrowed his college choice to four programs, choosing Alabama over Florida State, Miami and Ohio State. Despite not enrolling until fall 2015, he made an immediate impact and filled the shoes of the departed Amari Cooper, finishing the 2015 season with a school freshman record 1,045 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 89 catches, earning Freshman All-American honors. With freshman Jalen Hurts taking over at quarterback, Ridley saw his production dip as a sophomore, posting a team-best 72 receptions for 769 yards and seven scores to earn Second Team All-SEC honors. For the third straight season, he led Alabama in receiving as a junior in 2017.

Analysis
STRENGTHS
Outstanding play speed. Dynamic and detailed route runner, creating his own separation. Every route looks the same off the line of scrimmage, setting up defenders with body language and multiple gears. Explosive plant-and-go athlete at the stem, accelerating with burst off his plant foot to not only maintain his speed, but increase his pace. Loose body control and reliable hands at the catch point to consistently spear throws away from his frame. Bails out inaccurate throws from his quarterback, making proper adjustments to the ball in flight. Finds his top speed quickly and sustains on vertical patterns (his favorite routes) to out-pace corners downfield - of his 17 career touchdowns, over half (nine) were 30+ yards. Deadly on stop and slant routes, eating cushion without breaking stride.

Always working to get open. Struggled with the playbook when he arrived on campus, but showed reassuring improvements the last three seasons. Older prospect, but also a mature prospect with a soft-spoken, focused personality. Praised by his coaches for his preparation and mentality during the week, responding well to coaching (Alabama source: "Calvin is often the first player on the practice field and shows the same energy in practice that he does in games - he is very determined and just loves playing."). Lined up all over the formation in Alabama's offense and played for three different offensive coordinators. Highly productive career, finishing third in school history in receiving yards. - Dane Brugler 11/28/2017

WEAKNESSES
Lean-muscled athlete and doesn't have the body armor or bulk desired at the position. Below average functional strength, which shows at times vs. physical defensive backs at the catch point. Inconsistent results vs. press coverage, lacking the upper body power to consistently fight through the jam. Not a tackle-breaker as a ballcarrier and will never be one, preferring to escape out of bounds or even give himself up instead of taking on contact. Lack of body armor on his frame leads to durability concerns - avoided any major injuries at Alabama, but missed playing time due to various minor issues. Older prospect and turns 24 years old during his NFL rookie season. - Dane Brugler 11/28/17

COMPARES TO: Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings - A fifth round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Diggs has developed into a dangerous weapon due to his gliding routes and ability to separate down the field. Ridley has similar play speed and burst out of his cuts to get open and give his quarterback a clean target. Brugler, 1/8/17

IN OUR VIEW: Ridley isn't a power finisher and his lack of body strength is the main hurdle keeping him from being a premier NFL pass-catcher, but he is a natural hands-catcher with reliable ball skills. Since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has produced two top-10 wide receiver prospects (Amari Cooper, Julio Jones) and Ridley could be the third, projecting as a high-end No. 2 wideout in the NFL.

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