Scouting: Calvin Ridley. WR, Alabama
HT/WT: 6’1”/188 lbs.
Calvin Ridley has a chance to be the first WR selected when the NFL draft commences at the end of April. He’s a consensus top-10 pick in most every mock draft out there and the tape clearly shows why.
Before we get to that, a little backstory on Ridley. He’s got athletic talent in his DNA as his mother was a high school track star. Speed is one component of Ridley’s game that pops off the film. Some guys might run a faster 40-time, but when you put them in pads and in game, you don’t see it. Ridley’s speed doesn’t drop off in pads and he’s silky smooth in his routes. In practice when the vaunted Alabama defense would be chirping about owning the offense, they would draw up Ridley on a go-route which would shut them up.
Ridley was the nations top WR recruit out of high school in south Florida and upon arriving in Tuscaloosa, was tasked with filling the spot vacated by Amari Cooper. A tall task that he lived up to when he broke Cooper’s school record for receiving yards by a freshman. But his road to get to Alabama was a little less conventional than others. Calvin and his three younger brothers spent time in foster care when Calvin was just seven. At some point he was held back a year in school and only got to play three games in his senior season. He reached the age of 19 years and 9 months at this point which made him ineligible for high school athletics. Ridley remained with his high school team helping coach the wide receivers including brother Riley who went to the University of Georgia, and current Crimson Tide Freshman, Jerry Jeudy.
Before we get to the good stuff, a couple of red flags. There’s a story about his inability to pick up signals and play calls quickly. In his first year at Alabama a separate coach was assigned to signal just Ridley what his assignment was on each play. After one season he picked it up and was on the same page with everyone else. But an NFL playbook is so much more complex. Will the learning curve be longer than a season?
Another red flag is that Ridley was a 19-year-old high schooler. He was a 23-year-old collegiate athlete. You might say he was a man playing amongst boys. When he gets to the NFL, this won’t be the case for the first time in his career. How will Ridley adjust?
I’m not sure how quick he will learn a playbook, or adjust to guys far more experienced covering him for the first time. But I will say that he is physically able to accept the challenge.
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On to the tapes, courtesy of Draft Breakdown. See for yourself.
His speed is there. His smoothness in route running is there. The ability to catch the ball away from his body his there. He had made his fair share of tough catches on bad throws from quarterback Jalen Hurts. He creates separation off the line in press coverage which is tough for young receivers. Especially not large ones as Ridley is a mediocre 6’1, 188 pounds and done growing. But he also can settle into zones and give his quarterback a lane to get him the ball.
The one thing though that jumped off the tape to me was his ability to catch, turn, and run seemingly all in one motion. It’s uncanny. Often times you see a receiver try to turn up field before securing the catch and ends up taking his eyes off the ball, the ball is bobbled and dropped. Ridley at times seems to do that in one fluid motion while securing the ball. His body turns where he wants to go but the eyes and hands with out stretched arms stay locked on the ball. That split second he gains in this ability is the difference in the pass being broken up and making the catch. Or the difference in getting tackled after catch versus slipping the tackle and racking up yards after catch.
The Bottom Line: Explosive is the word that shows up in a lot of others descriptions of Ridley’s game. I can’t disagree there. It’s hard to find a fair comparison because some guys with his skill set are a different size. Some guys are so good that it wouldn’t be fair to say, Calvin Ridley could be Antonio Brown of Odell Beckham like. He very well could be. Those guys a few inches shorter though.
I feel like if one team could capitalize on Ridley right away, it’s the Colts picking at number three with Frank Reich now at the team’s helm. Having spent 2017 without Andrew Luck netted them the third overall pick. If Luck is ready for 2018, with T.Y. Hilton on the roster drawing attention, it makes Ridley dangerous. Luck would easily be the best QB Ridley has ever had throwing to him. Hilton would draw more attention away from Ridley and ease the transition. Reich is a great offensive mind who got a really good season in Philly out of Nelson Agholor who was basically their version of the Ravens Breshad Perriman until 2017. Scared, couldn’t catch, mentally unfocused, declared a bust on his last chance.
Wideouts are always going off the board earlier than anticipated. If the Browns and Giants take the consensus quarterbacks, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen at #1 and #2, the Colts could easily take Ridley #3 and justify it.
Sorry Ravens fans. Calvin Ridley isn’t falling to #16, or remotely close where the Ravens could reasonably trade up for his services.
Despite being an Alabama guy and how well documented it is that Ozzie Newsome loves Alabama guys.
Despite this recent mock draft
Or this recent idea that he’ll fall to #19 and Dallas
Or this one that says if available at #24, they would take Christian Kirk instead of Calvin Ridley
Not happening. Calvin Ridley will be a top-ten pick, could go as high as #3. Teams reach for WRs in the draft in fear of missing out. Three of them went in the top-ten last year.
The only thing changing that and making him fall down the draft boards would be a bad combine, poor interviews, or off field infractions.