2018 NFL Draft: Alabama WR Calvin Ridley Scouting Report
Is Calvin Ridley the next star wide receiver out of Alabama and does he deserve the hype as a top receiver in the 2018 NFL Draft class?
Even though Alabama is a run-based system, they have had their share of top-tier wide receivers. Including, in the last decade, the likes of Julio Jones in 2011 and Amari Cooper in 2015. Junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley could be next in line to be picked in the top 10 in the 2018 NFL Draft. The 6’1″ 190 lb. wide receiver surpassed 1,000 yards in his freshman year in 2015 when he was playing with Cooper. Ridley was USA Today Freshman All-American (2015), 2-time SEC Champion (2015-2016), 2-time CFP Champion (2015, 2017), 2nd team All-SEC (2016), and 1st team All-SEC (2017). Given a better quarterback/ system, Ridley could have produced more as the quarterback play really hindered Ridley’s production in 2016-2017.
Even though he did not get over 1,000 yards his next 2 seasons, Ridley showed traits of a top receiver. He is an efficient route runner who has the speed to burn defensive backs. One that can play on the outside or in the slot.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ridley was a dangerous threat with the ball in his hands as he eluded 24 tackles after the catch and had 6.2 yards after the catch per reception at Alabama. He was still statically dominant as he was 4 catches away (224) from Amari Cooper’s career receptions (228) and was 2nd in single-season catches with 89 receptions in 2015. Ridley was 3rd in career receiving yards with 2,781 yards at Alabama and is 4th in single-season catches with 1,045 yards in 2015. He was also tied at 9th with most receptions in a game with 11 catches (2016), 12.4 yards per catch, and 20 total career touchdowns.
Calvin Ridley’s route running is his best attribute. He is a relatively balanced receiver. He was often used in the slot and on the outside; as well as outside running plays like pitches, tosses, reverses, and handoffs.
In 2015 against Wisconsin, Ridley runs an in/dig route from the slot. He finds an easy opening between the defensive backs in zone coverage and catches it in stride without losing a step. He can create mismatches in the slot and has sudden burst with his stutter-step. That catches defenders off-guard, which help him get separation even more. Ridley brings a lot of effort in the routes he runs. Thus, he is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, especially on outside running plays.
A versatile wide receiver like Ridley was open a lot of the time, but since the quarterback was so lacking, they were missed opportunities for Ridley to score or to get big plays.
In 2016 against Western Kentucky, Ridley burns the cornerback. As the safety comes over to help, the quarterback underthrows it. Nevertheless, Ridley makes a great adjustment to track the ball with traffic coming his way. He goes up and attacks the ball as Ridley had very few occasions like this at Alabama as he was double teamed many times. Ridley shows great situational awareness and fluid hips on this route to keep track of the ball. He has good enough hands to make splash plays as a top receiver prospect.
Many defensive backs underestimate Ridley’s sudden burst and quick footwork as he sells the route as good as any receiver in this draft class.
In 2017 against Florida State, Ridley runs an out route from the slot. With his combination of acceleration, route running, and footwork; he creates around 5 yards of separation with no one touching him till he went out-of-bounds. When Ridley runs a route, he often jogs at a certain speed for a second or two. Then he turns on the jets and cuts very well. Ridley often fools defenders if he uses a stutter step or fakes to sell the route.
As a receiver who can make plays in space and as a deep threat, Ridley is a complete receiver that should be the 1st receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Due to the Alabama run-heavy system, Ridley is very used to run blocking and engages in it very well. He is physical when creating blocks for the running back on the outside. He also has enough discipline to not cause a penalty. Despite his size, Ridley has been durable his whole career at Alabama. Ridley has also faced the best competition in college football as he is at Alabama going against future NFL caliber cornerbacks.
Against Kentucky in 2017, he has a drop in the end zone that could have been a touchdown. He has a few drops where he should secure it with his hands. Sometimes he tries to body catch it and bounces off his chest in contested catches. Ridley most likely will not be the go-to red zone threat. However, he will get most of his yards on quick routes on the outside and in the slot.
The biggest knocks on Calvin Ridley is his age (23 years old), his frame, and the concentration drops he has at times.
Ridley will definitely have to bulk up a bit to endure hits. A team investing a top 10 pick will have to think about the future contract situation. Especially since he will be older than most rookie players coming out of this draft class this year. Teams could also think that he is more of a complementary wide receiver than a number one wide receiver as he had his best year with Amari Cooper.
Round Projection – Top 10 Pick
Calvin Ridley is the most polished prospect and should be selected in the top 15 picks, at least. He will most likely be taken no later than to the Baltimore Ravens or the Chicago Bears if they take him at pick 8. His route running is among the best in this wide receiver draft class. Even though he does not have the best hands, he still high points the ball. He has the speed to be a good deep threat as well. His age is obviously a concern. However, that is what you can get with this kind of athleticism mixed in with good technique and mechanics from the receiver position. The explosive and instinctive play you get out of Calvin Ridley is worth a top 10 pick.