Bills 2018 draft watch: Calvin Ridley, Alabama WR

November 25, 2017
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Alabama has seen its share of freshman receivers having an immediate impact over the years, but none have had more receiving yards in their first season than Calvin Ridley.

Ridley immediately filled the shoes left behind by Amari Cooper, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft. Now Ridley is finishing his third year and hoping to cement his status as a first-round pick as well. While Ridley hasn’t had the luxury of playing with gifted passers as Cooper and Julio Jones did, he has usually compensated with his ability to take screens and short routes, and turn them into big plays with his silky-smooth athleticism. The biggest difference in Ridley’s third year turns out to be the fact that he is the only big-play threat in the offense and receives a lot of attention from defenses. That, and the quarterback’s inability to make throws down the field have both been factors in Ridley’s drop in production, but there is no denying that when the ball does get in his hands, he is as dangerous as anyone in the country.

Ridley has good but not great size, with a slender build and long arms, giving him an above-average catch radius. His long legs give him very deceptive speed and quickness, but those playing against Ridley find out quickly that he has elite explosion. He seems like he is just gliding down the field, but when you watch players chasing him, you get a good understanding of how fast he is moving. I expect he runs in the low-4.4’s, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Ridley gets down into the 4.3’s when his workouts roll around. More importantly, he plays at full speed. Many guys don’t get the most out of their speed, but when Ridley turns on the juice, he is running every bit as fast as he does in a t-shirt and shorts. This makes him one of the top deep threats in the country, as well as one of the more dangerous players at catching screens.

Where Ridley really excels is as a route-runner. He uses his speed to his advantage stemming his routes to the defenders’ shoulders, eating up the cushion between them, and then suddenly breaking in the opposite way. With his speed and route-discipline, he often gets the corner to flip his hips which all but guarantees him separation. He sinks his hips well and shows efficient footwork coming in and out of his breaks. Ridley also shows very reliable hands. After taking a closer look, you see that he extends his hands to the ball quite often, and displays very good focus while tracking the deep ball. Because of this, Ridley comes down with plenty of contested catches and even shows the ability to go up and get a ball over the top of defenders. Once the ball is in his hands, he shows good vision in the open field, and his loose hips can really make defenders look foolish trying to tackle him.

If there is one area of concern, I think it lies with his slender build. Ridley hasn’t missed a game in his career, but with the size of defenders in the NFL, his durability could end up being a question. I also wonder about Ridley’s playing strength. I don’t see him breaking many tackles when the defender gets a decent piece of him. This could not only be an issue with the ball in his hands but also at the line of scrimmage. I mentioned how explosive Ridley is but if a defender gets him on the press, he may not have the strength to play through it.

Ridley hasn’t had any character issues while at Alabama, where he appears to be a good teammate. He has never had a problem playing at the highest level and should transition well into the NFL without being star-struck. He works hard at his craft and seems to be very coachable. Ridley also appears to be on the humble side in most situations. He does occasionally showboat after a big play, but that isn’t exactly uncommon at the receiver position. However, I don’t see Ridley jawing with defenders or losing focus due to his celebrations. When considering who Ridley compares to most at the NFL level, I came up with two players who are retired. His long, slender build reminds me of Reggie Wayne, who was also a very smooth athlete. Still, I think he is more explosive than Wayne ever was, and resembles Chad Johnson (or is it still Ochocinco?) in that regard. Either way, he should be someone considered to be a number-one target at the next level and will have a chance to follow his Alabama predecessors as a top-10 pick.

Compares to (Current NFL Player): Reggie Wayne (Former Indianapolis Colt)

Strengths

–          Above-average size and length

–          Explosive player with good speed and quickness

–          Advanced route-runner with a good idea of how to get separation

–          Terrific focus and leaping ability make him exceptional at gathering 50-50 balls

–          Good vision in the open field

–          Extends his hands to the ball routinely

–          Character is not an issue

Weaknesses

–          Slender build could lead to durability issues

–          Doesn’t show much of a physical side to his game

Austin Smith
About Austin Smith

Austin Smith does extensive college scouting work for Drafttek.com and has had his work featured on various media outlets. Rumor has it he knows more about college QB's than about members of his own family.

Browse more articles by Austin Smith.

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