Each day leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, I’ll break down one of my top 50 prospects. In some cases, we had to make tough omissions because of injuries, poor pre-draft workouts or incomplete information. For more complete scouting reports on all the prospects, check out the Pro Football Weekly 2018 Draft Guide, which is available for order now.
28. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
6-foot, 189 pounds
Key stats: Ridley accounted for 30.9 percent of Alabama’s receptions and 35.7 percent of its receiving yardage in 2017.
The skinny: Ridley was the nation’s top-ranked wide receiver coming out of high school in 2014 by several recruiting services despite being limited to three games his senior season because of his age (turned 20 years old). Catching 18 passes for 420 yards and four touchdowns in those three games was all most schools needed to see, and he signed with Bama — immediately stepping in as Amari Cooper’s replacement after he went to the NFL. Ridley was named second-team All-SEC as a true freshman in 2015, and he set a school mark for receiving yards (1,045, actually breaking Cooper’s previous record) and caught 89 passes.
As a sophomore, Ridley’s numbers — 72 receptions, 769 yards, seven TDs — took a dip as the team’s passing game regressed with freshman Jalen Hurts behind center and a strong run game. In his final season in 2017, Ridley was named first-team All-SEC in catching 63 passes for 967 yards and five touchdowns. He caught at least one pass in all 44 games of his Alabama career and ranks second in school history in receptions (224) and receiving touchdowns (19) and third in receiving yards (2,781).
Ridley declared early for the 2018 NFL draft and performed all the tests at the NFL scouting combine except for the 60-yard shuttle. He stood on his combine times at Bama’s pro day, opting only to participate in positional drills.
Upside: Elite separation skills and top play speed. Runs fluid, pretty routes, accelerates into his break point and can roast corners and safeties at the top of his stem. Held hostage in limited passing game that saw quarterback Jalen Hurts misfire on downfield passes (see flea flicker vs. Clemson last season) or pull it down and run when big-play opportunities were there for the taking. Routinely adjusted to poorly placed passes to haul in tough catches. Willing blocker who helped spring one of the nation’s best run games the past three years.
Ridley was no match for teams playing zone or off coverage. Made most defensive backs he faced look silly at one point. Three-year starter who faced a gauntlet of talented SEC defensive backs in his time. Ran the full battery of routes under play callers Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and Brian Daboll — all who have had extensive NFL experience. Was Bama’s only trusted wide receiver — no other wideout had more than 14 catches — and still produced despite defenses rolling coverage Ridley’s way.
Excellent footwork — made several toe-tapping, NFL-caliber catches along the sideline. Creative in the red zone and keeps working to get open (see Florida State, Georgia games). Big-play threat who can turn a short catch into a game-changing play. Good testing speed (4.43-second 40-yard dash) and solid short-area quickness (6.88 3-cone drill). Watch Ridley destroy Clemson CB Ryan Carter with the quick slant, adjust to the throw slightly behind him, keep his balance and fight for more yards in the red zone:
Worked inside and outside and was used in motion, where he was able to gear up to top speed quickly. Used as change-of-pace runner occasionally and gameplans often relied on getting balls in his hands — three or more receptions in 40-of-44 career games.
Downside: Slim build and lean lower body. Short arms and smallish hands make him vulnerable to good press coverage — can get hung up vs. long-armed DBs who can stunt his release off the line. Will succumb to physicality and occasionally will short-arm passes with safeties bearing down (part of this was because of Hurts too often leading Ridley into traffic with his passes).
Combine vertical (31 inches) and broad jump (110 inches) numbers were in the bottom 10th percentile among receivers the past 20 years. Lack of explosion (middling 10-yard split numbers too) is a tad concerning. Will try to make too much happen at times and will give up yards. Goes down too easily once defenders get their hands on him — not a true tackle breaker.
Prone to concentration drops at times — put far too many catchable passes on the ground and didn’t appear noticeably improved in this area over his three seasons. This drop in the national title game against Georgia, playing with a freshman quarterback down 13 points in the third quarter, just shouldn’t happen — and Ridley is lucky this bobble isn’t intercepted:
Turns 25 in rookie season — for comparison, he’s only six months younger than Amari Cooper, who is entering his fourth NFL season. Had some quiet games on big stages. Only eight 100-yard games in 44 contests and one career game with more than nine receptions.
Best-suited destination: Ideally, Ridley would be paired up with a quarterback with good downfield accuracy and opposite a stronger possession target. Among the teams that might make good fits for him include the Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and Washington.
Quotable: “Small. Doesn’t play big. Those lean-framed guys don’t last real long typically. But you put him opposite a big target and let him run 7 [routes] and 9 [routes] and he could be really good in a play-action offense with a quarterback who can get him the ball downfield.” — National scout
Player comp: Cooper, with shades of Reggie Wayne
Expected draft range: First-round pick
50. Oregon RB Royce Freeman
49. South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert
48. LSU DE-LB Arden Key
47. Ohio State C Billy Price
46. Alabama S Ronnie Harrison
45. Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
44. Texas A&M S Armani Watts
43. South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst
42. UCF CB Mike Hughes
41. USC RB Ronald Jones II
40. Maryland WR D.J. Moore
39. UTEP OG Will Hernandez
38. Stanford DT Harrison Phillips
37. Ohio State DE Sam Hubbard
36. Stanford S Justin Reid
35. Oregon OT Tyrell Crosby
34. SMU WR Courtland Sutton
33. Penn State TE Mike Gesicki
32. Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver
31. Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn
30. Texas A and M WR Christian Kirk
29. Alabama LB Rashaan Evans