With their second pick in the draft, in Round 4 at No. 126 overall, the Bears selected Georgia WR Riley Ridley, the little brother of Atlanta Falcons 2018 first-round All-Rookie WR Calvin.
Ridley (6-foot-1, 199 pounds) caught a team-high 44 balls for 570 yards and nine touchdowns as a true junior last year, his first as a full-time starter. Though he lacks the speed of brother Calvin, Riley Ridley is an advanced route runner with strong hands and body control and good run-after-catch ability.
Ridley said he was with his family in Palm Springs, Florida, when he received the call from Bears GM Ryan Pace.
“It’s extremely incredible what the feeling is in my household right now. My brother is screaming and happy," he said. "When you have an older brother that told me things and being positive and then you’re able to fulfill some of those things, it’s incredible to see a smile on his face. My mom, I mean at this point right now, just to have two boys into the NFL, it’s incredible.”
Although the position the Bears chose in Round 4 might surprise some folks after Ryan Pace signed Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and traded up in Round 2 for Anthony Miller last year, the school shouldn't surprise at all. Ridley becomes the fourth Bulldog selected by Pace in the past four years, joining Leonard Floyd, Roquan Smith and Javon Wims.
And as a Florida native, heading north will bring with a few adjustments. When told Saturday that Chicago was under a winter storm watch and set to receive up to eight inches of snow, Ridley seemed to be in disbelief.
"That's incredible. I'd probably be outside," said Ridley, adding that he's seen snow only once in Georgia but "it didn't stick."
In some ways, the selection of Ridley is similar to the Bears choosing David Montgomery on Friday night: He's a better football player than athlete, with strong bloodlines. As for Ridley's football character, our Greg Gabriel writes: "He has upside, but will he do what's required to maximize it?" Ridley struggled at times as a blocker and finisher, giving inconsistent effort, but the Bears haven't shied away from those types of players in the past."
And perhaps the best part of the Ridley selection, a value pick in Round 4 (one round later than his PFW projection), is that the raw but talented receiver won't be rushed onto the field because Chicago's WR depth chart is in very good shape. He's a strong fit in Matt Nagy's multi-faceted offense, though, and if he isn't heavily involved this season, his role could grow by 2020, when Taylor Gabriel will have no guaranteed money remaining in the final two years of his deal and Chicago potentially could move on from new reserves Cordarrelle Patterson and Marvin Hall.
Indeed, this pick has best available player written all over it, an approach Pace vowed last week to stick to in this draft despite entering with only five total selections.
"The good thing about this draft, is I don't feel like we're going into it — and I kind of know what the narrative is out there — but we feel fortunate with our roster right now," Pace said. "This press conference feels a little different in that there's no pressing, huge needs. We can honestly select the best players. That's a great spot to be in."
And it's a great spot for Ridley, who said he remains very close with former UGA teammates Wims and Smith, and came away from his trip to Halas Hall — his lone top-30 visit — feeling the love from the Bears.
"They want to treat it like you’re a family when you’re in Chicago with the Bears organization," Ridley said in echoing the sentiments of several other newcomers this offseason who pointed to the growing culture — and competitiveness — of Nagy's Bears. "When I got there, that’s exactly how I felt. They treated me the right way. I knew people on the team: Javon Wims, Roquan Smith, Eddie Jackson, it’s amazing.”