Falcons Forego Defense, Draft Calvin Ridley in First Round
The reaction from Falcons fans on Twitter was priceless. When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Atlanta Falcons selected Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley with the 26th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, tweets of “oh my gosh,” “Are you kidding me,” and “smh” filled the timeline.
For most of the offseason, Falcons fans fired back at anyone who predicted Atlanta taking a wide receiver in the first round of the draft. And although there were few, the experts who predicted that Dan Quinn would take a chance on a receiver were right.
The Falcons intend for Ridley to fill the gap left by Taylor Gabriel, who signed with the Chicago Bears in free agency. The 23-year-old should be more than capable of doing so. Ridley set the single-season receiving record at Alabama with 1,045 yards in his freshman year. Although he never reached the 1,000-yard mark again, he earned All-SEC honors in 2017.
Many scouts and draft experts considered Ridley to be the best wide receiver in this year’s draft. He can run any route, with blazing speed. Measuring at 6’1” and 189 lbs., Ridley has the small frame to cut in and out of breaks quickly. Lining him up next to Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu should lead to many one-on-one opportunities.
With that being said, I can’t lie and say I am in love with this pick. Ridley will be a backup receiver. That does not mean he will not get a considerable number of snaps, but he will not be above Sanu nor Jones. Plus, Steve Sarkisian is still calling plays in Atlanta, which is a cause for concern.
I fully expected the Falcons to address defensive tackle in the first round. I could envision Thomas Dimitroff trading up to grab either Da’Ron Payne or Taven Bryan. Yet, the Falcons stayed at 26 and nabbed the best player available.
There was no way Atlanta could completely replace Dontari Poe, but Payne and Bryan were the closest options. Washington didn’t hesitate to draft Payne with the 13th pick, and Jacksonville seized the opportunity of picking Bryan, 20 minutes after Atlanta chose Ridley.
Unless they trade up, Atlanta has the 26th pick in the second round of the draft. They certainly have to address the hole at defensive tackle. Maurice Hurst, Tim Settle, and Rasheem Green each made impacts in college and are still available.
By David Schiele