Seven years after drafting Julio Jones, the Atlanta Falcons struck gold with another Alabama wide receiver. Calvin Ridley had a great year one and continues to show the NFL that he is the real deal.
Despite greater needs on the offensive and defensive lines, the Atlanta Falcons chose wide receiver Calvin Ridley with pick number 26 in the NFL draft. It was an opportunity that the club felt they could not pass up when the speedy wide receiver surprisingly fell in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Though he was the second wide receiver drafted behind D.J. Moore of the Carolina Panthers, many analysts had Calvin Ridley rated as the best wide receiver in the draft class. The Atlanta Falcons apparently had him rated as the top wide receiver as well and quickly turned in the pick when Ridley was still on the board.
Many draft experts were surprised by the Atlanta Falcons selection of Ridley, but the fact that the team had lost slot receiver Taylor Gabriel in free agency, made the selection justifiable. In today’s passing NFL, a third wide receiver is now considered a starter.
Taven Bryan who was selected three picks later by the Jacksonville Jaguars is the player that many expected the Atlanta Falcons to take. He only has one career NFL start on his resume, but he has appeared in all 19 games, since becoming a professional.
Bryan has made an impact, collecting 25 tackles, four tackles for a loss, two sacks and seven quarterback hits. However, his production has been nowhere near the level of what Calvin Ridley has produced for the Atlanta Falcons.
It did not take long for the draft section of Calvin Ridley to start paying dividends. After being targeted just twice and held without a catch in his first NFL game, Ridley found the end zone for his first NFL touchdown in week two.
Week three was the true coming-out party for Ridley. He caught seven passes for a career-high 146 yards and a phenomenal three touchdowns. Calvin scored two more touchdowns the following week. That meant he found pay dirt six times, in his first four professional games.
Ridley would go on to score ten touchdowns total as a rookie, which placed him in a tie for number six in the entire league. That was two more than Julio Jones scored last season. Ridley was just ten yards short of reaching 1000 in his first season. He would have been just the eighth first-year wide receiver to reach such a milestone.
So far there are zero signs of a sophomore slump, as Calvin Ridley is off to an even better place to start this season. He has scored a touchdown in both games, thus far in the 2019 NFL season.
Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, Calvin tied a career-high with eight receptions. He also recorded the second 100 yard game of his career. He and Julio Jones both had 100 yards in the game, giving the Atlanta Falcons their first pair of guys to reach the century mark in the same game, in quite some time.
So far Calvin Ridley is on pace to catch 96 passes for 1,352 yards and 16 touchdowns. It’s uncertain if he will be able to maintain that pace, particularly in the touchdown department.
Yet one thing is obviously clear. The Atlanta Falcons have found another number one caliber wide receiver from the University of Alabama and boast the NFL’s best starting trio at the position. He is not named Evander Holyfield, but Calvin Ridley is certainly “the Real Deal”.