If you looked at a mock draft prior to the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, you would have been convinced that Taven Bryan was going to be selected by the Atlanta Falcons. It looked written in stone and there was no other way to shape it. At the bare minimum you would have expected it to be a defensive tackle. Since Dan Quinn became head coach in 2015, he has been known to throw a few curve balls. This year was no different as the Falcons drafted Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley with their first pick.
Quinn and, general manager, Thomas Dimitroff often emphasize the importance of improving the explosiveness of their offense. This pick is exactly what they preach, as they landed the top receiver in the 2018 draft at pick 26.
Ridley, 23, is an advanced route runner with elite quickness, traits that will do tremendous things for him in Atlanta. You might expect him to start his career a slot receiver. However, Quinn has previously commented that Ridley is not purely limited to that role. Mohammed Sanu has played a large amount of snaps for the Falcons from the slot receiver position as well. It seems unlikely they would suddenly change that now meaning Ridley could start opposite Julio Jones. It is also possible that Jones, Sanu, Ridley and Justin Hardy will lineup in multiple positions to offer different looks.
Pressure on Sarkisian?
This pick seemingly puts the pressure on second year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. With all these weapons at his disposal he will need to get the previously explosive offence back on track. Interestingly, Sakisian spent a significant amount of time with Ridley when he coached at Alabama. Drafting Ridley was probably at no brainer at 26 but if not, Sarkisian surely played a huge role in the decision to draft him. If that is the case, Sarkisian will need to show he can utilize his new toy quickly.
A reason not to like this pick is the drops that Ridley has accumulated over the years. This isn’t a major issue as it can be corrected with coaching, but it is something to watch. Ridley, who isn’t huge player, often lacks physicality on his routes. However, players like Marvin Harrison and Antonio Brown have found ways to be productive without that physicality. Both of these issues are correctable and it will be interesting to see how teams challenge him and if he is able to respond positively.
The final word
If you were anything like me, it took you until eight hours before the draft to finally accept that Bryan was going to be the pick, only to then explode with excitement when the pick was announced. It appears that Quinn and Dimitroff didn’t throw their best curveball, they hit us with a knuckleball. Not just any knuckleball but one that could elevate this offense back to elite form. This is a timely reminder to trust this team and the processes that have been refined since Quinn became head coach. Since the arrival of Quinn the Falcons have become a team full of draft success.
Welcome to Atlanta Calvin Ridley!