After that title, you’re either reading because you agree, or you’re reading because you’re confused as to why I would think this. Either way – in this article, you’re going to see the flaws of Calvin Ridley brought more to the forefront, instead of highlight reels overtaking the actual film. I want you to keep in mind that I am not completely against drafting Ridley – I just don’t want him between 16-25, as he doesn’t have the value that other prospects have in that range.
I’ve found myself debating other fans about Ridley more and more, as the draft draws closer. I’ve watched more and more tape, and while some may call it nitpicking, I’d like to go over some things that I’ve noticed. Things that others may not see, be it due to only watching highlights, or being in love with him because he’s from Alabama, or whatever other reason it may be. Things that simply don’t make him worth any more than a late first rounder. Let’s get into it.
Point 1: Press Coverage
The more you watch Ridley, the more you’ll start to notice the little things, that can/will affect the bigger things. For instance, when Ridley is up against press coverage, you’ll see that he has issues with how to use his hands to counter. If you can’t use your hands well, in conjunction with shuffling your feet, you won’t cleanly escape press coverage, which can lead to more contested catches than necessary, especially on short-intermediate routes. Additionally, ‘hand fighting’ is a necessary evil going into, and coming out of, press – if a defensive back gets his hands on you at the start of the route, it’s normally all downhill from there, resulting in a no-throw, or a contested catch.
Point 2: Sideline Presence
This is actually a big concern, especially at the NFL level. Ridley, throughout his career, has had issues consistently maintaining a presence down the sideline, and leveraging his bodily positioning to make a bigger window. A smaller window on the sideline can result in a crucial missed catch, or even worse, an interception – Ridley will need to work on this, especially if he goes to a team that doesn’t have a signal caller that excels in tight windows.
Point 3: Drops
Not as many people are talking about this as you would think. Ridley has been compared to Marvin Harrison, and with good reason – but that includes the drops. Ridley has had 20 drops over the past 3 seasons, a number that deserves to be looked at, and entered into his value equation. ‘If it hits your hands, you can catch it’ is the normal NFL mantra, and Ridley has shown struggles with that. Most of his drops come from ‘concentration catches’ – if he feels like there’s a hitter close to him, he loses focus, resulting in a drop that should’ve been an easy catch. Part of that is from being a smaller guy – which leads me to my next point.
Point 4: Size Matters
Before I begin this part, let me say, yes, I’m aware that there have been successful wideouts in the NFL that are undersized. You need to be aware that that isn’t the norm. Not every smaller guy that’s rated highly is the next Antonio Brown. Ridley has a thin frame, and doesn’t look like he can put on too much more weight – he appears to be close to his max. With that weight would come more strength, through NFL conditioning – something necessary to fight off bigger corners and use your size to win the day – but again, he may have reached his peak in that area. His lack of size also means that he gets held up a lot more by contact, and that he can be stopped by first contact more commonly than a bigger receiver would be.
Point 5: Age
Calvin Ridley is 23 years old. To a lot of us, outside the NFL world, that seems like a very young age – one that some of us may wish that we could recapture. In the NFL world, 23 is the age where a player is entering his 2nd or 3rd year. A rookie contract is 4 years long, putting Ridley at 27 years old before he gets his first ‘real’ contract – assuming his 5th year option isn’t picked up, and he gets one early. If he’s a 5 year rookie, he would be 28 before the first contract – leaving just a few seasons before he would be ‘too old’ to sign to another big contract. Combine his age with his thin frame, and after that first contract, that might be it for the first round pick.
Point 6: Routes
Here is where many fans are getting confused. ‘He runs great routes!’ they say to me. And admittedly, his routes look good. However – they are not very polished, as many people would like to believe. Instead, he’s crafty -within- his routes, which creates separation at the collegiate level. At the NFL level, the craftiness will be countered by crafty corners (defensive back is the hardest position to play, given the rules set against them), which will lead to more contested catches, and more CBs being in play for the ball. Apart from that, there are a number of corners that excel at ‘bump and run’ coverage, something which has hampered Ridley throughout his career. Finally, longer corners give him pause – and in the NFL, hesitation in the route means that the route is dead. His route running appears to be good, but it needs to be polished at the NFL level. He’s no Michael Gallup, in this regard.
Point 7: The Miscellaneous Stuff
This part will be a mish-mash of ‘the other stuff’.
For instance, Ridley had the lowest SPARQ score of ALL wideout prospects. For those that don’t know, SPARQ testing is basically the SAT for athleticism. It should at least raise eyebrows that his score was so low, especially since people want to condemn Orlando Brown for testing so poorly at the combine, which is basically just a dog and pony show.
The average contested catch rate for a 3 year college wideout prospect is 61%. That’s not bad at all. It shows the tendency to fight for the ball, and focus on making the play. You want to see your first round prospect with a high percentage in that category. Ridley grabbed an alarming 20% of his contested catch opportunities through his college career.
This next one is simple – Ridley is the least athletic wideout prospect in this draft. As a first round prospect, he had a combine that resulted in a resounding ‘meh’. Combine should never be taken too seriously, but at the same time, combined with all the other flaws, it should raise eyebrows, and drop draft stock.
The Bottom Line
I’m not saying Ridley isn’t good. I’m not saying that he won’t have a successful career. I’m not even saying that the Ravens shouldn’t take him at all. What I am saying, if I’m saying anything (Thanks, Tony Stark), is that fans and analysts alike need to look past the highlight reel, past the Alabama hype, and past ‘everybody’ else’s opinion, so they’re not shocked if/when Ridley falls down the board.
The Ravens have had too many misses on wide receivers (looking at you, Travis Taylor and Breshad Perriman) to afford to draft one based off of hype at 16th overall (this goes for D.J. Moore as well), especially when they need to fill needs in other areas. Barring a trade back, the Ravens should pass on Ridley with haste, rather than reach for another receiver that won’t be as good as everybody thinks he will be – not off the bat anyway.