There were some analysts who were surprised that the Atlanta Falcons used their first round draft pick last year on a wide receiver, but after the 2018 season, no one complained about it.
Calvin Ridley came to the team by way of their No 26 overall pick from Alabama, and almost immediately made a positive impact on the offensive side of the ball.
Now, coming into his second season, Ridley believes he can take that step forward.
“I definitely think I’m a really good receiver, I think I could be really good in this league,” Ridley told the Falcons website after the OTA practices.
“I want to do [well] for me and the team. I definitely think I should be playing at a high level, that’s the standard for me.”
Ridley scored his first NFL touchdown in his second appearance for Atlanta in a win over division rival Carolina and the following week turned heads by scoring three touchdowns off seven catches for 146 yards in his first game against arch rival New Orleans.
The next week, against Cincinnati, Ridley scored another two touchdowns, amassing what was at the time an NFL high six scoring catches, setting a league record for a rookie in his first four contests.
In all, he scored 10 touchdowns, a Falcons rookie record. They would like to see more of the same going forward, and the 24 year old says he can provide.
“I thought I played fast last year but I’m definitely playing faster,” Ridley said. “I see it better, I understand exactly what the coaches want, what Matt wants, so I feel a lot better.”
From the start, Falcons coaches, including Dan Quinn, remarked that the sophistication, maturity, and technique Ridley brought to the game was thanks in part to his preparation at Alabama.
Playing under Nick Saban allowed Ridley to develop his natural gifts in a way that he may not have been able to at another school.
Ridley appeared in 44 games for the Crimson Tide during his three year collegiate career, catching 224 passes for 2,781 yards and scoring 19 touchdowns.
His reception mark currently ranks second in Alabama history, behind Amari Cooper’s extant record of 228 passes from 2012 to 2014. Ridley’s yardage mark also trails Cooper, who amassed a school record 3,463 yards, and his scoring number is second behind Cooper’s 31 career touchdowns.
Ridley, a five star recruit and the nation’s second best wide receiver according to the 247Sports Composite prior to enrolling in school, made himself known right away in Tuscaloosa as a true freshman during Alabama’s national title run in 2015, the year in which he finished with career highs in catches (89), yards (1,045), and touchdowns (seven).
Going forward, the Falcons hope Ridley can reprise and build upon his rookie production going forward in an era when the Falcons have arguably their most talented roster ever.