FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – With their first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft on Thursday night, the Falcons added to an offensive skill group that was already among the best in the league by selecting Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley with the No. 26 overall pick.
"We're really excited to add him as another firepower weapon for us, and he's going to mix in very well with our offense," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said following the first round.
Ridley, a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide, was considered by some draft experts to be the top receiver in this class. Ridley finished his career with 224 catches for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns.
The Falcons were expected to address the receiver position at some point in the draft after the departure of Taylor Gabriel in free agency. Ridley should quickly be able to help the Falcons' offense, and he is viewed as a player who will be able to move around and play multiple roles.
"We see him as a very versatile receiver who can play inside and outside," Dimitroff said. "He is highly – obviously he's fast – but he's highly agile, and he has the ability to stop and start well. He's got 19 touchdowns in his career. Again, he's a playmaking type of guy; he's an explosive guy for us, and that's the important part."
Ridley is a deep threat who possesses great route-running ability for a player coming out of college. While he does have 4.4 speed to use to his advantage, it was his change of direction and agility that most analysts raved about during the pre-draft process.
Those are qualities that will allow the Falcons to use Ridley in a variety of ways. "You want to see guys that can beat man-to-man and have that type of quickness," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "Only a few guys have the speed to play outside but the change of direction to play inside. Really equipped guy, you can tell he's been really well coached. Rock-solid guy and ready to contribute right away."