The Combine giveth and the Combine taketh away.
You have yet another proven Alabama receiver by way of the South Florida pipeline (think Amari Cooper and current Tide wideout Jerry Jeudy) who’s played the role of home run playmaker, clutch veteran and jet sweep decoy over three years and rarely disappointed in any of those categories.
This is the NFL Draft, though.
Where bad decisions abound and metrics have the final word. And because of what was viewed as an underwhelming performance in Indianapolis, Ridley finds himself in a position of having to take a pay cut before he even laces up for an NFL squad.
We, here, at Team Speed Kills know better, though.
Credit to Ridley, though, following his Combine performance.
He told former TideSports writer Aaron Suttles that he was pleased, but mildly annoyed with not only his Combine performance, but the Combine itself.
His main beef being with the broad jump as a field performance metric. Ridley had this to say:
“I’m not going to get into a wide receiver’s stance and broad jump before I run a route.”
And that pretty much sums up what most college football fans take umbrage with concerning the pros. Yes, several of these activities can be helpful in getting to the root of a college player’s athleticism. Millions are on the line and this is a big business.
How can that, though, take away from what you see on tape? I saw Josh Allen play football in college. I don’t glean “1st rounder” from that, but a Combine and a Pro Day will tell the NFL he’s worth a first pick overall.
Calvin Ridley is a first-rounder plain and simple.
Whereas Amari Cooper, an insanely talented receiver, was gifted Lane Kiffin in his last season in Tuscaloosa, Ridley, who admittedly had Kiffin for his first two seasons, was dealt an interesting set of cards.
His freshman year, which was statistically his best, Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry was the focal point. Jake Coker was a good passer, but he wasn’t elite.
Still, he was thrust into a starting role when Robert Foster went out with an injury and he wound up with 89 catches for 1,045 yards.
Then, 2016 brought us a new and exciting quarterback in Jalen Hurts who Kiffin had to tailor the offense around. Hurts, himself, nearly rushed for 1,000 yards that year and as a result, the wideouts were given less opportunities. It was a toe-dipping freshman year for Hurts that would only prove better in Year 2, most likely Ridley’s final year with the team.
This past season, Hurts’ somehow regressed. Although he took care of the ball light years better than he had in 2016, his completion percentage decreased from 63 percent to 60. He only attempted 254 passes compared to his 393 from the year before.
He was cautious, sometimes too much so, but when he did throw it, you could be assured that #3 was the primary target.
Ridley made the most of it, too, snagging 66 of Hurts’ 154 completions for 967 yards and 5 touchdowns.
His career stat line reads as follows: 224 receptions, 2,781 yards, 19 TDs.
Amari Cooper’s at Alabama reads: 228 receptions, 3,463 yards, 31 TDs
Julio Jones’ reads: 179 receptions, 2,653 yards, 15 TDs
Are you seriously going to tell me that any of those guys needed a strong Combine performance to prove they were worthy of a first-round pick?
Ridley’s career at Alabama was hampered by the advent of the RPO in Tuscaloosa and he was a victim of it.
The guy does nothing but good things when he has the ball in his hands. Don’t believe me?
Just this once, trust the tape. He’ll give you the yards you need.
Ridley will probably slip like most of the mock drafts have him doing, but Tide legend and Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, who desperately needs a receiver, will be there at 16 to get him.
If not, I don’t know how any of your souls can be saved for such an egregious mishap.