Calvin Ridley out to prove he is best receiver in 2018 NFL Draft

Calvin Ridley out to prove he is best receiver in 2018 NFL Draft

By Matthew Speakman | Sports Editor

Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley left the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine disappointed. He felt that he didn’t perform up to his standard.

The 22-year-old wide out ran the sixth-fastest 40-yard dash time among receivers at the combine at 4.43 seconds. He posted a 31-inch vertical, which was near the back end of his position group.

So, he wanted to prove himself at Alabama’s annual Pro Day inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Practice Facility on Alabama’s campus, where he participated in position drills.

He got to perform in front of many big names, including New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel.

“I didn’t have a good combine like I wanted to, but I’m very happy right now,” Ridley said. I know I’m going to be in a great position.”

Ridley also posted a 9-foot-2 broad jump at the combine, which ranked last in the wide receiver group. Although scouts value the combine, Ridley knows his on-field performance is the proper measuring stick for his skill, not drills.

"I don't get into a receiver stance and broad jump before I run a route,” Ridley said. “I’m a football player. I’m a good football player.”

Ridley added that he wanted to just run the 40-yard dash and run routes at the combine.

He wanted to keep his legs fresh for the 40-yard dash, which he placed a lot of emphasis on. That didn’t happen however. He had to participate in drills like the broad jump and the vertical.

“At the combine, they don’t let you get away with nothing,” Ridley said. “I should’ve just done [the other drills] here and just run routes and the 40 there.”

The combine also gives teams the chance to meet and have interviews with multiple NFL teams. Teams assess what kind of a person they are getting. The interviews can give teams a good judge of the player’s character.

Ridley said the interview portions of the combine went well.

“That part was pretty good, and I had fun doing that,” Ridley said. “I met a lot of great coaches and good people. I think I did really well in those rooms because I made sure to just get right to the point [with them]. We mean business."

Ridley’s numbers speak for themselves. 

He finished top three in Alabama program history in career receptions, yards and touchdowns. He quickly drew comparisons to former Alabama and current Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper when he stepped on campus.

Cooper is the only receiver in Alabama history to have more career receptions and receiving touchdowns than Ridley. In 2014, Cooper had more yards (1727), receptions (124) and touchdowns (16) than any other receiver in a single season at Alabama.

Cooper’s quarterback that season was Blake Sims. Sims sees a lot of Cooper, who wore No. 9 in college, in Ridley.

“When I saw Calvin run down that field I thought I saw No. 9,” Sims said. “That’s what I saw. That’s what I thought.”

Ridley became Alabama’s go-to his junior season, similar to Cooper in 2014. Ridley had 46 more catches and 703 more yards than Alabama’s No. 2 player in each of those categories. 

He finished the season with 63 catches, 967 yards and five touchdowns. Only freshman receiver Henry Ruggs III had more touchdowns than him with six.

Ridley is a versatile player with the skills to play outside or inside. Alabama was able to move him all over the field to help its passing game.

"I think he can [play all positions]," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "He certainly ran well at the Combine, and his production here has been fantastic. He's got enough speed to get on top of people. He's got great one-step quickness out of a break, and it doesn't take him long to accelerate. He's got really good hands.”

Currently, Ridley is projected to be a first-round pick by many NFL Draft analysts. He is predicted to go as high as pick No. 8 to the Chicago Bears. Others have him falling to the Baltimore Ravens at No. 16. 

As the draft draws closer, Ridley has one point to prove.

“I am the best,” he said. “You’re going to get a good player in me. I’m going to come in and work hard. I’m coming in to play right away.”

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