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‘He’s the real deal’: Atlanta Falcons players, coach offer praise for this rookie

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian looks on as first round draft pick wide receiver Calvin Ridley catches a pass during rookie minicamp on May 11 in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian looks on as first round draft pick wide receiver Calvin Ridley catches a pass during rookie minicamp on May 11 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS

The Atlanta Falcons pulled off a surprise move in the 2018 NFL Draft when they took Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley with their first-round pick. According to members of the Falcons, the rookie has already established himself among his peers.

Several people praised the 6-1, 190-pound Ridley in a recent article by ESPN’s Vaughn McClure. Among them was free safety Ricardo Allen, who already got a good look at the former Coconut Creek Monarch High star during OTAs and the mandatory minicamp.

"One thing me and the veteran DBs already talked about and one of the things I'm already excited to see is him in Year 4 and Year 5," Allen said. "I know that's kind of jumping ahead early, but because he's such a disciplined route-runner and because he already kind of moves like a veteran, I just want to see when he becomes a veteran how much better a player he's going to be.

"He's the real deal. And he's a good person. He's not walking around like he thinks he's hot [expletive]. He's walking around like a really good dude."

Falcons right tackle Ryan Schraeder told McClure that Ridley was highlighted during a meeting for his blocking on a run play. Schraeder called Ridley “a humble kid” and said he thought the 26th overall pick would fit in with the Falcons.

Ridley was at Alabama in 2016 when Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was a Crimson Tide analyst and later offensive coordinator for the team’s national title game showdown with Clemson. Perhaps Ridley’s familiarity with Sarkisian’s style has helped in his transition so far.

"Comfort-wise, I think he came in a little bit ahead of the curve," Quinn said. "Not only did Alabama use some of the same pro-style concepts that we feature, but some of the terminology had even been the same. So you can imagine how excited he was to see the playbook and see some of the same language he'd been studying for three years. There was like some instant sense of like, 'OK, they call it the same thing here.' So that was helpful.

"Then on the field, the different depths of routes ... [Ridley was] so mindful to get it exactly right, the right depth. And as the practices went on, you saw more of the speed come because he had real assurance of the right spot, the right space, where to break guys off. So I'm encouraged. I really am. The speed, the athleticism, all the things you saw on tape, that came to life. I knew he was a good competitor. I probably didn't know how strong a football IQ he has. You can tell he's really equipped in that way."

Ridley joins the Falcons after putting up 967 receiving yards and five touchdowns for the national title-winning Crimson Tide in 2017. He became the second Alabama player to join the Falcons’ receiving corps alongside Julio Jones, who has been talked about a great deal this offseason.

Jordan D. Hill: @JordanDavisHill | jhill@ledger-enquirer.com
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