All eyes will be on Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley in 2017. Ridley, who has been a starter for the Tide since his true freshman season, enters his junior year with big expectations and plenty of draft hype.
“Ridley has tremendous upside,” NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote. “I think he’s the perfect complementary receiver, majoring in explosive/down-the-field catches. Alabama played with a true freshman quarterback (Jalen Hurts) last fall and he was a little reluctant to force the ball down the field. I think that will change this fall and Ridley will get a chance to show off what he does best.”
Ridley led the SEC in 2015 with 89 receptions for 1,045 yards. As a sophomore, his production remained solid, despite splitting targets with junior ArDarius Stewart. Ridley caught 72 passes for 769 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016.
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks has compared Ridley to former Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne “based on his size and playing style,” as well as fellow former Alabama standout Amari Cooper, who won a Biletnikoff Award during his junior season in Tuscaloosa.
“With Ridley’s dominance coming on the heels of Cooper’s success at the Alabama, scouts constantly pepper Crimson Tide coaches with questions about their similarities and differences,” Brooks wrote last month. “When I spoke to a former Alabama assistant about the playing styles of their former ‘WR1s,’ he told me that it was apparent that Ridley not only studied Cooper’s game but stole several of his favorite moves and incorporated them into his repertoire.”
Ridley’s first chance to showcase those skills will be in Week 1 against Florida State. Many have predicted the Tide and Seminoles will be ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the preseason AP poll. The nationally televised game could be a major statement for Ridley.
“There will be future pros all over the field and Ridley could make a powerful statement if can put up big numbers against a very talented FSU secondary that includes safety Derwin James and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden,” Jeremiah wrote.
Ridley turns 23 in December and it’s seen as likely that he turns pro after this season.
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