Riley Ridley Is A Product Of Bad Hype
Almost every season, #BigDraft will try to peddle an objectively bad wide receiver prospect as a potential “surprise” second or third round pick. The number of low production, no athleticism wide receivers to succeed in the NFL is extraordinarily low. However, that will not stop the draft industrial complex from randomly identifying wide receivers with “smooth hips” or “phonebooth quicks” to be randomly pegged as a good prospect. In what is certainly unfair to Riley Ridley, the human being, Riley Ridley the wide receiver has been saddled with that title this year.
In three seasons at Georgia, Ridley had 69 receptions, 1,015 yards, and 13 touchdowns or just slightly worse than JJ Arcega-Whiteside’s 2018 final season. Immediately, there are production concerns for Ridley. His one year of production (leading Georgia in yards/touchdowns) came at the age of 22 and was not near as impressive from either a raw or market share perspective as other one-year production players like Hakeem Butler. When dealing with wide receivers who only have one year of production, there are a lot of variables to nail down and some of them are unknowable. In Ridley’s case, he got outproduced by future UDFA Javon Wims and played in an archaic college offense.
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So that you know I am not beating up paper tigers, there are those out there that are high on Calvin Ridley’s brother. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler wrote that he “projects as a better pro than college pass catcher.”, and Matt Miller from Bleacher Report has him as a top-10 wide receiver in the class. I do not include the opinions of those two to poke fun but to merely show that the opinion that Ridley is a top prospect in this draft does exist.
I would be willing to give some wiggle room to projecting Ridley to the NFL if he had been a stud at the combine. Guys like Jazz Ferguson, Ashton Dulin and Miles Boykin all have some serious work to do in order to be good enough to play at the NFL level but they proved at the combine that they have the tools to do it. Riley Ridley… does not.
For a player who stands 6’1″, 200 pounds, running a 4.61 40 time just isn’t going to cut it. That is above the minimum threshold that I generally apply to wide receivers (4.55) for the 40-yard dash and it doesn’t get better in other categories either. His agility times were horrendous and his vertical jump could be beaten by the average offensive lineman. Overall, Riley Ridley’s physical profile is weird. His arms and hands are NFL-size but everything else seems to be pretty far off. Just for example, his older brother Calvin (of the Falcons) is faster, lifts more weight and more agile and still didn’t rate out as a very athletic prospect. To add on to all of this, Riley Ridley is also going to be 23 years old during his rookie season which places him in an unsuccessful projection node.
So what does all of this mean? What is instructive about the case of Riley Ridley, an old wide receiver prospect who was neither productive nor athletic in college?
In general, I think this is a lesson about allowing an analysis of data to take precedence over “watching the film”. Adding in falsifiable data thresholds to project running backs and wide receivers to the NFL makes it easier for us to make good selections for our dynasty fantasy football teams. Our eyes have value but they also are trained to trick us and therefore our decisions should be mostly based in facts that we can check (or debunk).
Riley Ridley might even have good draft capital put into his stock by a misguided NFL team. For him to succeed in the NFL with his college production and combine performance would make him a historical outlier of a high degree. There are those who love to found the outliers and pride themselves in their ability to do so but prospect in dynasty is much more about avoiding mistakes. Riley Ridley as a top-10 wide receiver in this class is a certain mistake.
2019 NFL Draft Prospect Profiles: