How Falcons' 2018 rookie class performed in Year 1

Ridley proud of making PFWA All-Rookie team 

A quick look at the 2018 rookie class 

After a whirlwind rookie season, Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is taking some time to relax and de-compress. 

Ridley, who was named to the Professional Football Writers of America’s all-rookie team on Tuesday, was in Los Angeles for a rookie card appreciation event and took some time to reflect on his rookie season.

“It’s a good accomplishment to be on there,” Ridley said via phone on Thursday. “I want to be on others, at the highest level with some of the best. It’s a great accomplishment to be on there for me.” 

Ridley, who was the 26th player selected overall in the 2018 draft, turned in a strong first season. 

Ridley had 92 targets, 64 catches, 821 receiving yards, 12.8 yards per catch and a team-record 10 touchdowns. His touchdown mark set a new franchise record, eclipsing the nine touchdowns caught by former tight end Junior Miller in 1980.

“I think from a production standpoint, you saw Calvin (Ridley’s) speed and explosiveness that we probably talked about on draft night,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “Why do we like him? Why would he be here and I'm hopeful each of you say I get it. And I see why he's here, and the role that he had and why he played.”

Ridley has been gathering information on new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who will replace Steve Sarkisian. Ridley and Sarkisian had worked together at Alabama and that helped his transition into the NFL. 

“I heard a couple of things, read a few things and did a little research myself,” Ridley said. “I just see a great offensive coordinator who has done a great job over the years even when he was with the Falcons. I’m really excited.”

Ridley’s stature and build reminds some of the great Marvin Harrison, who was selected 19th overall in the 1996 draft out of Syracuse by the Colts. Ridley is listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. Harrison was 6-foot and 181 pounds.

“Yes, I know Marvin Harrison,” Ridley said. “He was a great receiver. It’s a great comparison. I want to be Calvin Ridley. I love Marvin Harrison. Great receiver. I want to be my own receiver and make a name for myself. I want to be Calvin Ridley.”

Ridley and Harrison’s rookie stats are similar.

Harrison had 118 targets, 64 catches, 836 receiving yards, 13.1 yards per catch and eight touchdowns.

Harrison went on to play 12 more seasons. 

He finished with 1,102 catches, eight Pro Bowls and six All-Pro selections. He went in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the Class of 2016.

How high is Ridley’s ceiling? 

“I want to get better,” Ridley said. “My expectations for the yards and stats that I did have, my expectations were better than that. I didn’t reach my goals. They are going to get higher. I’m going to go out there and work to improve. I’m definitely going to get better and come back stronger.”

Ridley will start his work around April when the team’s offseason program opens. For now, it’s marketing deals, relaxation time and getting ready for Super Bowl LIII events around the city.

» Follow: AJC’s continuing coverage of the Super Bowl in Atlanta

“I can’t wait to get back around the guys,” Ridley said. “I miss football. I’m ready to get it back going soon. I’m resting right now.”

After the scouting combine and NFL draft run-up last season, Ridley plans to enjoy his first offseason a little more. 

“It’s going great,” Ridley said. “I’m actually finishing up my first card deal with (Panini America) as a rookie. I finished that yesterday. I’m just out here in downtown L.A. at this appreciation event for the rookies. I’m having a good time. It’s going pretty good.”

Ridley liked his rookie card.

Ridley likes his rookie card.

“They do a great job,” Ridley said. “They have tons and tons of different cards of me and other guys. I feel like they do a great job and it’s awesome. I love it. It’s fun. I like to come to these events. I get to see L.A. It’s pretty cool.” 

Ridley wasn’t the only Falcons rookie to turn in a strong season. 

“This was a really mature group that took to it quickly,” Quinn said. “They had some excellent mentors that could help bring them along so they could get up to speed quickly.”

Here’s a quick look at the rest of the rookie class:

Isaiah Oliver, cornerback. He was taken in the second-round of the draft (58th overall). He played in 14 games and made two starts. The Colorado product played 240 defensive snaps (22 percent) and received some valuable playing time down the stretch. He could compete for the starting right cornerback spot next season. 

Deadrin Senat, defensive tackle. He was drafted in the third-round (90th) overall. He played in 15 games and made two starts. He played 371 defensive snaps (34 percent), made 30 tackles, two tackles for losses and had three quarterback hits. 

Ito Smith, running back. He was drafted in the fourth-round (126th overall). His season was cut short by knee surgery, but he showed promise before going down. He played 311 offensive snaps (29.3 percent), rushed 90 times for 315 yards and four touchdowns. He caught 27 of 32 targets for 152 receiving yards. 

Russell Gage, wide receiver. He was drafted in the sixth-round (194th overall). He played 280 snaps on special teams (63.6 percent). He only played 60 snaps on offense (5.7 percent) and caught 6 of 10 passes for 63 yards.

Foyesade Oluokun, linebacker. He was a sixth-round pick (200th overall) and turned in a spectacular rookie season. He played 709 snaps total – 527 on defense and 182 on special teams. He played in 16 games and made seven starts. He was the second-leading tackler on the team with 91.

“Coming in, we weren't even thinking he was going to have a leading role,” Quinn said. “Like that's a big assignment to come in. It was guys like De'Vondre (Campbell) and Deion (Jones) to help him develop along the way.”

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