Summary: During Nick Saban's historic run at Alabama, the Crimson Tide have been known for their elite defense, which is annually filled with early-round NFL talent; a tough running game; and one of their other offensive staples, a play-making receiver. Julio Jones and Amari Cooper started that tradition, and Ridley maintained after debuting as a freshman.
Ridley did a phenomenal job as the replacement for Cooper in 2015. The freshman notched 89 receptions for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns that season. As a sophomore, Ridley made 72 catches for 769 yards with seven touchdowns. Oddly enough, Cooper and Jones also had less production as sophomores compared to their freshman seasons, but ended up having superb junior years before declaring early for the NFL. Ridley's junior season was impressive while being held back by the passing limitations of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts. Ridley had 55 catches for 967 yards with four touchdowns in 2017.
In surveying sources from five teams, the most common name who came up as the top receiver was Ridley. The talented junior got a lot of praise for his route-running, quickness, and generally having good hands. Scouting sources say that, from a skill-set perspective, Ridley is comparable to Cooper in terms of the same strengths, weaknesses, and similar size. They feel that Ridley is suited to make an instant impact in the NFL.
Ridley has a lot of assets to his game as he is a fast receiver who is very adept at creating separation. With his quick feet and sudden athleticism, Ridley is a very good route-runner. He is silky smooth in his routes with no wasted steps or rounded off cuts. That makes him very tough on defensive backs as he can put his foot in the ground and explode out of cuts. That explosion translates to Ridley also having a second gear to break downfield and is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Ridley is a fast route-runner on short to intermediate routes, so he will be a nice third-down weapon as a pro to quickly uncover and present an open target for his quarterback. With his speed to run by defensive backs, Ridley stretches a defense over the top and is a true deep-threat receiver as well. He has the ability to take a slant to the house or run a go route and fly by defensive backs.
For the NFL, Ridley could fit well as a X - split end - receiver who works along the sideline and challenges teams vertically. Given his smaller frame, his pro team may want to protect him from doing too much work in the middle of the field and sending him across the play.
Though Ridley is the consensus top wideout for the 2018 NFL Draft, he doesn't come without some concerns, with multiple sources independently noting that his thin frame worries them for the NFL. With that being one factor, some scouts have said they are grading Ridley as a late first-rounder. He could end up going higher out of team need at his premium position, however.
Player Comparison: Amari Cooper. Ridley is very similar to Cooper as a player. Both of them are fast receivers who are good route-runners, sudden in and out of their breaks, challenge defenses with their speed, and are potential No. 1 receivers for an offense. Cooper was the fourth-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and Ridley also could go early in the 2018 NFL Draft.
NFL Matches: Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Washington, Arizona, Green Bay, Baltimore, Dallas and Buffalo
There are a lot of teams that could be in the market for a wide receiver upgrade in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Bears and 49ers both could consider more receiving talent. Chicago signed two receivers for Mitch Trubisky, so Ridley going to the Bears seems unlikely. Ridley would be a nice fit for Kyle Shanahan across from Marquise Goodwin, but going with the ninth-overall pick seems too high for Ridley.
In the teens, there are a lot of potential landing spots for Ridley. The Dolphins could consider bringing Ridley back to South Florida as they need to replace Jarvis Landry. The Redskins have had some turnover at receiver, and Ridley could still finish off their receiving corps. He would be a good fit in Jay Gruden's offense.
Green Bay could use more receiving talent after moving on from Jordy Nelson. Arizona has to consider life after Larry Fitzgerald and could use more receiving talent around the future Hall of Famer.
At 16, the Ravens need a No. 1 receiver, and Ridley could be a vertical weapon to go across from Michael Crabtree. Three picks later, Ridley could land in Dallas. There have been rumblings of the Cowboys moving on from Dez Bryant before long, and Ridley could replace Bryant as the No. 1 receiver for Dak Prescott.
The Bills may end up trading both of their first-rounders to move up for a quarterback, but if they don't, Ridley could be in play for them with their second selection of Round 1.