Atlanta received bad news this week as it was reported that star receiver Calvin Ridley may seek to play elsewhere next season.
Ridley was the Falcons’ first-round pick in 2018. The former Alabama star was very steady to start his pro career, catching 64 and 63 passes, respectively, his first two seasons. Then he exploded last season, catching 90 passes for 1,374 yards and 9 TDs.
As expected, expectations were sky-high for Ridley going into this season, but those hopes were soon tempered. Ridley left the Falcons on Halloween to work on his mental health, which was the second time this season that he left the team. He never returned, finishing the season with 31 receptions for 281 yards and 2 TDs in just five games.
So mark receiver down as a need for Atlanta going into the offseason – and it may be the team’s most pressing need.
Here are three receivers who could be available in the first round when Atlanta is on the clock:
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Williams made a wise decision when he transferred from Ohio State to Alabama to start the season. Williams combined for 15 receptions for 266 yards and 3 TDs in his two years at Ohio State. But, to be fair, those Buckeyes rosters were loaded at receiver.
It didn’t take the junior long to make his mark at Alabama, as he has 75 receptions for 1,507 yards and 15 TDs going into the championship game against Georgia. His receiving yards ranked fifth in the nation, while his receiving TDs tied him for second.
Moved Jameson Williams into Tier 1 at WR with Burks and Wilson
Williams has a different gear and arguably the highest ceiling
✅ Route Running Chops
This dude has it all pic.twitter.com/9708k56yzk
— Joe O’Leary (@TheHQNerd) January 5, 2022
The fact that the 6-foot, 188-pound Wilson caught 70 passes for 1,058 yards and 12 TDs – all career-highs – is made even more impressive when you consider he did this with two other NFL-bound receivers on the roster in Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (eligible for the 2023 draft).
Many evaluators tab Wilson as the top receiver in the 2022 draft (he’s ranked as the No. 12 overall prospect in the Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, while Williams is ranked No. 9).
NFL draft evaluator Dane Brugler of The Athletic is among those who believe Wilson is the top receiver in the 2022 class. From a Nov. 13 Brugler tweet: “… (Wilson) reminds us each week that his body control is just special. Among the best I’ve seen from a WR prospect over the last decade. Why he is WR1 on my top-50.”
— Jordan (@Texans_Thoughts) January 5, 2022
London was getting top-of-the-class mention earlier this season before fracturing his ankle in USC’s Oct. 31 game against Arizona. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound junior then missed the rest of the season. He still finished with 88 receptions for 1,084 yards and 7 TDs in just eight games.
Will the injury hurt his draft stock? Maybe, but not by much. London is still ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 3 receiver in its latest receiver rankings after he still led college football with 19 contested catches.
Here’s what PFF said about him in a recent mock draft that projected London going to Kansas City late in the first round: “(London is) … a polished possession receiver with insane success in contested-catch situations and after the catch. He’ll play inside and outside at the next level and should assume a very productive role early in his NFL career.”
6’5 210LB Junior
Just one play but so much to like about this kid. He’s a giant target thats extremely physical. Some of the best ball tracking skills and high pointing in the draft.
— 𝗡𝗶𝗰𝗸 𝗦𝗮𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗶 (@NickSarnelli) January 6, 2022