The consensus that formed around wide receiver Calvin Ridley being the Chicago Bears’ pick at No. 8 has fallen apart.
Not that Ridley has done anything to put doubt in anyone’s mind regarding his status as this draft’s top wideout, but Chicago’s free agency spending spree has pushed receiver off the top of the list of team needs. The Bears added free agents Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, and could round out a strong offseason by retaining Cameron Meredith by matching the offer sheet he signed with the New Orleans Saints. With that said, the team should still look to add talent at the position. But at least GM Ryan Pace will go into the draft knowing he doesn’t have to reach for a pass-catcher.
And that’s exactly what they would have been at risk of doing had they drafted Ridley with the eighth pick, especially if this evaluation from NDT Scouting’s Benjamin Solak stands up.
“I didn’t give out a single first-round grade to WRs this year, and I’m really quite okay with that,” Solak writes in a report that features notable prospects who don’t have a first-round grade. “A first-round grade (not always pick) should reflect dominant, consistent product at the college level, and while Ridley was consistent and dynamic, I can’t call him dominant. My WR1, Ridley is my 26th ranked player, and missed out on a late-first grade by .03 points.”
OK, so he didn’t miss by much. Still, it’s notable that the top receiver in the draft who was often sent to Chicago in early mock drafts isn’t as highly graded as one would expect. To that end, it’s fair to wonder whether Ridley’s stock would drop enough for him to fall into the second round. If that’s the case, perhaps a team like the Bears (or one of the other six teams that pick ahead of them in Round 2) finds a renewed interest in the Alabama product.
Remember, the Bears met with Ridley at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis – where he impressed Hall of Fame receiver/NFL Network commentator Michael Irvin with his performance in position drills.
Just because Ridley didn’t earn a first-round grade in one analyst’s eyes doesn’t mean he can’t be a productive NFL player. As Solak notes in his profile, Ridley’s game is “super polished” and still projects him to be an instant NFL starter. Ridley is still an exceptional route-runner with reliable hands who could be an impact player out of the slot.
As the 26th ranked player on Solak’s big board, Ridley is still probably a first-round pick. It’s just that he won’t go as early as once believed.