SEC

After dominating at Alabama, is this South Florida native the draft's top receiver?

Alabama's Calvin Ridley celebrates his touchdown catch during the second half of the NCAA playoff championship game against Georgia on Jan. 8, 2018, in Atlanta.
Alabama's Calvin Ridley celebrates his touchdown catch during the second half of the NCAA playoff championship game against Georgia on Jan. 8, 2018, in Atlanta. AP

At a school annually filled with some of the top players college football has to offer, wide receiver Calvin Ridley found a way to make an impact for Alabama each time he stepped on the field.

The Coconut Creek native and former standout at Monarch High was a freshman All-American in 2015, played a pivotal role in the Crimson Tide's national championships that bookend his collegiate career and has placed his name in Alabama's record books.

But that's not where Ridley wants his legacy to end. Next up: Making that same statement in the NFL.

And if all goes according to plan, Ridley will be the first receiver to hear his name called on April 26.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, as well as NFL.com, have Ridley ranked as their top overall receiver for this year. Kiper has Ridley ranked as the 22nd overall prospect, calling him "a nightmare to tackle in the open field." McShay has him ranked 16th overall on his big board.

"I don’t know if there’s a better receiver in the draft," ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on a pre-draft conference call, according to 247Sports. "His route-running is exceptional. His acceleration, getting in and out of breaks. When he gets the ball in his hands, you hold your breath with what he can do."

However, Ridley isn't without his flaws. At 6 foot and 189 pounds, Ridley doesn't have the size of a true No. 1 receiver at the NFL level. There are also concerns regarding his poor testing at the NFL Combine — his 31-inch vertical jump and 110-inch broad jump ranked in the bottom 10th percentile among receivers. His 4.43-second 40-yard dash ranked sixth among receivers.

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"I don't get into a receiver stance and broad jump before I run a route. Whoever gets me is getting a great player," Ridley told the NFL Network at Alabama's Pro Day. "... I know I can beat all those scores by a lot, but [in training] I was trying to get ready for my 40, which I was upset about, too. I didn't have a great combine, not like I wanted to. I should've gone in there and just run the 40 and run routes, and done all the other stuff here [at pro day]. ... Mistake."

His stats, however, show just how good he can be. Despite being part of a run-first offense, Ridley finished his three-year college career second in Crimson Tide history in receptions (224), second in receiving touchdowns (19) and third in receiving yards (2,781). He recorded a catch in all 44 games of his career.

His production rivaled former Alabama greats Julio Jones and Amari Cooper (also a South Florida native), both of whom were first-round selections in the NFL Draft. Jones was a Day 1 starter after the Atlanta Falcons drafted him sixth overall in 2011 and was named first- or second-team All-Pro in each of the past three years. Cooper has been a three-year starter for the Oakland Raiders since being selected fourth overall in 2015 and has earned Pro Bowl nominations in 2015 and 2016.

Ridley has the chance to be next.

"I do feel like I'm the best receiver in the draft," Ridley said. "I just want to prove it."

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