While he’s been under the radar the past three years, he’s not going unnoticed this season after landing at No. 65 on NFL Network’s Top 100 NFL players for the first time in his career.
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Ridley Is Ready to Fill Julio Jones’ Shoes
With Jones suiting up with the Tenessee Titans this season, Ridley will have a shot at having his best season yet as the No. 1 wideout but is more than ready to take on that role.
“Just the confidence [Jones] has every week and being the No. 1 receiver and going out to work every day, I feel like you have to believe in yourself,” Ridley said via ESPN. “And by my second year, that’s when I realized that’s what he’s all about, confidence.
“So when I realized that, I just started to think that, I didn’t think that I’m better than him, but I just believed in myself and I really think that made me a better player. I really believe in myself.”
Ridley already has plenty of experience after emerging as the Falcons’ leader in receiving yards last season with 1,374 yards on 90 catches and nine touchdowns.
Jones played just nine games last season, so with the seven outings he missed, it was Ridley’s job to step up, which he did.
In fact, his numbers actually went up as he averaged 109 receiving yards during Jones’s seven-game absence, per AtlantaFalcons.com. In five of the game, he exceeded triple digits and in total, he had 50 catches for 763 yards and three touchdowns.
Ridley’s 2020 performance ended with a second-team All-Pro accolade and the team picked up his fifth-year option.
Along with Ridley, Falcons’ new tight end, Kyle Pitts, will likely be the Falcons’ 2021 leaders in receiving. Ryan will also have two more top targets in Russell Gage and Hayden Hurst.
Grady Jarrett Also Ranked in the Top 100
Defensive lineman Grady Jarrett was another Falcon to share the top 100 with Ridley, coming in at No. 54.
Jarrett originally wasn’t picked until the fifth round (157th overall) of the 2015 draft for being “too small.” Since then, he has recorded 300 combined tackles, 25.5 sacks, and 54 QB pressures. The Clemson product also earned himself two Pro Bowl invites (in 2019 and 2020) and was named to the 2019 All-Pro second-team.
The Falcons defense failed to live up to expectations last season which overshadowed Jarrett’s personal success, but that should change this fall.
At 28 years old, Jarrett is still in his prime and Atlanta Falcons’ new defensive coordinator, Dean Pees, has plans to unleash his full potential this season.