The NFL season is seven weeks away from ending, and Pro Bowl voting has begun. The Falcons have their usual candidates — Matt Ryan, Grady Jarrett, Julio Jones, and Deion Jones — but could see two more players join them. Both Calvin Ridley and Foye Oluokun were drafted by Atlanta in 2018, and both are having career-years worthy of their first Pro Bowl appearances.
Calvin Ridley – WR
Before the 2020 season, Ridley was never able to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. The young Falcons receiver made it his mission to change that this season and prove his capabilities of being an elite receiver. The closest he had ever come was in 2019 when he amassed 866 yards in just 13 games. Had he not injured himself in Week 14 against Carolina, it’s very likely Ridley would’ve broken 1,000 yards. He totaled 821 yards his rookie season.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m real hungry to show people that I’m easily a 1,000-yard receiver, easily”
As we currently sit, Ridley has hauled in a total of 657 yards through his first eight games of the season, averaging 82 yards per game. However, this is skewed due to him not catching any passes against Green Bay in Week 4. Without what was probably the worst offensive showing of his career, he averages 93 yards per game.
Ridley is also one of Matt Ryan’s go-to options beyond 10 yards. He has been targeted 45 times and pulled in 23 catches for 506 yards — all of which are the highest in the league. Three of his six touchdowns in 2020 have come from passes 10 or more yards downfield — tied for eighth in the league.
Currently, Ridley is on pace to end the season with 1,312 yards on 96 receptions. This number could be higher had he not missed 1.5 games with a foot injury. Ridley left the Week 8 matchup against Carolina and sat out their Week 9 game against Denver. He is expected to make his return when the Falcons face New Orleans in Week 11.
Foye Oluokun – LB
Unlike Ridley, the Falcons weren’t expecting much when they selected Oluokun in the sixth round of the 2018 Draft. The once safety turned linebacker has spent the majority of his career being used in rotation, except for a large portion of 2018 when Deion Jones was bitten by the injury bug that decimated the Falcons defense and forced Foye into the starting spot for several weeks alongside De’Vondre Campbell.
Raheem Morris says the Falcons have a package on defense that utilizes Foye Oluokun at defensive back. He's one of the most versatile and intelligent players on Atlanta's defense. "He's evolved into one of the premier linebackers in the league."
— William McFadden (@willmcfadden) October 21, 2020
To this point, Foye’s best campaign came during his rookie season when he filled in for Jones, posting 91 tackles. However, with Jones healthy in 2019, Oluokun was relegated to his normal rotational status. But after the departure of De’Vondre Campbel this past offseason, he was expected to step in and be a keystone on this Falcons defense.
Through his first eight games, Foye has totaled 64 tackles, three forced fumbles, and one interception. It looked as if he primed for a breakout performance against Dallas after he forced three fumbles and six tackles; however, he left the game with an injured hamstring that forced him to miss the following week.
Foye’s 10 tackles, four quarterback hits, and his first career sack earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week in the Falcons win over Denver. With Foye’s rookie deal set to expire after the 2021 season, he is in a prime spot to receive a lucrative offer. Oluokun is well on his way to being tagged as “elite” — another late draft steal for Thomas Dimitroff.
Where Foye needs to see improvement is in his pass coverage. In 2018 and 2019, he allowed for an 86% and 91.7% completion rate. As a player who spent his first three years in college as a safety at Yale, you expect more in this area. However, with him being so young, he may have more to offer as he develops. In 2020, Oluokun has seen an improvement in his pass defense, only allowing a 74% completion rate and a quarterback rating of 87. However, his 126 yards allowed after the catch is rather disappointing, especially after giving up just 96 in 2019.
The NFL initially left Foye off the Pro Bowl ballot, but the Falcons launched a social media campaign to raise awareness around Foye since he doesn’t have the name recognition compared to other linebackers. You can vote for Foye here, along with other Falcons defenders.