The Las Vegas Raiders new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham likes big-bodied defensive tackles who can two-gap, and Arkansas’ John Ridgeway fits that bill. Ridgeway carries a mid-round projection for this year’s NFL Draft, so he’s certainly on the table for the Raiders.
DT | Arkansas | 6’5 1/8” and 321 lbs | Bloomington, IL | May 7th, 1999 (22.9)
Coming out of high school, Ridgeway was a two-star recruit and the 202nd ranked offensive tackle in the country for the 2017 class, per 247 Sports. He received no FBS scholarship offers and enrolled at FCS Illinois State, where he flipped sides of the ball, was an FCS Freshman All-American, and honorable mention and first-team All-Conference selections. The former Redbird transferred to Arkansas for his final season of eligibility and accumulated 39 total tackles, four for loss, two sacks and 11 pressures in 2021.
- Good size for an NFL defensive tackle with 33 3/8” arms, and he carries his frame well with little bad weight
- He’s shown the ability to put centers on skates and force the ball out with a bull rush when he uses his hands and at the beginning of drives when he isn’t tired
- Has the strength to develop a push-pull move down the road
- Against the run, he has some pop with his hands to shock the offensive lineman and get some lift to help get better leverage on the block
- Also is fast with his hands to make contact first and has solid placement on the front of the offensive lineman’s shoulder
- Gets hands on offensive linemen when they work up to the second level to disrupt their path to the second-level
- Bends his knees and has low pad level for his height when taking on blocks
- He has plenty of strength to get extension and lockout centers, and when he does keep his feet moving he can walk centers into the backfield with his strength and leverage
- Against double teams, he does a good job of attacking the lineman he’s lined up across from
- IS gap disciplined and locates the ball in the backfield well to help put himself in a position to make the play
- Block shedding isn’t much of an issue with his strength and extension
- He wraps up the legs and has no issues tackling running backs, only missed two tackles last year, and he can make tackles with blockers hanging on him
Areas of Improvement:
- Poor athletic testing numbers with a 4.73 RAS score
- Doesn’t pass rush with much of a plan, he just runs into people and if he does work a move, it usually doesn’t work and he quits
- He tires and loses his pass rush motor quickly, especially against no-huddle
- When bull-rushing, he rarely uses his hands to get three points of contact and stands up by his third step. Working to get on an edge will also help him get a push more consistently, he tries to go straight through the offensive lineman’s chest.
- On finesse moves, he either doesn’t use his hands or is inaccurate with them to defeat the lineman’s hands, and he is a little stiff in the hips to clear his lower half
- As the looper in line games, he’s slow and lacks the agility to take an efficient path to the quarterback when working laterally
- Whether he’s two-gapping or penetrating against the run, he false steps and stops moving his feet, causing his nose to get over his toes and ruining his base. Often he won’t even take a first step and his feet look stuck in cement.
- With his poor get off and late block recognition, he’ll get sealed versus reach blocks and on scoops
- Centers who can match his physicality and at least maintain their pad level at the point of attack will be able to flip their hips and create a rushing lane or get some drive on him because he stops his feet
- Against double teams, he doesn’t anticipate the second blocker coming and constantly gets his shoulders turned or knocked out of his gap
- When facing offensive linemen with good hand placement who get their hands inside his, he doesn’t work to get the lineman’s hands off him before shedding
- Overall, his block destruction is very reliant on him winning at the point of attack
- His conditioning could use work, effort diminishes throughout the game and tires during drives easily. Not a guy who’s going to factor into a ton of gang tackles down the field.
NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 152nd overall, 5th round
Being a two-down player with low athletic testing numbers is bringing Ridgeway’s draft stock down. Minimal pass rush production and not showing much potential to develop as a rusher will push just about any defensive lineman into the Day 3 category. That being said, he is a strong enough run defender to warrant an early Saturday selection for teams that are looking for a rotational defensive tackle.
Schematically, the Arkansas product would be best as a two-gapper and can lineup anywhere from a zero- to two-technique. That way his strength at the point of attack will be best utilized, and his sub-par get-off will be somewhat negated.
What do we need to know?
Can he start to hold his ground better against double teams? If Ridgeway is going to carve out a role as a run stuffer in the NFL, this will be by far his biggest area of improvement and potential downfall. There were far too many instances on tape where he got washed out of his gap by doubles, and he has the strength to hold his ground, but his issues with false stepping and anticipating the second blocker coming have to get better at the next level.
Fit with the Raiders:
As mentioned above, new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham loves his large, two-gapping defensive tackles and that has showed with some of Las Vegas’ free agent signings. Ridgeway fits that description and would add some youth to the position group, which would be especially beneficial since the players brought in to fill that role are on the older side. It’s really just a matter of if the organization wants someone who is more of a pass rusher, schematically at least.
As far as the draft goes, the former Razorback would be a solid option for the Raiders with either the 126th, 164th or 165th overall picks.
Good ex of the pop John Ridgeway has with his hands…good god pic.twitter.com/pOrw3dLRKn— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 20, 2022
John Ridgeway gets the center to pick the puller here pic.twitter.com/i2KdK1ioW0— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 20, 2022
The best way to take on a DBL team/combo block is to beat the man you're lineup across from, John Ridgeway does that here and makes a tackle for a 1-yard gain pic.twitter.com/1fjbmzckbv— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 20, 2022
Would like to see more on the pass rush here but this is a hell of an effort to get a 3rd down stop by John Ridgeway pic.twitter.com/dwCYHcLbDF— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 20, 2022
Just a dirty push-pull move from John Ridgeway (NT) pic.twitter.com/YnNehqrtIM— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 20, 2022
John Ridgeway (NT) isn't consistent enough with this but when he gets his hands involved and stays low on his bull rush, he's got plenty of strength to put centers on skates pic.twitter.com/XjT8KywE5u— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 20, 2022