With the first of their two picks in the fourth round in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Colts selected Texas defensive lineman Hassan Ridgeway.
To learn more about Ridgeway and what he brings to the team, we reached out to Burnt Orange Nation, SB Nation's site covering the Texas Longhorns. Wescott Eberts was kind enough to answer some questions for us:
1. How did Hassan Ridgeway do on-the-field at Texas during his tenure there?
When Ridgeway was on the field for Texas, especially during his last two seasons, he was extremely productive, finishing fifth among all defensive tackles in pass-rushing productivity and fifth in win rate versus the run. However, staying on the field was his biggest issue, as he suffered a number of injuries as a junior -- every time he got healthy he got dinged again. So there some concerns about his durability.
2. Are there any off-the-field concerns (that you know about) that fans should be aware of?
None at all. And though draft press releases tends towards coach-speak, from everything that I know about Ridgeway, what head coach Charlie Strong said last weekend rings true.
"Hassan is an outstanding young man with great character so Indianapolis is getting a tremendous person. He's a hard worker and is very hungry to learn."
Ridgeway was always a model citizen at Texas, never got into any legal trouble, and never had any rumblings of inappropriate behavior connected to him. If he doesn't succeed in the NFL, it won't be for a lack of character.
3. What are some of Ridgeway's biggest strengths and weaknesses?
Ridgeway's greatest strengths are his strength and quickness. As evidenced by his ability to make an impact against the run and the pass, he's not one-dimensional in terms of just shooting gaps as a penetrator or merely holding space as an anchor. He's tremendously powerful in his lower body, has a good first step that allowed him to run a similar 40-yard dash as defensive end Shawn Oakman, and nearly matched the Combine broad jump of Robert Nkemdiche.
The ability of Ridgeway to stay healthy and keep himself at a high level of conditioning are the two primary concerns, but how much practice time he had to miss in 2015 likely contributed to him getting gassed if he had to stay on the field for a sustained period of time. He managed to improve on some of his agility times from the Combine at the Texas Pro Day, so he mitigated some of concerns about his ability to re-direct, but breaking down and moving laterally probably won't be a strength at the next level.
4. How do you think he will do transitioning to the NFL level?
Because Ridgeway was generally evaluated as a player who would have benefited from returning to school to another year and missed so many reps last season, it may be a year or two before he puts things together. Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford liked to refer to him as a guy who could be a beast if he finally gets angry on the field, so Ridgeway will have to turn his frustration from not being drafted higher into motivation to excel and gain that edge he needs. Still, even without it as a Longhorn, he was extremely effective when he was on the field.
5. Do you think this was a good pick by the Colts (in terms of player and draft position)?
I have to confess that I don't know much about the short-term or long-term prospects of Indianapolis along the defensive, but from a perspective of someone who has watched Ridgeway develop from a strong-side defensive end in high school five years ago to a 300-pound wrecking ball now, he's an excellent pick. There was some buzz before the draft that he's more talented than former Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who was the final pick of the first round in 2015. I'm not exactly convinced that is the case, and I would preface my conclusion by saying that Ridgeway probably has a lower floor than some of the other defensive tackles in this class, but overall, I'm a big fan and I expect him to become an impactful player at the next level.
Thanks again to Wescott Eberts at Burnt Orange Nation for taking the time to answer these questions!