Calvin Ridley stands tall in Falcons' 2018 rookie class

First-round pick Calvin Ridley finished his rookie season for the Falcons with 821 yards on 64 receptions. AP Photo/Jason Behnken

The Atlanta Falcons had a down season at 7-9, but there were promising signs shown by the rookie class.

Led by first-round draft pick Calvin Ridley, sixth-round pick Foye Oluokun and fourth-round pick Ito Smith, the six-man class gave Falcons coaches reason to be optimistic about the future.

Grade: Above average

Best rookie: Ridley, by far. The receiver from Alabama wasn't flawless, but it's hard to argue when a guy sets a franchise rookie record with 10 touchdown receptions. While learning under Julio Jones, Ridley finished with 821 yards on 64 receptions with 39 first downs and 355 yards after the catch. Of course, Ridley benefited from the extra defensive attention drawn by Jones, as did everybody else. But Ridley's route running was spectacular at times as he showed the ability to establish separation with ease. Take away the six drops and two fumbles and Ridley's rookie campaign would have been flawless. As he continues to mature, Ridley should be the guy to succeed Jones as the team's No. 1 threat.

Most improved rookie: Oluokun. He was the lowest pick of them all, yet he found himself as the most valuable new face on defense. Coach Dan Quinn admitted there was a thought of putting Oluokun at strong safety after Pro Bowler Keanu Neal went down with a season-ending ACL tear. However, the coaches decided to keep Oluokun at linebacker, where he flourished and overtook Duke Riley for a starting role. Oluokun played 506 defensive snaps and finished with 89 tackles, second on the team behind De'Vondre Campbell (94). Oluokun, a physical tackler with smarts out of Yale, should be counted upon as the third linebacker moving forward alongside Campbell and Pro Bowler Deion Jones.

Jury is still out on ...: Isaiah Oliver. The second-round cornerback didn't get as much playing time as expected for a high-round pick, but the coaches like Oliver's potential. Oliver got an early lesson when he failed to play deep enough on a game-winning touchdown scored by Cincinnati's A.J. Green. Then, later in the season, as the Falcons fell out of playoff contention, the coaches gave Oliver a closer look while rotating him in for Robert Alford and for Desmond Trufant. With Alford carrying a $9.1 million cap number next season and the potential to save $8.5 million by cutting ties with him, the Falcons could make a move that would accelerate Oliver's development. Oliver has the athleticism and length to succeed. Now he has to work on technique and physicality.

Undrafted rookie evaluation: No undrafted rookie contributed, but Matt Gono is a guy the Falcons might want to keep around just in case. Gono came from Division III Wesley College and made the roster as an offensive tackle. By season's end, he auditioned at guard and was activated for the season finale at Tampa Bay, although he didn't play. If he continues to grow as a player, Gono could be a versatile guy the Falcons insert for depth at guard and tackle as they look to get stronger up front.