Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway’s decision to enter the 2016 NFL Draft following an injury-plagued junior season at Texas drew plenty of raised eyebrows and second guesses from draft analysts.
Ridgeway, a Mansfield High School product, heard most of them and used them as emotional fuel in training sessions over the past four months. When the draft begins Thursday in Chicago, there is a chance Ridgeway could hear his name called during the opening night of the three-day session. A more likely occurrence would be in Friday’s second round, where Ridgeway (6-foot-3, 303 pounds) has been pegged to be picked by Dane Brugler, draft analyst for CBS Sportsline.
Brugler ranks Ridgeway, who finished his college career with 92 tackles and 9.5 sacks, as the No. 38 prospect on his top 100 list and the No. 8 defensive tackle. Scouts Inc. placed Ridgeway as its No. 14 defensive tackle.
Either way, the wait to hear Ridgeway’s name should be shorter than anticipated in February when NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock questioned the player’s decision to leave school during an NFL Combine telecast. Perspectives began changing after Ridgeway’s Pro Day performance in Austin, when he showed better-than-expected speed in a 20-yard shuttle drill (4.69 seconds) and a three-cone drill (7.33 seconds). Gil Brandt, NFL.com senior analyst, said Ridgway also “shocked” scouts with his strength during that session after doing 24 repetitions with 225 pounds at the combine.
“Hassan is a good player. He’s got first-round talent,” Brandt said. “Unfortunately, he doesn’t play up to his talent level. He needs a better work ethic. But somebody’s going to get a steal in the second or third round with this guy. If he played all-out, all the time, he’d be a first-round pick.”
Whatever happens in Chicago, Ridgeway said he is satisfied with his decision to leave school early and believes he has maximized his pre-draft preparations.
Hassan is a good player. He’s got first-round talent. Unfortunately, he doesn’t play up to his talent level. He needs a better work ethic.
Gil Brandt, senior analyst for NFL.com
“I feel that I did everything I set out to accomplish,” said Ridgeway, who opted to leave Texas after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board in December. “I had goals, and I feel like I reached every single one of them. I have no regrets doing anything I’ve done.”
Ridgeway is expected to be the first, and possibly only, Longhorn taken in this year’s draft. Among players from Big 12 schools or Texas-based colleges, he is one of 14 players Brugler identified as top 100 prospects.
The list begins with Houston cornerback William Jackson (No. 21), includes two potential first-round receivers in Baylor’s Corey Coleman (No. 22) and TCU’s Josh Doctson (No. 27), and concludes with Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper (No. 97), a likely fourth-round pick.
Brugler described Ridgeway as a player with “an impressive skill set” who needs more consistency in his technique. He said Ridgeway “moves well for his size and plays with purpose” but needs to show more durability at the next level.
I feel that I did everything I set out to accomplish. I had goals, and I feel like I reached every single one of them. I have no regrets doing anything I’ve done.
Hassan Ridgeway, on his preparations for the 2016 NFL Draft
By his own estimation, Ridgeway said he was fully healthy in just “five or six” of the 11 games he played last season while dealing with shoulder, ankle and back ailments. He finished with 36 tackles, including 6.5 for losses, and 3.5 sacks. He also had a scoop-and-score touchdown on a fumble return against Oklahoma State, his best game of the season.
“I had three different injuries that slowed me down. I caught my speed, then I would get hindered again,” Ridgeway said. “But you have to push through those games. My team needed me and you have to play.”
Asked how much he believes he has boosted his draft stock in recent months, Ridgeway said: “I can’t answer that question. The only ones that know that are the people in the front office.”
Jimmy Burch: 817-390-7760, @Jimmy_Burch
Local college draft prospects
A look at NFL draft projections for players from Big 12 and Texas colleges, based on feedback from NFL scouts and draft analysts. The three-day draft begins Thursday in Chicago:
First day (Round 1): Corey Coleman, Baylor, WR; William Jackson, Houston, CB
Tweeners (Rounds 1-2): Josh Doctson, TCU, WR; Andrew Billings, Baylor, DT; Cody Whitehair, Kansas State, OG
Second day (Rounds 2-3): Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, WR; Hassan Ridgeway, Texas, DT; Xavien Howard, Baylor, CB; Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State, DE; Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M, OT; Karl Joesph, West Virginia, S
More tweeners (Rounds 3-4): Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech, OT; Kolby Listenbee, TCU, WR; Charles Tapper, Oklahoma, DE; K.J. Dillon, West Virginia S
Final day (Rounds 4-5): Nick Kwiatkowski, West Virginia, LB; Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma, LB; Derrick Kindred, TCU, S; Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma, CB
Final day (Rounds 5-6): Spencer Drango, Baylor, OL; Eric Striker, Oklahoma, LB; Daryl Worley, West Virginia, CB; Drew Kaser, Texas A&M, P
Final day (Rounds 6-7): DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech, RB; Jay Lee, Baylor, WR; David Morgan, UTSA, TE; Devante Bond, Oklahoma, LB; Morgan Burns, Kansas State, CB; Brandon Williams, Texas A&M, CB; Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech, WR/KR
Final day (Round 7): Aaron Green, TCU, RB; Halapoulivaati Vaitai, TCU, OT; Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State, FB;
Bubble riders (Round 7 or free agents): Trevone Boykin, TCU, QB; Tra Carson, Texas A&M, RB; Shawn Oakman, Baylor, DE; Johnathan Gray, Texas, RB; Demarcus Ayers, Houston, WR; Rico Gathers, Baylor, TE; Cedric Lang, UTEP, TE; Nila Kasitati , Oklahoma, OG; Joe Cheek, Texas A&M, OG; LaQuan McGowan, Baylor, OL/TE; Terrell Lathan, TCU, DE; Elandon Roberts, Houston, LB; De’Vante Harris, Texas A&M, CB; Bennett Okotcha, UTSA, CB; Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State, CB; Duke Thomas, Texas, CB
NOTE: Remaining prospects project as free-agent signees.