The nose tackle position is often overlooked. They generally don’t generate big plays or highlight reel moments, and they don’t often pressure passers. Nose tackles tend to play a thankless position — at least as far as observers on the outside are concerned.
But players like Arkansas’ John Ridgeway III are certainly appreciated by their teammates. Their ability to control the line of scrimmage, occupy double-teams, and control gaps make the lives of other linemen and linebackers much easier.
The New York Giants have invested heavily in their defensive line over the years, but their defense suffered after losing Dalvin Tomlinson to free agency. Could Ridgeway plug that hole in the middle of their defense?
Prospect: John Ridgeway III (99)
Games Watched: vs. Texas (2021), vs. Texas A&M (2021), vs. Georgia (2021), vs. Auburn (2021)
Games Played: 11
Tackles For a loss: 4.0
Best: Size, strength, power, run defense, competitive toughness
Worst: Overall athleticism
Projection: A nose tackle in a multiple defense.
(Ridgeway is iDL number 99)
Arkansas defensive tackle John Ridgeway III is a big, competitive, and massively strong interior defensive line prospect.
Ridgeway primarily aligned as an A-gap defender, usually as a 0-tech Nose Tackle, in Arkansas’ defense. He has a big, powerful frame at 6-foot-4, 327 pounds, and carries his weight very well with good thickness in his upper and lower halves.
Ridgeway played both 1 and 2-gap techniques in Arkansas’ defense, either rushing individual gaps or seeking to control the center and both A-gaps. He plays with good initial leverage, consistently getting under centers’ pads before extending his arms and powering them into the backfield. Play strength is Ridgeway’s calling card, and he is able to overpower most centers and is able to control center/guard double teams.
He does a good job of driving lone blockers into the backfield, allowing him to disrupt both running and passing plays. Ridgeway also shows very good hand usage. He has a dangerous “push-pull” move as a pass rusher, and has a ready arm-over as a counter move. Ridgeway is a capable hand-fighter and is able to gain inside leverage on blockers, as well as defeat their attempts to gain leverage on him. He does a good job of controlling his blockers before shedding them to make plays on the ball.
Ridgeway plays with great competitive toughness and is dedicated in his pursuit of the play. He has solid awareness and quickly disengages from blockers to pursue plays, and is willing to run anywhere on the field to help make a tackle.
While Ridgeway has exceptional play strength, and uses that strength to disrupt offenses, he is a limited athlete. He lacks great – or even good – quickness and agility and is more “strong” than “explosive”. Ridgeway doesn’t have a great get-off and doesn’t really have the ability to explode off the line of scrimmage, nor is he able to disrupt as a looper on stunts and twists.
And while Ridgeway is tireless in pursuit and has some limited upside as an interior pass rusher, his lack of long speed allows ball carriers to run away from him.
Ridgeway also shows some stiffness in his lower body. He doesn’t seem to have great ankle flexibility, which can compromise his balance, particularly from blows to the side.
Conditioning and stamina is also a question with Ridgeway. He was frequently absent from the field for extended stretches of the games viewed, and might need to be in an active rotation at the NFL level.
Overall Grade: 7.2
John Ridgeway III projects as a nose tackle with scheme diversity at the NFL level.
Whether he is a “starter” or is considered an important rotational player will likely depend on an individual defense’s scheme and that week’s match-up. Ridgeway has the skill set to be a starting 0 or 1-technique defensive tackle, but the “multiple” nature of modern defenses makes the “starter” designation a bit moot. Ridgeway is good at what he does, and a defense can trust him in big moments.
That said, Ridgeway shouldn’t be expected to be a major contributor to the pass rush – at least not directly. He has some pass rush upside, mostly stemming from his prolific play strength and ability to push the pocket up front. Ridgeway’s greater contribution to the pass rush comes from his ability to disrupt quarterbacks by denying them the option to step up into the pocket, and particularly from his ability to occupy blockers. Ridgeway has great upper and lower body strength, allowing him to stand up against double-teams without giving ground. That can allow his teammates one-on-one match-ups, or even free rushes for blitzers.
Teams will likely look at Ridgeway as a “run stuffer”, and he is an excellent run defender. He is difficult to move off the ball, diagnoses runs quickly, and has the ability to control interior running lanes. That might wind up hurting his draft stock, as disruption in the passing game is just more important than stopping the run. However, Ridgeway’s eventual team will likely love his play strength and competitive toughness.