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Atlanta Falcons draft Desmond Ridder with 74th pick, evaluating the intriguing fit

Matt Johnson
Desmond Ridder
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Atlanta Falcons selected quarterback Desmond Ridder with the 74th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, ending a lengthy two-night slide for one of the top passers in this draft class.

Days before the draft, many believed Ridder could be a first-round pick. While he lacked the elite physical traits Malik Willis offers and some viewed him on a tier below Kenny Pickett, there was plenty of buzz around the Bearcats’ signal-caller.

Round 1 came and went with Pickett the only quarterback drafted. Everyone expected things to change early on Day 2, but Ridder and his peers kept sliding down the draft board. Finally, Atlanta used the 74th selection on the intriguing passer.

Desmond Ridder NFL Draft profile

  • Desmond Ridder 40 time: 4.52 seconds
  • Desmond Ridder stats (2021): 3,334 passing yards, 30-8 TD-INT ratio, 158.7 QB rating

Let’s dive into why Ridder is an intriguing fit for Atlanta.

Why the Falcons drafted Desmond Ridder

Syndication: The Enquirer
Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Entering the first year of a rebuild, the Falcons are slowly putting the pieces of a foundation together. It started in the first round with wide receiver Drake London, who made USC’s quarterbacks look good thanks to his ability to snag contested catches and an underrated skill of getting yards after the catch.

Atlanta used its second-round picks to start addressing one of the worst front sevens in the NFL. When Ridder was still available in Round 3, general manager Terry Fontenot pounced on the opportunity.

There are some nice weapons for the 22-year-old quarterback to throw to if he beats out Marcus Mariota for the starting job. London and tight end Kyle Pitts are ideal weapons for a young passer who wants to get the football out quickly and having two offensive weapons with a massive catch radius can even make off-target throws look good.

Of the quarterbacks available, Atlanta drafted the player with the most pro-ready skills and the highest floor. It’s also a wise investment at this spot, since a third-round pick won’t stop the Falcons from taking a franchise quarterback like Bryce Young or CJ Stroud in 2023.

While the offensive line is still a problem, the coaching staff and skill players make this an intriguing fit for Ridder. As for his overall skills and college background, that’s likely what drew Atlanta to him .

Here’s everything you need to know about new Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder.

Desmond Ridder scouting report

NFL: Scouting Combine
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout meeting with NFL general managers and coaches, Ridder reportedly blew teams away with his football IQ, leadership and other intangibles. One of the standout attributes was his ability to recall play, a mental skill that coaches place emphasis on for young quarterbacks.

Ridder doesn’t bring elite physical tools to the table. He lacks the elite arm strength that Malik Willis, hurting his accuracy at times when throwing deep. Because of his diminished throwing velocity, it makes fitting throws into tight windows more difficult and defensive backs can react faster to the throw.

Accuracy is one of his biggest issues. He, like Willis, finished below average in Cory Knnan’s charting for weighted on-target percentage. It is a persistent issue, as PFF’s Kevin Cole detailed in his tracking over the past two seasons.

Notably, most of the ball-placement issues come early in the game when he is still settling in. Once he locks in, especially late in games, he displays more consistent touch on his throws. With NFL coaches helping him iron out his mechanics, it’s an area where he can improve.

One aspect of Ridder’s game that makes him the most pro-ready quarterback in 2022 is his composure under pressure and ability to diagnose and then react to coverages. It will allow him to compete for a starting job immediately, providing the coaching staff with confidence that Ridder can handle a larger playbook than his peers in this class.

In terms of Ridder’s athleticism, he’s exactly what NFL teams are looking for as a mobile NFL quarterback. Following a strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, Ridder received a 9.62 Relative Athletic Score. On pure athleticism, MockDraftables identifies similarities to quarterback Jalen Hurts and Marcus Mariota.

Overall, NFL comparisons on him range from a Dak Prescott-lite to a prime version of Alex Smith. In either case, he’s a quarterback who can start for multiple years and earn a second contract.

Why Desmond Ridder’s college career matters

Syndication: The Enquirer
Albert Cesare / The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Desmond Ridder joined the Cincinnati Bearcats as a three-star recruit in 2017. When he enrolled, the Bearcats were coming off consecutive four-win seasons. After Cincinnati’s spring game and summer practices, coach Luke Fickell named Ridder as the Bearcats starting quarterback to open the 2018 season.

The Kentucky native earned AAC Rookie of the Year honors in 2018, helping the Bearcats win 11 games as a redshirt freshman. While he took a step back in his second collegiate season, the Bearcats still went 11-3. In the Birmingham Bowl, Ridder earned MVP honors with four total touchdowns and 105 rushing yards against Boston College.

SeasonCompletion RateYPAPass YardsAY/ATD-INTQB rating
201862.4%7.92,4458.420-5146.4
201955.1%6.72,1646.518-9123.7
202066.2%8.22,2968.619-6152.9
202164.9%8.63,3349.230-8158.7
Desmond Ridder college stats via Sports Reference

The ability to improve every year from 2019-’21 attracts NFL teams. It shows Ridder is capable of growth, something that only comes when a player puts in the work to make those strides. It shows NFL coaches that Ridder is committed to putting in the time it takes to get better, something an area scout for an AFC team highlighted to NFL.com.

Winning and leadership also matter. Ridder played a huge part in Cincinnati becoming the best Group of Five team in college football and the program doesn’t reach its first College Football Playoff without him. A leader of the team across four seasons with the third-most wins (44) by a quarterback in college football history, those intangibles matter to coaches a lot.

While they don’t guarantee him a successful NFL career, Ridder should be a starting quarterback at the next level. If he improves in certain areas and the team commits to him, he could even be the best quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft.