The Atlanta Falcons drafted quarterback Desmond Ridder with their first pick in the third round, at the 74th spot in the 2022 NFL draft.
That selection made Ridder the second quarterback taken, joining Kenny Pickett who came off the board with the 20th-overall selection.
In the days and weeks ahead, much will be written and said about the way the NFL viewed this incoming quarterback class. Much of it will reflect what was written weeks ago, when teams like the Washington Commanders made moves for options rather than putting their faith veteran in the incoming class of passers.
Still, the move by the Falcons to add Ridder at this point in the draft is a fascinating decision, and perhaps a perfect pairing between a rookie quarterback and an offensive scheme.
Here are Ridder’s strengths as a passer, taken from my breakdown of the Top 11 passers in the 2022 draft class:
Similar to Pickett, Ridder’s experience makes him ready for the NFL game from a mental perspective. One of the better games to study for him is his outing against Houston in the AAC Championship Game. The Houston Cougars did a lot that night in terms of moving and rotating their safeties at the snap, but Ridder consistently made the right decisions with the football, either getting to his single-receiver matchups when the Cougars spun into single-high coverage, or working through concepts as necessary when Houston rotated into two-high looks.
Another area that stands out is how well Ridder works through reads in the pocket, getting to that all-important backside dig route that has become almost a non-negotiable in the modern game. On this play against UCF, Ridder opens to the left first, and seeing the concept covered he gets his eyes then to the middle of the field, and finally to his fourth read, the backside dig route:
In addition to what he can do with his mind, you can add in the athletic component. Ridder was a weapon with his legs during his time at Cincinnati, reflected in his rushing production. The 4.52 40-yard dash he posted at the Combine showed up on the field, particularly on runs like this one against SMU where you see that straight-line speed on designed plays:
With his processing ability and athleticism, Ridder offers a strong foundation and floor as a passer while still offering room for growth and development.
In fact, that athleticism might make his situation in Atlanta even better for his development. After all, the Falcons signed Marcus Mariota in free agency, and Ridder now has a chance to learn from another athletic quarterback. In this video breakdown, you can see how Ridder’s athletic ability aided him during his final season at Cincinnati:
In the piece linked above, discussing how the NFL viewed this incoming class of quarterbacks, I wondered whether a slide from the rookie class into later rounds might ultimately pay off for these quarterbacks in the end. As I wrote in March:
What is said at podium sessions is one thing, but what these organizations do is another. So while coaches and GMs might talk about this rookie class in a positive way, the actions we are seeing right now tell us a different story.
That story is a less optimism one regarding this quarterback class. When Wentz is worth this in a trade — while taking on his entire — teams like the Commanders salary here are showing what they think about these incoming QBs.
Now, there is a bright side to this for the incoming rookie class.
They might find themselves in better situations for their own growth and development.
If teams decide to try and solve their quarterback problems via free agency and trades, then these incoming rookies might land with teams that have starters in place, give them time to learn and develop. Starters like perhaps even Wentz who an organization paid a relatively steep price for, and as such are going to give every opportunity to under center.
If there is another constant about this class, even on the media side, it is that some of these incoming quarterbacks might need a little more time to learn and growth. Rather than forcing them into the lineup early, the NFL seems to be on the verge of giving them time to grow by moving towards veterans.
So in the end, this might turn out to be a good thing for these incoming QBs.
That is the situation now facing Ridder in Atlanta. With Mariota in place, and Ridder entering camp as a third-round selection, there will not be pressure to get him on the field early. Arthur Smith and the coaching staff can take their time with him, and play him when they believe he is ready.
And with his experience, athleticism and processing at the quarterback position, that might be sooner than you would expect.
So while it too ka while, Ridder might end up in the prefect spot for his growth and development.