Desmond Ridder, QB, Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons entered the offseason coming off of an atrocious seven-win campaign. General manager Terry Fontenot made the difficult decision 12 months ago to part ways with franchise legend, Julio Jones. This ultimately proved to be a brilliant move, as Julio Jones is currently a free agent, while the Falcons had the No. 58 overall pick to work with in the draft. The team thought they’d have Calvin Ridley to build around going forward, but due to breaking the leagues gambling rules, his future is in question.
Fontenot continued to make tough, but necessary, decisions this offseason by sending former NFL MVP Matt Ryan to Indianapolis, in exchange for a third-round selection. Immediately upon sending Ryan to the Colts, head coach Arthur Smith was reunited with quarterback Marcus Mariota via free agency. From 2011-2020, Smith was a fixture on the Titans coaching staff, a time span that coincided with Mariota’s tenure in Nashville. He is not a spectacular quarterback by any means, but he is serviceable.
Because of this, the Falcons entered the 2022 NFL Draft without an imminent need at quarterback. For the first two rounds, it seemed as though the team was prepared to move forward with only Marcus Mariota for the 2022 season. They chose wide receiver Drake London, pass rusher Arnold Ebiketie, and linebacker Troy Andersen with their first three selections. Then, with the first of their two picks in round three, they drafted what they hope is their quarterback of the future at No. 74 overall — Cincinnati Bearcats alum Desmond Ridder.
Ridder will be mentored by the always professional Mariota, as they both possess similar athletic profiles. Where Falcons fans should get excited is their difference in arm talent. Ridder is not far behind Willis in terms of the throws he can make.
He reaches all three levels of the field without breaking a sweat, and he’s far more advanced when it comes to pre-snap responsibilities than any other quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft. Ridder started 50 games in college and has a maturity and leadership quality that is necessary for winning over a locker room.
Without any first-round pressure, and an offensive minded head coach, I expect Ridder to challenge Mariota for the top spot on the depth chart by the time week one rolls around.