Even before trading Matt Ryan, 36, to the Indianapolis Colts in March, the Atlanta Falcons had a quarterback problem. With Ryan’s time in Atlanta appearing to be coming to an end and no clear succession plan in place, there were big questions regarding the future of the position.
For a moment, it appeared that Deshaun Watson would be the answer. However, when he was traded to the Cleveland Brown, it became apparent that Atlanta and Ryan just couldn’t get together.
Deshaun Watson and Matt Ryan
While Ryan’s trade made the present a little more uncertain, it essentially forced the team to commit to bringing in younger players. The Falcons acted quickly after moving Ryan, signing veteran free agent Marcus Mariota to start the season.
Mariota is widely seen as a bridge quarterback, and his two-year contract certainly means the Falcons see him in that role as well. So the question remained: who would general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith be behind as the franchise’s next quarterback?
Enter third-round pick Desmond Ridder.
With an impressive 44-6 record as a starter in Cincinnati, Ridder closed out his college career as the third winningest quarterback in NCAA history. And then there’s the kind of person and leader that Ridder is.
His intangibles were arguably the best in his draft class, and his work in pre-draft meetings largely impressed teams. On the football field, Ridder is an athletic (4.49 for 40 yards), smart, and strong passer who has total control of the offense.
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The biggest knock on Ridder coming out of Cincinnati was his accuracy. While it’s hard to improve substantially, if he can get to a point where it’s manageable, he’ll be fine.
Perhaps the biggest thing working in Ridder’s favor is his confidence. After receiving Fontenot’s call on draft day, Ridder said: “They screwed up, I’m not even going to lie. It shouldn’t have taken this long.” The 22-year-old rookie will enter the NFL with a chip on his shoulder and the work ethic to match.
Due to his physical tools and intangible assets, Ridder has the raw talent to become a starter in the league. His competitiveness and drive will give him a chance to develop that talent into a legit player at the next level.
Whether or not he’s the Falcons’ long-term answer to the quarterback job remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Ridder will do anything humanly possible to hit his ceiling. With that talent and drive, it’s easy to see why the Falcons took a chance, especially in the third round.
He appears to be a “face of the franchise” player. His style on the court suits perfectly what Smith wants to do offensively.
Now it’s up to Ridder to prove his post-draft claims were true and that the league really made a mistake by letting him slip away.