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What Could Hold Desmond Ridder Back As Falcons Future Starting QB?

Desmond Ridder's one major flaw in college could be what holds him back from being a full-time starter for the Atlanta Falcons in 2022

Coaches care little about player comparisons. Fans often try to pencil in a player's skill set to a proven name in the pros. 

New Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder isn't opposed to being compared to other passers. One of the name he tried to model his game after during his four seasons at Cincinnati is his now teammate, Marcus Mariota.

“As a lot of people know, I compare myself to him,” Ridder said following his selection last month. “Our athletic abilities, leadership, our ability to extend plays and then be smart with the ball when we do extend plays. I think that’s something we do really well, being able to use our legs to get outside the pocket and make an efficient throw, not do anything dumb with the ball. I think both of us do a really good job of that.”


Mariota was added as the bridge in Atlanta following his work with Falcons' coach Arthur Smith in Tennessee. Ridder, the No. 74 pick in the draft, could be viewed as the long-term option for Matt Ryan following his trade to the Indianapolis Colts

Everything can change in an instant for Atlanta depending on how long Smith is calling the shots. His offense is catered to more of a run-oriented formation and short to intermediate passing. It worked in Nashville with Ryan Tannehill. Mariota struggled, but he understands the offensive concepts since he used to run them in games as the Titans' starter. 

And it's why Ridder was enamored from Day 1 with Atlanta. He had grown up watching Falcons' offensive coordinator, Dave Ragone, light up the stat line as Louisville's quarterback. He also was a fan of Tannehill and Mariota due to the style of play the try to work when commanding the shots on offense. 

He’s been able to bring teams together, and the longevity he’s had in the league. And four is the ability to extend plays," Ridder said of Tannehill at the combine in March. "He does a great job of that.”

Ridder, who will turn 23 before Week 1, is one of the older quarterbacks in the class. He's also one of the more experienced, having served as the Bearcats' starter since his freshman season. As for winning, only two players in FBS history have a better record than his 44-6 mark.

So, could Ridder be the next third-round passer to start? That's all based off OTAs, summer practice and training camp. Mariota would also have to regress for Smith to pull him from the title of QB1 to begin the year. 

Crazier things have happened though. Anyone remember Seattle circa 2012? A kid from Wisconsin was selected 75th overall and beat out the proven veteran for first-team reps.

The Seahawks likely are thankful Russell Wilson was experienced enough to win out the gate. He, however, was more accurate than Ridder in his final season with the Badgers. 

Throughout the pre-draft process, Ridder's accuracy has been the subject of conversation. Several scouts believed the floor for him would be in the middle of the second round, but it turns out the inconsistencies in terms of passing played a bigger role in his stock. 

At the combine, Ridder said he modeled his passing style like Tannehill because he "is a great game manager." In Smith's — and later Todd Downing's — offense, Tannehill has averaged a completion rating of 67.8 percent. 

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Ridder has never finished a season with a completion rating over 66.2. He also has struggled with consistency on a week-to-week basis. 

One game, he completes 73 percent of his throws or higher. The next, he's hovering in the mid 50s. 

“I thought he had a good feel in the pocket,” Smith said. “There are a couple little minor, technical things you can work on.”

Those "little things" are accuracy. It paid dividends for Kenny Pickett in terms of being selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers No. 20 overall. During his final year of college, the Pitt quarterback completed 67.2 percent of his throws. 

It ended up being one of the deciding factors on why he was the only first round option. 

Ridder isn't expected to start right away. That's fine according to both him and Smith. The rookie isn't ready to first-team reps and Smith isn't keen on throwing a mid-round pick into the fire right away. 

"We’ve got a long way to go until September." Smith said. "I’m not going to tell you our long-term plan or short-term plan. We know what we want to see behind the scenes. It’ll play itself out.”

Desmond Ridder

The goal for the Falcons is to win games. For general manager Terry Fontenot, it's to see his draft picks flourish and become a foundation for what is expected to be a rebuilding year. 

Perhaps the process is sped up if Ridder can develop in record time. He did say following his selection that “they done (bleeped) up" after Atlanta waited too long to make him a Falcon. 

Ridder could be onto something for sure, but it all starts with one defining trait; accuracy. 

Said Ridder: "Guys are going to see that right off the bat that I’m going to do whatever it takes to win, whatever that may be, however many hours it is, whatever I have to sacrifice." 

Atlanta opens its rookie minicamp starting Friday.