Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Naturally, we start at the top—with quarterback. Atlanta’s QB room will look drastically different in 2022, and there’s a legitimate competition for the starting job taking shape. Will it be the steady veteran in Marcus Mariota, or the intriguing rookie in Desmond Ridder?
We looked at Mariota yesterday, and today it’s time for Desmond Ridder.
QB Desmond Ridder
Contract: $1.02M cap hit in 2022, under contract through 2025
Career Production (College): 50 games played | 810/1304 (62.1%) for 10,239 yards (7.9 YPA), 87 TD, 28 INT | 501 carries for 2,180 yards (4.4 YPC), 28 TD
2021 Production (College): 14 games played | 251/387 (64.9%) for 3,334 yards (8.6 YPA), 30 TD, 8 INT | 110 carries for 355 yards (3.2 YPC), 6 TD
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 3rd round (#74 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2022)
It was surprising that the Falcons elected to pass on a quarterback at the top of the 2021 NFL Draft class. The quality and volume of potential franchise signal callers was such that Atlanta still had a very good—at least in my opinion—prospect available to them at 4 in Justin Fields. Atlanta instead went with the slam-dunk skill player in Kyle Pitts and the rest is history, which left the door open for QB in 2022. After passing on the position once again with their first three picks, the Falcons finally selected Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder at 74.
While that’s much later than you’d traditionally select a potential franchise player, there are certainly reasons to be excited about Ridder—particularly in this offense. He was QB1 on many analysts’ boards due to his football IQ, leadership, and experience in a pro-style offense. The work ethic is also a standout trait for Ridder, who has spent each of the last three offseasons with QB guru Jordan Palmer to improve his mechanics. As you can see from his RAS, Ridder is also a high-level athlete who offers exceptional mobility and can make plays with his legs.
The primary knock on Ridder is his inconsistent accuracy. In college, it didn’t often get him in trouble—and it helps that Ridder is careful with the football. In the NFL, where the windows are tighter and the defenders are faster, it could be a more significant issue. Ridder will need to continue to work on this aspect of his game, but the rest of the package is there. Mentally and physically, Ridder has the traits of a potential franchise quarterback.
Ridder needs to find his way onto the field early and often—and have at least some level of success—in order to convince Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot to pass on QB at the top of the 2023 draft. That means finding a way to unseat Mariota. I expect it will happen, sooner or later. But the more opportunity Ridder has to impress the coaching staff and fans, the more likely he’ll be able to hold on to the starting job past this season.
Projection: Desmond Ridder is currently slotted in as the backup behind veteran Marcus Mariota, but he’s got a legitimate chance to surpass him in training camp. It’d be a surprise to see Ridder start Week 1, but it’s not out of the question. It’s more a question of when, not if, Ridder will start in 2022, as the Falcons need to know if additional investment is required at QB in 2023 and beyond.