If all goes well—extremely well—the Falcons will have Desmond Ridder tossing touchdowns to Drake London for years to come. The NFL Player’s Association certainly seems to see the vision there, because they’ve named both players to a list of 10 rookies set to break out in 2022.
London clocked in at No. 2 on the list, while Ridder took the No. 9 spot in the top ten. The Falcons join the Jets (Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson, Nos. 3 and 5 respectively) as the only team with two rookies on the list, which is pretty exciting when you consider one of them was drafted in the third round.
It’s easy to understand why London is No. 2 on the list, behind only Kenny Pickett. The towering target is stepping in as the uncontested top receiver (though second option behind Kyle Pitts) in this Falcons passing game, and figures to have plenty of opportunities to showcase his yards after the catch and red zone ability in Arthur Smith’s offense. It would be a major upset if he was not one of the two or three best rookie receivers in the NFL this year, and he’s got a legitimate chance to outshine all the rest.
Ridder’s path to a big season is a bit trickier, because he has to push his way past Marcus Mariota for a starting job. Still, the expectation is that he’ll get some sort of extended audition to become the team’s next franchise quarterback, and given both his talent and the dearth of starting quarterbacks in this draft class, he has a legitimate shot to turn in a terrific rookie season. I certainly like him better than Pickett, both as a biased and unbiased observer.
Per the NFLPA, here’s the criteria for the list. There’s a second list of potential breakout veterans which does not feature any Falcons, potentially because they think Pitts already broke out last year:
The annual NFLPA Rising Stars list identifies top Rookies and Veterans poised to have breakout seasons, gain fan support and ultimately rank among the top-sellers of all officially licensed player merchandise.
I have high hopes for both players, both this year and in the future, so let’s hope the NFLPA list proves to be prescient. You can read the rest of the list here.