The subject of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan splits opinion among fans. Ryan owns virtually every meaningful Falcons’ passing record, but he and his team have come up short of winning a title.
Ryan will be 37-years old when the 2022 season begins. It doesn’t matter which camp you’re in, a successor to Ryan will need to be found sooner rather than later.
The Falcons passed on the chance to take his long-term replacement last year when they took tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 pick in the NFL Draft. Justin Fields and Mac Jones were both available, heading to the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots respectively.
This year’s draft class has more questions than answers at the top with Matt Corral (Ole Miss), Malik Willis Liberty), and Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh) all vying to be the first quarterback taken. The Falcons have the No. 8 pick in the draft and using a pick on one of those quarterbacks seems risky.
But the Falcons have two second-round picks at No. 43 and No. 58 and pick No. 74 in the third. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder could be an excellent option later in the draft.
Ridder measured 6’3 and 207 pounds at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. last week. He had an excellent week of practice, and while his flash plays weren’t of the same caliber as the strong-armed Willis, he threw less bad balls during the course of the week.
Ridder threw for 3,334 yards with 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a senior with the Bearcats last year. He showed excellent mobility at the Senior Bowl, for good reason, he rushed for 2,180 yards and 28 touchdowns as a four-year starter in Cincinnati.
Drafting Ridder after the first round would let the Falcons use their first-round pick to address other gaping holes in the lineup, particularly along the lines of scrimmage.
Atlanta could also go in another direction with the “best player available” strategy. The mock draft released by the Falcons’ official site has Atlanta getting a running mate for cornerback A.J. Terrell in LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr.
Backup quarterback Feleipe Franks isn’t the answer. He was an undrafted free agent for a reason. We advocated for Justin Fields last year, but there isn’t a Fields in this class. Willis is close, but he’s still a bigger risk at No. 8 overall.
If the season goes south in 2022, Ridder wouldn’t prevent the Falcons from going after Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud in 2023.
A position player like Stingley Jr. will make the Falcons immediately better in a way no quarterback in this draft is going to, while still allowing Atlanta to prepare for the future with a solid quarterback prospect.