Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder - Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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Desmond Ridder, Defensive Player Make Up List of Falcons’ Players With Most to Prove

It’s not a secret that Desmond Ridder probably has the most to prove of any Atlanta Falcons player during the 2023 season. In fact, Ridder may have the most to prove of any player this season in the entire NFL.

But who else will be aiming to prove his naysayers wrong in 2023? Falcons Wire’s Matt Urban argued a bunch of the team’s defensive players will be.

On a list of the top 5 players with the most to prove in 2023, Urban ranked four defensive players on the list after Ridder at No. 1.

“The Falcons opted not to go after a more-established QB this offseason, so it’s Ridder or bust in 2023,” Urban wrote.

Here’s Urban’s full list of Falcons players with the most to prove this season:

  1. Desmond Ridder
  2. Jessie Bates III
  3. Kaden Ellis
  4. Jeff Okudah
  5. Arnold Ebiketie

Newly-signed free agents don’t typically make a list of players with something to prove. That’s because newly-signed players usually come in on big contracts and don’t have to worry about getting paid on the open market again for a few years.

The Falcons spent a combined $85.5 million to bring in Bates and Ellis. Yet, both made Urban’s list.

Urban wrote that “there’s always something to prove when you’re making $16 million a year.” That will be Bates’ average annual salary for the next four years.

For Ellis, Urban argued that he must prove that his breakout 2022 season wasn’t fluke. Ellis had 7 sacks and 78 combined tackles, including 7 tackles for loss last season. But in his first three NFL years, he had a combined 1 sack and 23 combined tackles, including 1 tackles for loss.

Okudah and Ebiketie are more typical in terms of players the media usually tabs with something to prove.

Okudah was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, but the Detroit Lions shipped him to the Falcons for next to nothing (a fifth-round pick) this offseason. The Lions also agreed to keep part of Okudah’s salary against their cap in 2023.

The Falcons drafted Ebiketie in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft. As a rookie, he posted 30 combined tackles, including 3 tackles for loss, with 11 quarterback hits and 2.5 sacks.

Atlanta wants a lot more from the pass rusher in his second season.