Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder has become a bit of a polarizing figure this offseason. Large portions of the national media have been heavily critical of the 2022 third-round signal caller. However, the Atlanta fan base has generally embraced the young quarterback.
Consider former New Orleans Saints general manager and The Athletic columnist Randy Mueller part of the former group.
Mueller ranked six developmental quarterbacks heading into the 2023 season. The list excluded rookies but was made up of quarterbacks from as early as the 2020 class.
Ridder came in at No. 6 of 6 signal callers on the list.
“My concern still starts with the fact Ridder has played a lot of football, becoming the starter at University of Cincinnati his redshirt freshman year and throwing 810 career collegiate passes, which is way more than most,” Mueller wrote. “Yet, is there an advancement coming? At this point, he is more of an executor, and not a playmaker. I’m not sure that’s sustainable at the NFL level.”
It’s a bit curious that Mueller is counting the fact the Ridder attempted a lot of passes in college as a negative. Earlier in his breakdown of Ridder, Mueller criticized the Falcons for a lack of preseason snaps for the second-year quarterback.
If Ridder needs all the snaps he can get, wouldn’t he need even more if he hadn’t played as much in college?
As far as advancement goes, Falcons fans will just have to wait and see. But early signs from Ridder last season were encouraging.
In his first two starts, Ridder posted a 59.3% completion percentage while averaging 5.3 yards per pass with zero touchdowns. Over his next two starts, he had a 67.9% completion percentage with a 7 yards per pass average and 2 touchdowns.
The Falcons also won his second two starts after losing his first two.
Opponents may have played a role in the improvement. But, it’s still encouraging.
Mueller, though, is not just doubting Ridder’s abilities. He also has concerns about Arthur Smith’s offense.
“Processing entire coverage packages and seeing the whole field may never be needed in head coach Arthur Smith’s RPO-heavy attack, so a lot of Ridder’s throws, like Fields’, take place off dominant run play-action fakes,” Mueller wrote. “So there is just as much question, in my mind, on the system being able to advance the passing game enough to win consistently at the NFL level as there is on Ridder’s competency as a pocket passer at the NFL level.”
Smith’s offense seemed to do just fine with the Tennessee Titans. With Smith as offensive coordinator, the Titans earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC during 2020. The team also advanced to the AFC Championship Game the prior season.
Despite these facts, Mueller ranked Ridder behind every other quarterback he evaluated. Here is Mueller’s full list of development NFL quarterbacks:
- Kenny Pickett
- Jordan Love
- Justin Fields
- Mac Jones
- Sam Howell
- Desmond Ridder
This list is a tough pill to swallow for Falcons fans for several reasons. First, the obvious one, local product Justin Fields, who the Falcons could have drafted two years ago, is ahead of Ridder.
As is Kenny Pickett, who looked impressive at Mercedes-Benz Stadium last week. The Falcons could have also drafted him in the top 10 last year.
But the placement of Sam Howell ahead of Ridder may be the most frustrating aspect of the list. The former Saints GM admitted that Howell’s play in one game last season left him “hollow.” However, Mueller raved about Howell’s performance in the preseason against the Baltimore Ravens.