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Is Desmond Ridder an NFL Starter?

The Atlanta Falcons have a slew of new faces in their projected starting lineup this season. Projections show at least 10-new starters. But every move the Falcons made during the offseason came with the caveat, “yeah, but Desmond Ridder….”

There are questions if Desmond Ridder can be the long term answer for the Falcons at quarterback, but so many national pundits feel they have the answer already. Colin Cowherd called the Falcons’ 8.5 over/under win total the easiest bet all year.

“How in God’s name with Desmond Ridder, I know the division is weak, can you be an 8.5-win team,” Cowherd pondered about the Falcons.

Dan Graziano on ESPN+ put together the biggest question for all-32 teams in the NFL, and obviously he asked is Desmond Ridder really an NFL starter? For once, Ridder gets a fair shake instead of an automatic “no”.

The Red Stallions let their 2022 third-round pick start the final four games of their lost season, and while he didn’t look overwhelmed, he didn’t do much that stood out, either. Like the Sam Howell situation in Washington (and, to some extent, the Jordan Love situation in Green Bay), there’s really no way for anyone to know the answer to this question based on anything we’ve seen.

Ridder was a very good college quarterback on a loaded Cincinnati team that made the College Football Playoff two years ago. He has a lot going for him, experience winning and experience playing in big games. The Falcons’ coaching staff and front office saw enough in him last year that they decided not to pursue Lamar Jackson or any other QB options this offseason, so they’ll throw him into the pool and see if he can swim. If he can’t, Taylor Heinicke likely has to get them safely to shore and they can look at the top of next year’s draft for their real long-term solution.

Dan Graziano, ESPN+

Desmond Ridder is on an exclusive list. The only quarterback with more than 100 attempts without an interception last season. He played within himself as a rookie and got better in every start.

He did so without the benefit of Kyle Pitts who was injured before Ridder took over as starter. The running game including No. 8 overall pick Bijan Robinson should take pressure of Ridder and help set up the play-action pass.

The early returns for Ridder last year were positive. Seeing him automatically labeled as a liability to the Falcons 2023 chances has been odd to say the least.

Give credit to Graziano for at least admitting… “we don’t know.”

Scott Kennedy
Scott Kennedy is an Atlanta native and 20 year media veteran including time as Director of Scouting at, Managing Editor at 247Sports, VP Content Operations at Sports Illustrated and more. Scott has appeared as a recruiting and NFL Draft analyst on dozens of media including ESPN, NFL Network, USA Today, NY Times, and more.

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