Most scouts and media members have dubbed 2022 as a down year for Quarterbacks, and while there is no obvious superstar in this class, I would call that a lazy assumption. Once you dig deep into this class you find that there’s a lot to work with, there are several prospects that could end up as long-term starters, provided that the landing spot is a good fit. After nearly three years of scouting the prospects in this draft class, I have the full breakdown of each of the top QB prospects in this class, after starting with Sam Howell last week, we continue with Desmond Ridder of The University of Cincinnati.
Measurables and Stats
- Height: 6-3
- Weight: 211lbs
- Hand Size: 10 In.
- Class: Sr.
- Starts: 50 (44-6) *3rd most wins in NCAA History
- Recruiting Ranking: 3 Star (0.8180 Composite)
Desmond Ridder was born to mother Sarah Ridder at the age of 15 on August 31st, 1999 in Louisville, Kentucky. Desmond has no connection to his father, instead, he was raised in large part by his grandmother, Jan, whom he credits for teaching him how to throw a football. In April 2021 Ridder and longtime girlfriend, Claire Cornett welcomed a daughter Leighton Elizabeth Ridder.
Ridder started 20 games in high school, finishing with 1825 Passing Yards, 1317 Rushing yards, and a 14-6 record. After impressing then, University of Cincinnati offensive coordinator Zac Taylor (Current Bengals Head Coach), Ridder was offered a scholarship.
Ridder Redshirted his True Freshman year in 2017. In 2018, as a Redshirt Freshman Ridder finished with 2445 Passing Yards, 20 Passing Touchdowns to only 5 interceptions, 583 Rushing Yards, 5 rushing touchdowns, and an 11-2 record. Not bad for a program coming off of back to back 4-8 seasons.
Ridder produced two very similar seasons in 2019 and 2020 (covid shortened year) before taking a step up in 2021 as a Redshirt Senior. Ridder finished 2021 with 3334 Passing Yards, 30 Passing Touchdowns to 8 Interceptions, 355 Rushing Yards, 6 Rushing Touchdowns, and a 13-1 record. Most importantly, Ridder led the first non “Power Five” school to make the College Football playoffs.
Film and Traits
This is the whole ball game for Ridder. He is the definition of a streaky passer, in that he has a tendency to throw several bad misses in a row, and then get hot and place balls perfectly for the next few series. When he’s on, he is elite, when he’s off his misses almost look like throwaways. What’s most troubling, is that his misses are often nowhere near the intended target. Unlike most prospects with accuracy issues, I have a really hard time tying his poor placement to poor mechanics. There are some minor issues with taking short choppy steps in drops out of the shotgun, but that only accounts for a portion of the problem. Can this be fixed? Only if we can accurately identify the problem, and while I have seen a plethora of potential causes, his mechanics are typically pretty solid.
In my recent study, I took a look at how all six of the top quarterbacks in this draft class performed in situations where the defense knew they were very likely to pass the ball. Out of all six, Ridder was by far the lowest performer in these situations, completing a mere 48.9% of those throws at a pedestrian 5.4 yards per attempt. That’s a steep drop-off for a guy who played very few ranked or power 5 opponents in his career and will face significantly tighter coverage in the NFL in these situations.
He’s not incapable of high-end ball placement, there are at least a few throws per game where he throws a perfect ball into tight windows. His timing and anticipation are very good for a player at this stage of his career, but the ball just doesn’t get to its target as consistently as it should. The other caveat is that Ridder did finish the last seven games of his college career with much more consistent ball placement, but there are 43 others that reflect much more poorly.
Composite Accuracy Grade (Short Accuracy + Intermediate Accuracy + Deep Accuracy + Anticipation + Accuracy Off Platform + Accuracy out of the pocket): 6.64/10
Ridder has been a careful and consistent caretaker of the ball his entire time at the University of Cincinnati (87 to 28 TD to Int Ratio), but especially as a Senior in 2021 when he cut his turnover-worthy throws to 2.0% (per Pro Football Focus), and his fumbles down from 7 to 3. On tape Ridder is one of the best in this class at quickly reading the defense, getting the ball out of his hands fast (2.19 seconds to throw from a clean pocket per PFF), and is adept at finding the correct read. He can get caught moving through his reads a little too quickly or forcing some balls but overall Ridder is one of the better decision-makers in this draft class. Grade: 8.5/10
This is one area of Ridder’s game where you can see the improvement year over year. Ridder has the ability to escape pressure, keep his eyes downfield, and if nothing is available, scramble for a big gain. There is a tendency to be a bit oblivious to pressure on some reps and can move himself into pressure on other reps. Ridder typically gets the ball out quick, but when he faces pressure he has gotten better each year at cutting down the bad sacks. Grade: 7/10
While I don’t love his deep ball accuracy, Ridder has more than a big enough arm to get it anywhere on the field it needs to go with real zip and velocity. More importantly, Ridder displays top-end velocity on those intermediate routes that require you to drive the ball into a tight window, those are NFL throws. If anything, Ridder probably needs to work on knowing when to take something off his ball and throwing with some touch. All in all, Ridder has more than a big enough arm to succeed on Sundays. Grade: 8.5/10
Ridder stole the show at the NFL Combine with a blistering 4.49 40 yard dash, and that speed shows up on tape, Ridder has no problem running away from defenders when called upon to do so. At 6-3 he’s a bit of a long strider and can’t see him changing direction like a Malik Willis or even a Matt Corral or Sam Howell is fast enough that he probably doesn’t need to. Ridder’s size and speed make him a real threat in the run game at the next level. One Caveat, he is a bit thin-framed, I would like to see him either add some weight or become proficient at sliding. Grade: 8.5/10
Ridder is an impressive young man. He is known as a highly intelligent leader that exceeded all expectations of his recruiting profile and all expectations of the program as a whole. Teammates and coaches seem to rally around him and he has by all accounts been extremely impressive in Interviews. Grade: 10/10
Durability and Red Flags
Durability Concern: Minor
Ridder has no real injury history to speak of, missing only one game in 2019 with a minor shoulder injury. The real concern is that Ridder is very thin-framed, measuring 6-3 and weighing only 207lbs for the senior bowl and 211 at the combine. For a quarterback that projects as something of a rushing threat, that thin frame could put him in harm’s way at the next level.
Character Red Flags: None
No Red Flags, No Character concerns, teammates and coaches all speak glowingly of Ridder. He’s often credited as the leader of the team and the driving force behind Cincinnati’s recent success. Off-field, Ridder is committed to being a great father. From all accounts, Ridder is the type of leader that can be trusted very early to be the face of a franchise.
Translating to Sundays
Does he project as a day one starter?
Surprisingly Yes. Ridder reads the field well, manages the huddle and the pocket well, takes care of the football, and gives you an effective rushing floor with his 4.49 speed. The things he needs to improve on are things he probably can only improve on from playing live games. There could be some ugly misses early in his career but Ridder almost needs to be a rookie starter in order to get the most out of him.
Best Team Fits
Ridder has strong intangibles and could be the driving force behind a culture change, but he needs an offensive scheme that compliments his strengths as a quick rhythm passer, allows him to use his legs, and features big-bodied pass catchers to accommodate his inconsistent accuracy. These facts along with team culture and community fits went into selecting these three fits.
1. New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton is out, but Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. are still in town. That means schematically, I don’t see many changes incoming but, since Drew Brees isn’t walking back through the door, they need a new QB. Ridder fits the scheme in New Orleans very well in that he specializes in getting the ball out really quickly and adds in the running element the team has used Taysom Hill for the last couple of seasons.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ridder is a great cultural fit with the “bring your lunchpail” type culture around the Pittsburgh area, I believe that his intangibles and his physical traits are going to make him a target of the Steelers. As for Ridder himself, the weapons he’ll have to work with as well as a coach who has never had a losing season could prove to be a roadmap to success. I’ve long said that whoever ends up in Pittsburgh would have the best shot at success. Will that be Ridder?
3. Detroit Lions
Ridder helped uplift a Cincinnati team to the college football playoffs, could he team with Dan Campbell in doing the same with the Detroit Lions? I believe he fits well with the type of tough leadership that Campbell himself exudes, and his mobility could very useful on a team that has some weapons but no true superstar players at skill positions.
Overall Grade and Pro Comparison
A Three-tiered Pro Comp.
Instead of trying to labor through justifying how a prospect can best match any one player and to provide a bit of clarity on how I could see Ridder project on Sundays I’ve moved to a three-tiered comp. This provides a snapshot I believe to be the worst case, best case, and most likely scenarios for Ridder’s career.
Floor Comp: Blake Bortles
Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar, small school prospect takes his program to national prominence, is lauded for great size, mobility, and a strong arm but struggles to throw with consistent accuracy. You’d be forgiven for believing I was describing Ridder, but I was actually describing Blake Bortles. Bortles represents the reality for Ridder if lands with a franchise that lacks direction. The good news is that Bortles hangs around the league year after year and I believe that Ridder is the type of person that at worst can have a long career as a journeyman backup.
Most Likely Comp: Reasonably healthy Marcus Mariota
A lot of the points from the previous paragraph also apply to Mariota, except he’s more talented than Bortles and landed in a better situation. The two things that hurt Mariota, were his lack of growth year to year as a passer, and the fact that he could never stay healthy. I’d like to believe that Ridder will be fortunate enough to avoid the injuries of Mariota but the reason I have Mariota as the comp here is that his thin frame reminds me of Mariota so learning to slide will be a must.
Ceiling Comp: Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott lifted his team (Mississippi State) to heights no one expected, won with his arm and his legs was lauded for his intangibles, and struggled to throw the ball accurately with consistency. Prescott landed in the ideal situation and was allowed to grow as a passer while his poise and leadership kept his team competitive. This is the absolute best-case scenario for Ridder.
Overall grade: 7.27/10 (Back of the 2nd Round)
Overall Ridder is very developed from a mental standpoint and has a ton of potential from a physical standpoint. He has the arm strength and mobility to make you wonder if he is really a Ferrari that was being driven like a used honda in that Cincinnati offense and I believe he could start for a team on day 1 and not be a total disaster. His career success or failure will likely be determined by how much he improves his accuracy. If he can be league average from a ball placement standpoint, then he’s a top 15 QB in the NFL. If not, he’s likely a future low-end starter or backup.