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NFL Draft

Can Desmond Ridder Be A First-Rounder In 2022 NFL Draft?

  • The Draft Network
  • July 7, 2021
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Entering the 2021 season, there are several quarterbacks that have enough likable traits to believe they could ultimately be a first-round selection but enough warts to believe they could be on the outside looking in. Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder is one of those players.

After redshirting in 2017, Ridder became the Bearcats’ starting quarterback in 2018 and after a strong campaign was named the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year. He passed for 2,445 yards and 20 touchdowns and added 583 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Cincinnati was 4-8 the year prior and with Ridder at quarterback, the Bearcats improved to 11-2 and defeated Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl. The Hokies joined UCLA as the second Power Five foe that Ridder and the Bearcats knocked off in as many tries in 2018.

Ridder was entrenched as Cincinnati's starter in 2019 and while the team went 11-3, Ridder didn’t illustrate as much growth as expected in his second season as he played through injuries for much of the year. With that said, it didn’t stop Ridder and the Bearcats from collecting two more wins against Power Five opponents, again knocking off UCLA and defeating Boston College in the Birmingham Bowl.

Expectations were high for Cincinnati and Ridder in 2020 and they were met. The Bearcats boasted a 9-1 record, won the AAC Championship Game, and earned a date with Georgia in the Peach Bowl. As for Ridder, he played the best football of his career, showcasing career highs in completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage, passing yards per game, passer rating, rushing yards per attempt, and rushing touchdowns. He was named AAC Offensive Player Player of the Year and was the MVP of the AAC Championship Game.

Ridder has proven a lot in three seasons as the starter for Cincinnati and he possesses many characteristics that NFL teams covet in potential franchise quarterbacks. Let’s examine what those traits are and what he still needs to prove in 2021 to solidify his chances at hearing his name called on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft.


Ridder’s physical ability immediately pops when watching him play. He has a live arm that is capable of making any throw and he’s a terrific athlete. He brings a legitimate dual-threat skill set to the table that makes him difficult to defend. He makes his share of big-time throws down the field, outside the numbers, and in tight windows while his ability to win as a runner is also impressive. Whether it’s designed runs or scrambling, Ridder has outstanding vision, athleticism, tackling-breaking ability, and competitive toughness as a ball carrier.

He makes his physical traits count by being able to alter his arm slots, keep his eyes down the field, and win outside of structure when extending plays. He’s smart about picking his spots as a runner and his physical ability frequently leads to big plays on the field.

Outside of his impressive resume and accomplishments on the field, his blend of size, arm talent, and athleticism make him appealing in addition to his competitive toughness and experience. He’s taken his share of hits in college and played through injuries and his poise and toughness are evident.


Unfortunately, the most notable concern for Ridder is the area that is often the most difficult for quarterbacks to improve: accuracy. He simply has to find more consistent ball placement. It’s not that he is completely erratic with his throws, he’s just more of a “general accuracy” thrower of the football. Whether it’s failed opportunities to challenge a leveraged defender or inviting contested-catch points due to off-target throws, Ridder has to be better about where he places the football.

I believe most of his accuracy issues stem from when his process is hurried. When Ridder can’t achieve his desired sequencing with his mechanics, he struggles to slot throws. He tends to be a bit toesy in the pocket and his ball placement is impacted negatively when his feet aren’t set. This also leads to issues with consistently getting his hips and shoulders aligned to deliver accurate throws. These problems are manifested mostly on throws to his left.

On throws down the field, Ridder often struggles to deliver the football with the right amount of weight on the ball. He has to find more touch and get more air under the football to have more consistent success as a vertical passer.

While accuracy is clearly his No. 1 area needed for growth, Ridder also needs to showcase cleaner ball handling at the mesh point, be more willing to take what the defense gives him, and find more consistency with his internal clock to feel pressure better in the pocket.


As things stand, Ridder’s ticket to the first round is a team falling in love with him like the Green Bay Packers did with Jordan Love. Not that Ridder and Love are clones of each other, but I can see the range of valuation across the NFL being similar. Otherwise, I foresee him being a Kellen Mond-like prospect in terms of NFL valuation.

The opportunity is right in front of Ridder to answer questions and demonstrate growth. In year four as the Bearcats’ starter, he needs to take another step as a passer.

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