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2022 NFL Draft rankings: QB3 Desmond Ridder

Desmond Ridder

Desmond Ridder

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In today’s installment of our 2022 NFL Draft scouting series, we investigate QB3 Desmond Ridder. Below you’ll also find my full QB3-QB15 rankings with comps and advanced stats. Check back Saturday for my report on Matt Corral. Statistical rankings below courtesy of PFF and ESPN, and are based out of 39 qualified draft-eligible quarterbacks. FCS quarterbacks not included in rushing QBR (19 qualifiers).

3. Desmond Ridder | Cincinnati | 6’4/211

PFF grade rank: 8
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 15
PFF big-time throw % rank: 3
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 4
BTT/TWT rank: 3
PFF clean pocket rank: 10
PFF under pressure rank: 7
ESPN rushing QBR rank: 6
2021 dropbacks: 435

Coming out of the Louisville prep ranks in 2017, Ridder was thoroughly overlooked. Rated a two-star Rivals recruit and a three-star by 247, the local Louisville Cardinals were not interested in Ridder. Louisville, headed towards its last season with the transcendent Lamar Jackson, signed QB Malik Cunningham that class instead.

Cunningham turned into a multi-year starter, but in hindsight, clearly former HC Bobby Petrino missed on Ridder. The post-Jackson 2018 team started 2-8 before Petrino got the axe. Cincinnati, meanwhile, can thank current Bengals HC Zac Taylor for bringing Ridder to town. In 2017, back when he was Cincinnati’s OC, Taylor extended Ridder his only FBS scholarship offer.

Ridder spent a year redshirting and took over the starting job as a second-year freshman in 2018. He went on to be a four-year starter. Following a 2020 season where he was a semifinalist for the Maxwell – 2,296 passing yards and 19 TD on 8.6 YPA and 66.2% completions with 703 rushing yards and 12 TD on 8.8 YPC (sacks omitted) – Ridder seriously explored declaring early for the draft.

After being given a Rounds 4-6 projection from the NFL, he decided to return. Inspired decision. Ridder enters the NFL as the only G5 quarterback to ever lead his team to the CFP. During Cincinnati’s magical 2021 run, Ridder threw for a career-high 3,334 passing yards and 30 TD on 8.6 YPA with 547 rushing yards and six TD on 6.5 YPC (sacks omitted). Ridder is now a top-50 lock, and he could even sneak into the end of the first round.

Ridder’s legs were a driving force behind Cincy’s offensive renaissance, directing an offense heavy in RPO concepts. Ridder is a good runner, with 4.52 speed and explosive initial steps. He’s more of a north-south runner than an east-west mover and probably isn’t going to break many ankles in the open field in the NFL. But he must be accounted for in this area because of how quickly he can get 10 yards upfield and into open space once he decides to bail.

Ridder’s frame is on the skinnier side. He was better at protecting himself than Matt Corral in college, and that will need to continue in the NFL, because Ridder’s lack of high-end wiggle can set him up for high-speed crashes when he doesn’t surrender himself.

Ridder is more elusive in short quarters, operating in the pocket. He likes to move around. He’ll shuffle left, slide right, slide left, move up, jog out right -- whatever. One good thing about Ridder’s pocket approach is that it can give him more space to operate, a better vantage point, and, sneakily, it can open up running lanes. Ridder admirably keeps his eyes downfield on targets until it’s time to escape.

One bad thing about Ridder’s pocket approach is it can inadvertently put him into danger. Ridder doesn’t have an intuitive feel for defenders honing in on him, so when his compensatory mechanism sends him in the wrong direction like a bad GPS, his options can run out quickly. Ridder winds up to throw, with the slowest release of my top-five quarterbacks. It’s dangerous for him to be in muddy waters.

Ridder’s lower-body mechanics might be the best in the class at this point after further improvements to this area of his game were made this past year. In 2021 Ridder also showed increased discipline in marrying his upper-body mechanics – which in the past sometimes had a mind of their own – with his always-superb lower-body base.

Ridder’s throwing motion likely formed naturally as he tried to get more zip on the ball. His arm is average or slightly above-average for NFL starters, nothing more. He throws a catchable deep-ball with plenty of air under it, but things can get iffy pushing beyond 50 yards downfield, with quails sometimes fluttering and dying.

One good thing about Ridder is that he knows his limitations, he works on them, and he even develops compensatory methods to mitigate them. For instance, his accuracy issues never became full-blown turnover concerns because Ridder learned not to test fate.

And he’s willing to wait as long as he can buy himself, unless an open tarmac has opened up in front of him to take off from. He sees the field well, but he wants to see the receiver open, or at least know he has the best of it when dialing up a 50-50 ball downfield (often he did, working with speed merchant Alec Pierce) before throwing.

But on the other side of that, Ridder is a more risk-averse passer than any of my top-5 quarterbacks. His compensatory mechanism to mitigate the damage of one weakness may cap his overall ceiling as a passer, but it in turn always keeps Ridder within the bumpers. He leaves options on the table, but generally makes the correct decision with the ball.

Accuracy will never be a strength of Ridder’s game. He posted PFF adjusted accuracy percentages of 73.5% and 73.9% the past two years, ultimately ranking No. 15 of 39 draft-eligible QBs in that metric this past year. But that finish is a little propped-up by all the freebie throws in Cincy’s offense.

Last summer, I ranked Ridder QB9, and based on his work up until that time, compared him to Brett Hundley. The pair shared similar frames and accuracy issues, as well as a notable statistical quirk. In his final season at UCLA, 64.4% of Hundley’s passes came within nine yards of the line of scrimmage. In 2020, Ridder easily led my top-10 preseason QB prospects with 61.4% of his passes coming within nine yards of the line of scrimmage.

This past season, Ridder cut that number to 54.6% (more in line with Kenny Pickett’s finishes the past few years, but still high). That this coincided with Ridder’s statistical explosion as a passer is the reason Ridder has jumped from a projected Rounds 4-6 pick to a top-50 prospect between this year and last.

Accuracy and placement will never be strengths, but you can no longer use those areas to disqualify him. And it goes without saying that you can build an NFL offense around Ridder’s plus-attributes. You know you’re getting a great locker room guy – coaches and teammates rave about Ridder’s leadership qualities and work ethic.

I now compare Ridder to Marcus Mariota. Eerily similar athletic profiles. They came out of diametrically-opposed collegiate offenses, but they share strong stylistic similarities on the field. Mariota hasn’t quite been the runner in the NFL that was hoped of him, and I think the same will prove true of Ridder. Mariota does enough to get you over as a thrower, but not enough to win big. I think this will also ultimately be Ridder’s fate. Ridder will be a low-end NFL starter or a high-end NFL backup quickly. His ceiling is league-average starter.

Comp: Marcus Mariota

4. Kenny Pickett | Pittsburgh | 6'3/217

Comp: Andy Dalton
PFF grade rank: 1
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 4
PFF big-time throw % rank: 20
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 14
BTT/TWT rank: 14
PFF clean pocket rank: 1
PFF under pressure rank: 16
ESPN rushing QBR rank: 9
2021 dropbacks: 581

Pickett scouting report

5. Carson Strong | Nevada | 6’3/226

Comp: Jared Goff
PFF grade rank: 9
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 6
PFF big-time throw % rank: 11
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 6
BTT/TWT rank: 6
PFF clean pocket rank: 4
PFF under pressure rank: 31
ESPN rushing QBR rank: 19
2021 dropbacks: 580

Strong scouting report

6. Sam Howell | UNC | 6’1/218

Comp: C.J. Beathard
PFF grade rank: 7
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 26
PFF big-time throw % rank: 12
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 8
BTT/TWT rank: 8
PFF clean pocket rank: 11
PFF under pressure rank: 15
ESPN rushing QBR rank: 2
2021 dropbacks: 462

Howell scouting report

7. Bailey Zappe | Western Kentucky | 6’0/215

Comp: Chase Daniel
PFF grade rank: 12
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 7
PFF big-time throw % rank: 4
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 19
BTT/TWT rank: 12
PFF clean pocket rank: 12
PFF under pressure rank: 24
ESPN rushing QBR rank: 15
2021 dropbacks: 730

Zappe scouting report

8. Dustin Crum | Kent State | 6’1/210

Comp: Nathan Peterman
PFF grade rank: 6
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 20
PFF big-time throw % rank: 2
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 1
BTT/TWT rank: 1
PFF clean pocket rank: 8
PFF under pressure rank: 25
ESPN rushing QBR rank: 3
2021 dropbacks: 462

Crum scouting report

9. Jack Coan | Notre Dame | 6’3/218

Comp: Greg McElroy
PFF grade rank: 16
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 10
PFF big-time throw % rank: 8
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 5
BTT/TWT rank: 4
PFF clean pocket rank: 15
PFF under pressure rank: 19
ESPN rushing QBR rank: 16
2021 dropbacks: 436

Coan scouting report

10. Cole Kelley | SE Louisiana | 6’7/249

Comp: Paxton Lynch
PFF grade rank: 2
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 1
PFF big-time throw % rank: 26
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 9
BTT/TWT rank: 11
PFF clean pocket rank: 3
PFF under pressure rank: 11
ESPN rushing QBR rank: N/A
2021 dropbacks: 630

Kelley scouting report

11. E.J. Perry | Brown | 6’2/211

Comp: Taylor Heinecke
PFF grade rank: 26
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 18
PFF big-time throw % rank: 37
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 29
BTT/TWT rank: 37
PFF clean pocket rank: 13
PFF under pressure rank: 36
ESPN rushing QBR rank: N/A
2021 dropbacks: 512

12. Kaleb Eleby | Western Michigan | 6’1/208

Comp: David Fales
PFF grade rank: 29
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 17
PFF big-time throw % rank: 21
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 30
BTT/TWT rank: 23
PFF clean pocket rank: 18
PFF under pressure rank: 38
ESPN rushing QBR rank: 14
2021 dropbacks: 434

13. D’Eriq King | Miami | 5’9/196

Comp: Quinton Flowers
PFF grade rank: 20
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 2
PFF big-time throw % rank: 28
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 20
BTT/TWT rank: 20
PFF clean pocket rank: 24
PFF under pressure rank: 13
ESPN rushing QBR rank: N/A
2021 dropbacks: 151

14. Brock Purdy | Iowa State | 6’1/212

Comp: Jake Browning
PFF grade rank: 23
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 5
PFF big-time throw % rank: 39
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 12
BTT/TWT rank: 36
PFF clean pocket rank: 16
PFF under pressure rank: 21
ESPN rushing QBR rank: 12
2021 dropbacks: 467

15. Chase Garbers | California | 6’2/218

Comp: Brian Lewerke
PFF grade rank: 18
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 16
PFF big-time throw % rank: 25
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 2
BTT/TWT rank: 7
PFF clean pocket rank: 25
PFF under pressure rank: 10
ESPN rushing QBR rank: 8
2021 dropbacks: 417

16. Skylar Thompson | Kansas State | 6’2/217

Comp: Sam Ehlinger
PFF grade rank: 17
PFF adjusted accuracy % rank: 8
PFF big-time throw % rank: 24
PFF turnover-worthy throw % rank: 32
BTT/TWT rank: 29
PFF clean pocket rank: 19
PFF under pressure rank: 9
ESPN rushing QBR rank: 11
2021 dropbacks: 266

Thor’s recent NFL Draft work: