Falcons HC on Desmond Ridder Possibly Starting: 'The Best Guy Is Going to Play'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 30, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAR 2: Desmond Ridder #QB13 of the Cincinnati Bearcats speaks to reporters during the NFL Draft Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on March 2, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Desmond Ridder did not hear his name called in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft.

Ridder did not hear his name called in the second round of the draft.

But Ridder may hear his name called when the Atlanta Falcons announce their starters in Week 1 if he thrives during what head coach Arthur Smith is describing as a competition between the No. 74 overall pick and Marcus Mariota.

"As with any position, the best guy is going to play," Smith said, per Josh Kendall of The Athletic. "With Marcus being the veteran, that's the way it'll go for now."

While that may be the case, it would still be rather shocking if anyone but Mariota was under center when the Falcons start the season.

Atlanta traded franchise legend Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts this offseason and then signed Mariota to a two-year, $18.75 million deal. That seemed to indicate the Oregon product would have every opportunity to prove himself in the short term before the team looks ahead to the future.

Even if Ridder is that future, it would be surprising for him to unseat Mariota as a rookie.

The No. 2 overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft has 61 starts on his resume and two seasons with more than 3,000 passing yards. While he hasn't started a game since the 2019 campaign when he was with the Tennessee Titans, he still appeared in 10 games in special packages that utilized his running ability for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021.

Ridder is also someone who can use his legs, as evidenced by his 2,180 rushing yards and 28 touchdown runs during his collegiate career with the Bearcats. 

Learning behind Mariota could help him further understand when to best take off and when to remain in the pocket as he adjusts to the NFL game after making a name for himself by helping Cincinnati become the first Group of Five team to reach the College Football Playoff.

Ridder's time with the Falcons may come eventually, but it would still take quite the effort to unseat the presumed starter right away.