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Second-Year Scouting Report: Desmond Ridder

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We are now just 58 days away from the start of the 2023 NFL season. We are exactly 63 days away from the Thursday night kickoff matchup between the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs.

 

Best ball season is in full swing, and redraft leagues will begin shortly. As more and more fantasy managers begin drafting, this year’s rookies start to gain momentum. As the rookies gain attention, the sophomore class from last season will start to become overshadowed. Taking advantage of the prioritization of rookies over established veterans is a great edge to attack in fantasy drafts, especially when it comes to second-year players. These players often take huge strides during their second NFL season, building on their full season of NFL experience and development. 

We continue our second-year scouting report series today with Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Desmond Ridder. The third-round pick in the 2022 draft started the last four games of the season for Atlanta, finishing the year with an impressive two-touchdown performance in a 30-17 win over Tampa Bay. This article will provide an overview of Desmond Ridder and how you should view him for redraft and dynasty leagues this season.

Desmond Ridder, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Ridder was expected to serve as the Falcons QB2 for his rookie season, backing up veteran Marcus Mariota. After a disappointing 5-8 start, Ridder was given the starting opportunity, and guided the Falcons’ to victories over Arizona and Tampa Bay to end the season. He enters the season as the team’s clear QB1, with head coach Arthur Smith using Ridder’s upside as a selling point to free agents during the offseason. 

What Went Wrong

With low expectations, it’s hard to find fault with Ridder’s short stint as Atlanta’s starter. A conservative gameplan in Week 15 produced a microscopic 3.7 yards per attempt, but Ridder more than doubled that number (7.5 YPA) in the Week 18 finale. 

It was disappointing to see Ridder’s mobility limited, especially after tallying over 2000 rushing yards in college at Cincinnati. Ridder failed to eclipse nine rushing yards in three of his four starts. The Falcons were the second-most run-heavy offense in the league in 2022, but Ridder’s average of 177 passing yards per game will certainly need to improve. 

What Went Right

When compared to other rookie quarterbacks, Ridder’s small sample looks even more impressive. Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett started 12 games and failed to throw more than one touchdown in any contest and Tennessee’s Malik Willis may not even make the roster this season. Ridder’s four-game sample produced one main goal: wins. The Falcons believe in his ability and were impressed enough to forgo drafting a quarterback in the 2023 draft. The Falcons signed 30-year-old veteran quarterback Taylor Heinicke, illustrating their belief in Ridder. 

 

Prognosis Entering 2023

Fantasy drafters are high on the Falcons as a team, but there is disconnect with Ridder. The public views Ridder as a game manager, yet it is too early to draw that conclusion. The Falcons have legitimate playoff aspirations, and an 8.5 win total juiced to the over (-120) at DraftKings.

Ridder has a strong cadre of weapons with second-year wideout Drake London, explosive tight end Kyle Pitts, and this year’s first-round franchise running back Bijan Robinson. He is also playing behind an elite offensive line, ranked third by our Dan Fornek

Dynasty Outlook

In dynasty/long-term fantasy leagues, Desmond Ridder provides tantalizing upside. His 4.52 speed combined with Arthur Smith’s efficient offense could hide an attractive long-term dynasty quarterback option. New Orleans is the divisional favorite in the NFC South, but Atlanta is a close second with an equally easy projected strength of schedule. If the Falcons meet or exceed this year’s expectations, Ridder becomes a nice dynasty starter available at a great value in all dynasty startup leagues. 

Previous 2023 NFL Team Offseason Roundup: Pittsburgh Steelers Next Fantasy Football Training Camp Battles: Quarterback

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