ESPN analyst’s bias shows in rankings of Falcons core

NFL: JAN 01 Cardinals at Falcons

Seth Walder of ESPN has made it known he disapproves of the Falcons’ approach at quarterback.

He has loudly voiced his displeasure of the club’s decision to turn to third-rounder Desmond Ridder, but it’s not just that. He nitpicks a lot of what the Falcons have done this offseason. Here are just a few of his kind words:

There were more too that I just didn’t include. Regardless of the move, Seth Walder isn’t satisfied with the Falcons choices. It’s fairly simple, though.

Bijan Robinson was the best player on the board at No. 8; “Overpaying” arguably the top guard in football is an oxymoron, and what were his solutions at right tackle if it wasn’t bringing back Kaleb McGary (at a figure much lower than projected)? Paying top dollar for a 26-year-old All-Pro safety is now a bad thing? Lamar Jackson was never leaving Baltimore, despite Walder seemingly thinking the Falcons could’ve given him a deal that the Ravens wouldn’t have matched. Jonnu Smith is also taking a pay cut to be in Atlanta.

It’s just biased. He doesn’t like the Falcons, and it’s becoming even more apparent in his latest piece for ESPN, which is ranking the best top five core players of every team. 

31. Atlanta Falcons

Roster core: QB Desmond Ridder, WR Drake London, G Chris Lindstrom, DT Grady Jarrett, TE Kyle Pitts

Average core age: 24.8

London recorded a 63 overall score in our receiver tracking metrics last season, a very strong number for a rookie. Jarrett is a perpetually underrated player but is starting to decline, while Pitts still has major potential after a disappointing start to his career. Lindstrom is well regarded, though the pass and run block win rates aren’t anything special. But most of all, Ridder, a former third-round pick, remains a huge question mark. Safety Jessie Bates III was a candidate for the core, but I felt like the team made enough of a commitment to Ridder this offseason (by not pursuing real alternatives) to warrant putting him on the list over the veteran safety.

There are several things wrong with this ranking. First off, Walder conveniently didn’t choose Atlanta’s best core players, leaving off Tyler Allgeier, Jake Matthews, A.J. Terrell, Jessie Bates III, or Bijan Robinson — all of whom are considered better at their respective positions than Ridder.

But, oh wait. You might ask, “Well, maybe every core has to have a quarterback, Alex!” Wrong. The Commanders, Buccaneers, and 49ers’ cores didn’t include a quarterback.

Allgeier broke a franchise record; Matthews has consistently been one of the most underrated players in all of football, Terrell and Bates are All-Pros, while Bijan Robinson is one of the best prospects to come out of college in the last two decades. And yes, Walder included rookies in other teams’ cores. There were at least five better options than Ridder.

The fact is Walder included Ridder because he didn’t agree with the team not pursuing Lamar Jackson, even though he wasn’t actually available as a free agent would be. Desmond Ridder isn’t even a top 10 player on the Falcons’ roster, but he hid behind the team’s ‘commitment’ to put him on there, despite the 49ers and Commanders doing the same thing with their youngsters.

The Falcons very well could’ve found their franchise quarterback in Ridder, but there’s no real commitment other than coach speak. Nothing is stopping Atlanta from pursuing their guy next offseason if they don’t like what they have in Ridder.

Seth Walder is being disingenuous. He’s overly obsessed with the analytics of football and forgets the game isn’t played on paper. He does some great work, but this is delusionally bad.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire



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