Falcons rookie QB Desmond Ridder’s potential impact highly regarded by PFF

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The Falcons selected Desmond Ridder to seemingly replace Matt Ryan as the team’s franchise quarterback, and the folks over at PFF hold him in high regard. Mike Renner believes Ridder will be the best rookie starting in the NFL.

However, Renner is missing a critical factor in Ridder’s rookie season — beating out Marcus Mariota.

I genuinely do believe the Cincy product will start Week 1 if he’s the better man for the job. However, I have a hard time believing the former Bearcat has enough experience to wrestle the starting position away from a veteran like Mariota.

There will be calls from the fanbase to play Ridder, but Smith isn’t going to jeopardize losing games just to evaluate the rookie quarterback. It might be the wrong call too. If the Falcons are in a position to grab one of the elite prospects in next year’s draft without any real idea of Ridder’s ability, it’ll make the decision that much more difficult.

As it stands right now, the Falcons are heading for a quarterback competition in training camp. Still, don’t be surprised if it’s settled early because Mariota is firmly ahead of Ridder in terms of experience, knowledge of the offense, and ability at this point in their respective careers.

To play devil’s advocate, reports from Flowery Branch suggest Ridder might surprise some folks and steal the starting job from Mariota.

“He’s light years ahead of most other young quarterbacks from the neck up,” Arthur Smith said of Ridder. “I will give him that compliment.”

Despite Mariota being expected to be the incumbent starter, Ridder immediately makes a case to be the team’s signal caller. He’s proving to be a quick learner, picking up the offense much faster than anticipated, which most rookie quarterbacks struggle with considerably.

“Honestly, I’m not going to lie, I thought I was going to come in and struggle a little bit,” Ridder said. “We’re almost all the way through all our installs and putting in all those checks. I’ve got a good grasp of it. That kind of surprised me, honestly, you know? I’m not going to say I wouldn’t have picked it up, but I thought it would take me just a little bit longer, an extra couple of days. But I’ve been able to pick up on it pretty smoothly.”

One of the most critical factors in a rookie quarterback adjusting to the NFL is commanding a group of grown men much older than you, which is something Ridder has a natural inclination for.

“Guys kind of gravitate to him,” Charles London said. “He’s a natural leader, and leadership is hard. It’s hard to judge somebody’s leadership. People can tell you he’s a leader, but most guys that are really great leaders, they lead by their own style, their own way.”

It’ll be fascinating to watch the quarterback battle unfold in camp; my money would be on Mariota because of his experience, but fans shouldn’t be surprised if Ridder comes out as the team’s Week 1 starter. PFF certainly thinks Desmond Ridder will be the man in Atlanta this season.

Photographer: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

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