NFL execs don’t love the Falcons, citing Desmond Ridder as the reason

NFL: AUG 04 Atlanta Falcons Training Camp

The NFL world is split on the Falcons in 2023.

Some national pundits are throwing their weight behind Arthur Smith, Bijan Robinson, and the defensive additions from this offseason. Others aren’t quite sure what to expect from Desmond Ridder, capping the club’s ceiling in 2023. Fans outside of Atlanta aren’t giving the Dirty Birds a second thought.

It’s a polarizing team, but I’m higher on the Falcons than most for a few reasons.

The concerns about the quarterback position are legitimate, but if Desmond Ridder can’t be better than Marcus Mariota, we’ve got bigger problems. So, let’s just assume he gives the Falcons similar efficiency and production. The improvements to the roster should net more than seven wins, which will inevitably put them in the conversation for the NFC South title.

The defensive line was completely revamped, adding David Onyemata, Calais Campbell, and Bud Dupree. Kaden Elliss joins the second level, and Jessie Bates III solidifies the backend. There was some talent — Grady Jarrett and A.J. Terrell — already present, but the youngsters — Troy Andersen, Richie Grant, Ta’Quon Graham, and Arnold Ebiketie — need to take steps forward.

The offense wasn’t the problem last year. Even with Marcus Mariota’s limitations, Atlanta had one of the most effective offensive attacks in football, powered by an efficient running game. And that group adds Bijan Robinson and Jonnu Smith. It should be better in 2023.

Even with all of those upgrades, NFL executives aren’t buying what the Falcons are selling. Mike Sando of The Athletic polled six execs from various roles — general manager, assistant GM, pro personnel, contracts/salary cap and analytics/strategy — to rank every NFC team, and the Falcons came in ranked 13/16.

Here’s how the list shook out:

  1. Eagles
  2. 49ers
  3. Lions
  4. Cowboys
  5. Seahawks
  6. Saints
  7. Giants
  8. Vikings
  9. Commanders
  10. Panthers
  11. Packers
  12. Bears
  13. Falcons
  14. Buccaneers
  15. Rams
  16. Cardinals

It’s clear what’s giving people pause — Desmond Ridder.

“Ridder is a total question mark,” one exec said. “They are the most efficient run team in the league. I think they will do well there. I like the head coach. There’s not a lot of depth on the offensive line, so if they get banged up there, and then if the run game isn’t elite, it could be a struggle. And then I don’t love the defense at all.”

Only time will tell if Ridder is capable of keeping the train on the tracks. He doesn’t have to be a hero in this offense, just a point guard distributing the ball to his playmakers. If he can limit turnovers and play within Arthur Smith’s system, the Falcons should win 10 games.

To everyone’s point, that has yet to be seen. Ridder hasn’t proven anything yet.

Photographer: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

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