Falcons end QB draft slide, take Ridder at No. 74

  • Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
  • Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons both ended the 54-pick gap between quarterbacks being drafted and also might have answered their question at the position by selecting Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder with the No. 74 overall pick in the NFL draft.

It’s not a surprise the Falcons took a quarterback, either. Atlanta general manager Terry Fontenot said Tuesday he hoped to come out of the draft with a new signal-caller as the team has only starter Marcus Mariota and second-year pro Feleipe Franks on the roster.

“We could come out of this draft with a quarterback,” Fontenot said. “We want to add to that room and we’ll see what happens.”

Now, the Falcons did — with their fourth pick of the draft. The only other quarterback drafted before Ridder this year was Kenny Pickett, who was selected No. 20 overall Thursday night by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It is the latest a second quarterback has come off the board in a single draft since 1996, when Tony Banks was the first quarterback selected by St. Louis at No. 42 and Bobby Hoying went No. 85 to Philadelphia.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Ridder was a four-year starter for the Bearcats and had his best season in 2021, where he completed 64.9% of his passes for 3,334 yards, 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He completed at least 60% of his passes in three of four seasons at Cincinnati, threw at least 18 TDs in each season with the Bearcats and never threw more than nine interceptions in a season.

The selection of Ridder is the latest move in a busy quarterback offseason for the Falcons, who pursued Deshaun Watson in a potential trade with the Houston Texans, traded franchise QB Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts and signed Mariota, who played under Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith when he was the Tennessee Titans’ offensive coordinator.

Meanwhile, the Falcons heavily researched the entire quarterback draft class and sent a large contingent to Cincinnati’s pro day to scout. Atlanta bypassed Ridder three times in favor of other players and then, in the third round, decided the value was right to take him.

Ridder joins a situation where he could end up competing with Mariota for the starting job replacing Ryan, the best quarterback in team history. Whoever ends up being Atlanta’s starter will have a new No. 1 receiver to throw to as the Falcons drafted USC receiver Drake London in the first round Thursday night.

Ridder is the second quarterback taken by the Falcons since drafting Ryan in 2008. The other was Sean Renfree, who went No. 249 in 2013.

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