After leading Cincinnati to their highest ranking since 2009, quarterback Desmond Ridder was expected to enter the NFL Draft last year. However, the entertaining dual-threat QB opted to return for his senior season with the Bearcats. As a result, Ridder projects to be one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. But does he have first-round potential? Let’s dive into Ridder’s scouting report to find out.
Desmond Ridder NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Quarterback
- School: Cincinnati
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 215 pounds
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Desmond Ridder Scouting Report
Ridder’s NFL Draft scouting report is a rollercoaster ride. It is dominated by two aspects — athleticism and arm strength.
Ridder has excellent arm strength, plenty enough to compete with the best in the NFL. He generates tremendous velocity on his short throws while possessing the power to get the ball downfield and across the field. In the games studied, there were some beautiful throws where he put exceptional zip on the ball. Ridder also demonstrated the ability to slot the ball into tight windows. So, there are no question marks about his arm strength. We’ll get into the rest of Ridder’s arm talent later in the scouting report.
Ridder has found success as a dual-threat QB for Cincinnati due to his athleticism. Although he’s tall at 6’4″, he moves exceptionally well. He’s not incredibly fast like a Lamar Jackson, but his long strides allow him to cover ground well. Ridder also displays stellar change-of-direction ability. He can turn quickly to escape the pocket and will use his elusiveness in the open field.
Another impressive element of Ridder’s scouting report is his competitive toughness. The Cincinnati QB can be found chasing down busted plays (interceptions, etc…), never giving up on the play until it’s dead. Furthermore, he shows this toughness when grinding out yardage with quarterback sneaks. Ridder battled injury in 2019 but still played through it. Additionally, he has demonstrated time and time again that he can take a hit, dust himself off, and get back into the action.
Areas for improvement
Although Ridder earned attention in the previous draft cycle, his return to Cincinnati will allow him to work on some apparent areas for improvement, which we’ll look at here in his scouting report.
Throughout his career, throw accuracy has been an issue for Ridder. Ironically, last year was his best in terms of completion percentage. Still, there is massive room for improvement. Despite having the requisite arm strength to be a successful NFL quarterback, Ridder has difficulty with ball placement. This is particularly apparent on, but not restricted to, downfield throws. There are too many examples of underthrows, overthrows, and balls landing wide of their target.
Furthermore, Ridder doesn’t always lead his receiver with touch throws. More often than not, he puts the pass catcher in a position where making any yardage after the catch is impossible.
For a quarterback whose athleticism allows him to escape the pocket, Ridder needs to do a better job of avoiding contact. The Cincinnati QB doesn’t exhibit a consistent ability to feel contact. Thus, he is sacked far more often than is sustainable at the next level. Conversely, he can sometimes panic unduly and escape a clean pocket when there is minimal pressure.
If he can improve in these areas, Ridder could easily be in the mix for an early-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Desmond Ridder’s Player Profile
Ridder’s emergence as a potential early-round NFL Draft prospect runs parallel to his surprising physical development at high school. As a freshman at St. Xavier, Ridder was just 5’10” and 135 pounds. Yet, a growth spurt before his sophomore season saw him develop the requisite size to play the quarterback position.
Despite his newfound frame, Ridder was as much a threat on the ground as he was through the air. In his junior season for the Tigers, he threw for 1,319 yards and 9 passing touchdowns but only completed 55.2% of his passes. The dual-threat QB also added 668 rushing yards and 12 scores as he led St. Xavier to a 7-5 record.
Ridder didn’t feature much on the recruiting radar with his relatively late growth spurt and minimal passing production. Although the Kentucky native ranked as the 10th-best player in the state, he was only a three-star recruit. Moreover, his performances saw him labeled as an athlete by 247 Sports rather than a quarterback.
With minimal recruiting interest, Ridder commits before his senior season
As a result, he attracted just two offers before his senior season. Eastern Kentucky attempted to secure his signature, but a late spring visit to Cincinnati proved too tempting. Ridder committed to the Bearcats, saying at the time:
“I felt at home. All the coaches made me feel like I’m part of the team already. I got back home, thought it over, and couldn’t wait to commit.”
Although Ridder already felt at home with Cincinnati, the QB still had his senior season at St. Xavier ahead of him. Despite slightly improving his completion percentage (56.8%) compared to his junior campaign, Ridder excelled on the ground once again. He racked up 915 rushing yards at 6.9 yards per carry, rushing for 18 touchdowns. Those statistics included 203 yards and 3 scores in a playoff win as St. Xavier reached the KHSAA finals.
Ridder’s career at Cincinnati
Ridder arrived in Cincinnati at the same time as new head coach Luke Fickell. During the 2017 season, Fickell opted for the more experienced Hayden Moore as the Cincinnati QB while Ridder took a redshirt season. The Bearcats went 4-8 in that first season, their last losing season of the Fickell era.
Although Moore got the start for the 2018 season, it wouldn’t be long until Ridder would win the starting role. Coming off the bench in the opener against UCLA, Ridder helped the Bearcats to a 26-17 win and never relinquished his position. The redshirt freshman was named AAC Rookie of the Year, as he led the Bearcats to an 11-2 record, including a win in the Military Bowl.
With two 300-plus-yard passing games, Ridder ended the 2018 campaign with 2,445 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. Additionally, the true dual-threat QB generated 583 rushing yards and 5 scores for Cincinnati.
After the highs of the 2018 season, Ridder had something of a down year for the Bearcats in 2019
The Cincinnati QB completed just 55.1% of his passes and saw a downturn in passing yards and touchdown production. Despite this, he still accounted for 346 total yards and 3 touchdowns against Memphis in the AAC Championship Game. He was named the MVP of the Birmingham Bowl, setting program records for rushing touchdowns, touchdowns responsible for, and most points scored in a bowl game.
Breaking records would be something that the Cincinnati QB would become accustomed to in 2020. Despite the uncertainty of the season, Ridder led the Bearcats to a 9-1 record. In doing so, he became the winningest Cincinnati QB in program history. As he demonstrated his athletic ability to the world, his 22 total career scores set the program record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.
Ridder played the best football of his career last season, setting career highs for completion percentage (66.2%), passing yards per attempt (8.2), rushing touchdowns (12), and rushing yards per carry (6.0). He earned first-team All-AAC honors while becoming the first Cincinnati QB to be named the AAC Offensive Player of the Year.
Naturally, Ridder attracted NFL Draft attention
However, he announced his return to the program for the upcoming season, having received feedback that he was considered a fourth to sixth-round selection by the NFL. So, after one of the most successful seasons in program history, the Cincinnati QB felt more was to come from both himself and the program.
“There is unfinished business. I’ll be back in the red and black.”
Ridder returns for one more season as a Bearcat with the potential to deliver another AAC Championship to the Bearcats and elevate his NFL Draft stock. The only question that remains — how high can he raise his stock? In a quarterback class of uncertainties, can the dual-threat playmaker etch his name into the first round?
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Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.