Late in the 2022 NFL Draft process, Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder appears to be rocketing up boards. At this moment in time, it feels almost certain that he’ll be a first-round selection in Las Vegas. There’s no denying his rocket-powered arm and athletic creativity make him an alluring prospect. But does Ridder possess the scouting report of one of the best quarterbacks in this murky 2022 NFL Draft class?
Desmond Ridder NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Quarterback
- School: Cincinnati
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’3″
- Weight: 207 pounds
- Wingspan: 78 7/8″
- Arm: 32 7/8″
- Hand: 10″
Desmond Ridder Scouting Report
Ridder’s return to school took him out of a historic draft class in which he earned fourth-to-sixth-round consideration. He now finds himself embroiled in a murky quarterback class where no one prospect has truly elevated themselves to the top. There are elements of Ridder’s scouting report that show that he very much belongs in the conversation as an upper-echelon passer prospect.
First off, Ridder has excellent size for the position. Cincinnati listed their quarterback at 6’4″ — and he measured in at 6’3″ at the NFL Combine — ensuring that he overshadows many of his contemporaries in the class. While height isn’t the overriding consideration it used to be, it’s certainly a tick in Ridder’s box.
Like Trevor Lawrence in the previous class, Ridder’s height belies deceptive athleticism. The Cincinnati quarterback moves exceptionally well as a ball carrier. He’s not incredibly fast like a Lamar Jackson, but his long strides allow him to cover ground well. This was confirmed at the NFL Combine with a position-leading 4.52-second 40-yard dash.
Ridder also displays stellar change-of-direction ability. He can turn quickly to escape the pocket, and he uses his elusiveness in the open field. The mobility makes him a scoring threat, with 28 rushing touchdowns during his college career.
Athletic ability, arm strength, and competitive toughness
Ridder continued to demonstrate excellent arm strength this season. He drops bombs downfield with unerring regularity, making at least one play each game that takes your breath away. In addition to his ability to push the ball downfield, Ridder can generate tremendous velocity on short throws while zipping the ball from the far hash to the sideline. This velocity also allows him to fit passes into tight windows.
While Ridder still needs to make some improvement in terms of pocket management, he has shown development this season. He uses his mobility to effectively navigate the pocket, avoiding contact to make a throw. The Cincinnati QB made strides in decision-making in the pocket, improving his sense of when to flee and when to stay put. Previously, he’d been too keen to quickly escape even clean pockets to make plays with his legs.
Ridder’s scouting report showcases competitive toughness and leadership. 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 action.
Areas for improvement
Returning to Cincinnati allowed Ridder to improve in some areas that were hobbling his NFL Draft stock. However, he still displayed some developmental needs through the 2021 season that caused some halt to his potential ascent to the top of this quarterback class. Perhaps the biggest concern is that he’s failed to make headway in these areas during his four years as a starter for the Bearcats.
Accuracy issues still blight Ridder’s game. He’s wildly inconsistent in terms of ball placement. He can place a ball perfectly downfield on one play and miss his receiver on a short pass with the next. His accuracy takes a significant hit when under any form of pressure, which will only be accentuated at the NFL level. This is potentially a by-product of dubious decision-making, with Ridder not always taking what the defense gives him in exchange for going for the “glory ball.”
Furthermore, Ridder doesn’t routinely throw with anticipation. He doesn’t lead the receiver, putting the pass catcher into a contested-catch situation. You want to see him display the ability to put his receiver in a position to add additional yardage after the catch. However, there isn’t that aspect to his game at present, which could limit his NFL Draft stock.
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. Additionally, he often starts the game cold, succumbing to pressure early before heating up later in the game.
Ridder’s Player Profile
Ridder’s late emergence as a first-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, leading 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 an athlete by 247 Sports rather than a quarterback. As a result, Ridder attracted just two offers before his senior season, choosing Cincinnati over Eastern Kentucky.
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 — 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 TD production.
Despite this, he still accounted for 346 total yards and 3 touchdowns against Memphis in the AAC Championship Game. Ridder was named 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 to date in the 2020 season, setting career highs for completion rate (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.
Ridder’s NFL Draft ascension
Nevertheless, Ridder announced his return to the Bearcats program for the 2021 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.
His decision to return to Cincinnati was vindicated. Ridder led the Bearcats to new heights in the college football world. After opening the season by completing 80% of his passes and 4 touchdowns against Miami (OH), Ridder put together a campaign that saw him set new career highs in passing yards (3,334), yards per attempt (8.6), and passing touchdowns (30).
He set program records, won the AAC Offensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, and ensured Cincinnati was the first Group of Five team to reach the College Football Playoff. His performances earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl, where he impressed during the week of practice and in the game, where he went 4-6 for 68 yards and 2 touchdowns.
After an equally impressive performance at the NFL Combine, Ridder has emerged as a potential first-round pick. “The one thing I’ve learned from talking with teams is that just about everybody has got a first-round grade on Desmond Ridder,” PFN Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline told Trey Wingo on a recent episode of “Draft Insiders.” With an ever-ascending profile, Ridder could even be the first quarterback off the board in Las Vegas, an unbelievable NFL Draft ascension for the Cincinnati QB.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Desmond Ridder
Positives: Highly regarded quarterback with the physical skills and mental aptitude to develop into a starter on Sundays. Possesses outstanding pocket stature, remains patient, and effectively commands and controls the offense. Senses pressure, steps up to avoid defenders, and takes off upfield only when necessary.
Possesses a quick release and has a live arm that makes the ball explode out of his hand. Puts air under deep throws to allow receivers to run to the ball. Easily drives the ball downfield with speed. Sells ball fakes, puts touch on throws when necessary, and effectively sets up screen passes. Makes good decisions and does not force throws. Gives effort carrying the ball.
Negatives: Often releases the ball off his back foot, which results in wayward passes. Tends to stare down the primary target. Lacks top pass placement, consistently makes receivers adjust backwards or leave their feet to grab the ball, and misses a lot of opportunities.
Analysis: Ridder was a productive, winning quarterback for Cincinnati and comes with the physical ability and mental intangibles to develop into an NFL starter. That being the case, he must significantly improve his pass placement and not leave receivers hung out to dry.
If Ridder’s properly coached and patiently developed beginning this summer, he could eventually develop into a No. 1 quarterback. Otherwise, he will break a lot of hearts.