Desmond Ridder Fantasy Outlook: Why the Atlanta Falcons QB Should Be Much Better Than Last Year

Atlanta Falcons QB Desmond Ridder might have a year or less to prove he's the team's long-term solution. What is his fantasy outlook in 2023?

At PFN, we’ve researched more than 350 fantasy football players, trying to identify which ones are overrated, underrated, and priced right. With that in mind, here is Atlanta Falcons QB Desmond Ridder’s fantasy outlook for 2023.

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Desmond Ridder’s 2023 Fantasy Outlook

In hindsight, perhaps Atlanta should have installed Ridder as their starter in Week 1 last year rather than wait until they were 5-8 and (almost) eliminated from postseason contention. Or maybe the rookie simply wasn’t ready and needed time on the sidelines and in practice to prepare for the job.

Regardless, the Marcus Mariota experiment — giving him NFL starts for the first time in three years — likely delayed Ridder’s development. And with Kyle Pitts out for the season once Ridder took over, the rookie still hasn’t attempted a regular-season pass to his all-world unicorn tight end.

Instead, he leaned heavily on fellow rookie Drake London, as well as Olamide Zaccheaus and MyCole Pruitt.

How the heck can one size up Ridder’s potential based on that? The most direct answer is that no one can. Ridder is one of this season’s true fantasy unknown quarterbacks.

The 2022 third-round draft pick possesses the kind of dual-threat abilities that franchises crave these days. But he barely ran last year, instead operating more conservatively while getting his feet wet alongside one of the league’s most efficient backfields.

Ridder enters 2023 with a largely different collection of playmakers. Pitts is healthy. The team seemingly upgraded at the No. 2 WR spot by adding competent journeyman Mack Hollins. And, of course, the addition of Bijan Robinson transforms this RB corps into (possibly) one of the NFL’s best.

All three running backs — Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson — are adept pass catchers. This might be the key to Ridder cracking the top 22 in fantasy. For example, Allgeier reeled in 16 of 17 targets last season. Uber-backup Avery Williams caught 13 of 14.

However, the Falcons targeted their RBs only 66 times in 2022. Only four teams targeted the position less. On the one hand, it was a seemingly inexplicable underutilization. Atlanta actually led the NFL in RB targets one year earlier.

So what changed? The immobile Matt Ryan — wrapping up his final year in Atlanta — supplied his backfield with plenty of dump-offs to help sustain drives. But in 2022, the mobile Mariota and Ridder didn’t need those outlets as much. Additionally, the Falcons averaged a sterling 4.9 yards per carry (fourth best) compared to only 3.7 (third worst) the year before.

Still, effectiveness on the ground doesn’t preclude teams from targeting their running backs through the air, and I expect the Falcons to focus ample attention on Robinson in all facets of the game. That could lead to dozens more passing yards per game for Ridder, as well as the occasional extra score.

It all adds up for a QB who needs to quickly gel with a lot of new playmakers, some of whom might soon become among the best at their position. Ridder’s ceiling deservedly is considerably higher than the market believes. The strange thing is, based on ADP, his floor is probably higher, too.

The market seems to view Ridder through the lens of those four odd end-of-season starts last year, when he didn’t have Pitts, didn’t have the incoming Robinson or Hollins, and barely ran the ball.

All four of those conditions will change for the better in 2023. Essentially, Ridder has nowhere to go but up. In Superflex or 2QB leagues, he’ll be an invaluable addition a round or two before his ADP. And in 1QB leagues, he has an outside shot at becoming a bye-week streamer.

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