Is Desmond Ridder The Top AAC Quarterback?

Brian Lamb
Brian Lamb is the owner of NFL Draft Lounge and has covered the NFL Draft since 2011. Brian is also the owner of the Infinity Sports Network, which NFL Draft Lounge belongs to.

The University of Cincinnati hasn’t had a quarterback selected in the NFL Draft since Tony Pike was chosen in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Desmond Ridder, the team’s current quarterback, seems to be in a prime position to change that. After a pair of eleven win season the past two years, another solid performance could propel Desmond Ridder into the 2021 NFL Draft discussion.

Ridder is coming off of an injury to his throwing shoulder, which appeared to impact his play the second half of the 2019 season. Ben Bryant, the backup quarterback for the Bearcats, stepped in to take over for Ridder at Memphis. Justin Williams of The Athletic reports that Bryant could challenge Ridder for the starting position. However, he also reports that he believes that Ridder will win the position, as do I.

Assuming that we see college football in 2020, despite the Coronavirus pandemic, then I firmly believe that Desmond Ridder could propel himself into the discussion as a day two NFL Draft pick in 2020.


The Background

Desmond Ridder was a three-star prospect out of the state of Kentucky by 247sports and Scout, while Rivals had him listed as a two-star prospect. The University of Cincinnati was Ridder’s lone offer, and he officially signed his letter of intent on February 1st, 2017.

The 2017 season saw Desmond Ridder on the bench as a redshirt. The Bearcats ended up with a 4-8 record under quarterback Hayden Moore. The 2017 season was also Luke Fickell’s first as head coach of the University of Cincinnati.

Desmond Ridder was able to beat out Hayden Moore in 2018. Ridder finished the season with a 20-5 touchdown to interception ratio, as well as a 62.4 completion percentage. Ridder threw for 2,445 yards, but also scored 5 rushing touchdowns on 583 yards. The Bearcats finished with a record of 11-2, beating Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl. The 11 win season was only the third such record in the program’s history.

In 2019, the Bearcats finished with an 11-3 record, including a 7-1 conference record. However, the season saw Desmond Ridder battle through an injury to his throwing shoulder and did not start in the first game against Memphis. Ridder saw a decrease in production as he finished with 2,164 passing yards and a 55.1 completion percentage.


What I Like About Desmond Ridder

While Desmond Ridder isn’t one of the top three quarterbacks, he’s still a quarterback prospect that can rise up draft boards with a solid 2020 season. Let’s take a look at some traits that make Ridder the top AAC prospect.

Throw With Anticipation

This is a clip that I highlighted in my Top Ten Quarterbacks article, but I wanted to revisit it here. The receiver does a phenomenal job of creating separation at the top of the route, but it’s all irrelevant if Ridder can’t place this ball perfectly out of the break. Ridder’s ability to throw with anticipation is what makes this play. Let’s not forget to mention that this is also against a really good Ohio State team, which is filled with talent much better than UC’s.

Calmness In The Pocket

Ridder does a solid job here of remaining calm in the pocket and not panicking. Facing a blitz off the right side, Ridder displays calmness and doesn’t try to force a throw into traffic. Instead, he backs out of the pocket, keeps his eyes downfield, and finds his receiver running a drag route across the field. It’s nota downfield throw for a touchdown or a successful throw into a tight window, but these are the types of plays that keep you on the field on Sundays.


What I Dislike About Desmond Ridder

As much as there is to like about Desmond Ridder and how his abilities will translate to the NFL, there are concerns, too. Below, let’s take a look at some of the concerns I have when I broke down film on Ridder.

Ball Placement

The defender reads this play perfectly, but it could have been avoided with better ball placement from Ridder. Coming out of a bunch formation, the inside tight end is running an out route in the endzone. Had this ball been higher and on his outside shoulder, or dropped over the tight end, then I think it’s a different result on this play. Instead, it’s intercepted and taken deep into Cincinnati’s territory.

Hitting Receivers In Stride Downfield

Should Desmond Ridder been able to put more air underneath this ball, and was able to put it in front of the receiver, it’s no doubt a touchdown. Instead, the receiver has to slow down and come back to the ball, which allows the defense to close in. The pass is still completed, but the result could have been much more positive here.


The Competition

Not only will Desmond Ridder potentially face competition on his own team, in the form of Sophomore Ben Bryant, but he’ll also be competing against the rest of the NCAA. Let’s take a look at some of them below.

Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance are all first round prospects in my opinion. As a result, I just don’t see Ridder being able to do enough to compete with them for position in the 2021 NFL Draft.

At best, I have Ridder listed as a day two prospect, likely in the mid-to-late third round. If he declares for the 2021 NFL Draft, which I think is likely, look for a team to develop him for a season or two. A pro-ready quarterback is tough to find at that spot in the NFL Draft, and quite frankly, I don’t think Desmond Ridder is ready to start.


The Verdict

Desmond Ridder has led the University of Cincinnati Bearcats to a pair of 11 win seasons in the American Athletic Conference. Head coach Luke Fickell seems committed to Ridder, despite having highly-touted Ben Bryant waiting in the wings.

If Ridder is able to put together another solid season for the Bearcats, we could potentially be talking about him as we approach the 2021 NFL Draft. As it stands, I have him listed as the fifth best quarterback on my draft board, which should place him in the day two range.

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