As we near the most boring time of the year on the football calendar, it is time to look ahead. Over the next few months, we’ll be looking more closely at some of the prospects in the 2022 draft class that would make sense for the Steelers.
Moving into next year, the most likely needs for the Steelers are quarterback, cornerback (s), security, defensive line, guard and wide receiver. Just because it’ll be the main headline for the Steelers in the next off-season we’ll start with a few quarterbacks, but we can address a few other positions as well. If you visit the BTSC website but are a fan of another team, I’ll let you know that while these breakdowns are based in part on their specific match with the Steelers, they also include analysis that can help you determine how well each fits Interested in your own team?
Last time we broke up Nevada quarterback Carson Strong. Today we’re going to take a closer look at Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was mocked at the Steelers in Todd McShay’s way too early draft for 2022.
Ridder is a three year old starter for the Bearcats, which were ranked in the top 10 of the final College Football Playoff rankings in 2020. In 36 college games, Ridder has accumulated over 1,800 rushing yards and nearly 7,000 passing yards while throwing 57 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Ridder was only rated a two-star recruit by Rivals.com and recorded a total of 49 touchdowns as starters over two seasons, of which 30 were quick touchdowns. In 2016, he led his team to the KHSAA finals, but it wasn’t enough for Ridder to receive offers from a ton of Power Five schools. After redshirting in 2017, he was named AAC Rookie of the Year the following season for completing nearly 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was never entirely healthy in 2019, but he struggled through the injuries and still managed to throw the 2,100 meters and run 650 more. Last season, Ridder became much more efficient as a passer-by as well as a runner, increasing his degree of completion to 66%, racing nearly 600 meters in fewer than 100 runs.
Ridder’s best qualities are his arm strength and his sportiness. He puts a good speed on all of his passes, regardless of whether they are short, medium or deep. He struggled to throw the ball accurately when it was beaten up in 2019, but in 2020 he was much more accurate, placing balls where only his husband could get them. He didn’t flip the ball that often in 2020, and the placement of the ball was a big reason for that. Much like we discussed with Zach Wilson last season, Ridder can effectively deliver the ball from many different arm angles, allowing him to make the toughest throws with ease. Ridder has a lot going for it as a passerby, but he’s also deadly as a runner, as this clip below shows.
Not all of his rushes were that easy, but you can see his speed in the open. Ridder is also physically a runner. He would prefer to take a linebacker to potentially gain three extra yards rather than sliding to protect his body. He might want to learn how to avoid contact better when he’s in the NFL, but in college it was a joy to see him fight for every single yard he can get if he runs the ball. He’s not afraid of being hit, but in the quarterback position it can be a double-edged sword.
While Ridder’s arm strength is positive, he sometimes takes risks when other recipients are open below. Learning to choose the short and medium passes when nothing is open will help him become a more efficient quarterback. I also want him to be less predictable about where he’s going with football. Often times I feel like he’s looking down at his receiver for too long, potentially allowing the defender to play on the ball. He seems like a smart young man, which is why I assume he will mentally process things faster in 2021. He must also go through all of his advances instead of trying to run when his top receiver is not open. As a runner he is dangerous, but he must learn to use this skill only when no receivers are open and there is an open space in front of him.
Below is a video of Ridder versus the Houston Cougars. Ridder showed his ability to pose a double threat in the Cincinnati victory. The 3:32 game is a perfect example. Ridder doesn’t force the ball into the traffic field, but instead kicks his pocket when the pressure comes, sees a wide open field in front of him and starts his second quick touchdown of the game. At 4:36 am we see that patience again that he hasn’t shown in every game. Ridder picked up 12 yards on the ground on the 3rd and 8th after discovering that none of his receivers were open. Houston was in man coverage, and the middle of the field was left open. Ridder took the opportunity and took down the first one.
At 4:12 a.m., Ridder shows his excellent mark. He positions himself under the center and sees that his 6’6 ”tight end Josh Whyle, who could be a second day next April, has faced 6’0” safety Gervarrius Owens. Ridder puts the ball up where only Whyle can grab it and the game results in a touchdown.
Unfortunately, there are times when Ridder has an open receiver but instead chooses to run. At this point in his career, he trusts himself more as a runner, and at 6:09 a.m. it comes back to bite him. Cincinnati receiver Jayshon Jackson is running diagonally across the center of the field with the closest defender five meters away from him. Ridder has a chance to get it to him, but once Houston defender Olivier Charles-Pierre breaks loose, he chooses to run the other way instead. There is no profit.
We also see some imprecise passes in the second half. At 6:29 am, Ridder, wanting to get rid of the ball quickly, just looks to the right side of the field and tries to hurl it towards its preferred target. He hurried with the throw, forcing it to a receiver that wasn’t really open, although there may have been some miscommunication between Ridder and his receiver. Even so, it was a waste and resulted in an incomplete passport.
At 7:30 am, Cincinnati is playing a trick game. Tight end Leonard Taylor runs far into the field, but Ridder gets too excited and rushes him. Deep ball touch has improved in 2020 but needs to be more consistent on this aspect in 2021.
Here is the full video.
If you want to dig deeper into Ridder, check out his games against UCF, East Carolina, and Georgia here. He put up impressive numbers against UCF and East Carolina but was sacked eight times against Georgia. He was still throwing over 200 yards and 2 touchdowns, but constant pressure prevented Ridder from leading Cincinnati to a Peach Bowl win.
If highlights are more your thing, here are Ridders best pieces from the 2020 season.
NFL comparison: Trey Lance
Yes, the guy who just finished third overall is the best comparison I have for Ridder. Much like we talked about Lance in this last draft, Ridder has a big arm and a lot of mobility, but sometimes he gets too excited and plunges open receivers. Both Ridder and Lance have experience playing below the middle, but lack consistency as passers-by. One negative on Lance’s scouting report was that he appears to be running when his main recipient is covered. The same goes for Ridder. However, Lance was designed by a team that will develop him and operate a system that matches his strengths. Ridder can’t be that happy. But based on the tape, he and Lance share many of the same traits, both positives and negatives.
How would he fit in with the Steelers?
Although Ridder has mostly played with the shotgun, he has some experience playing under the middle, which would be a positive outcome for Matt Canada’s offense. Outside of Josh Dobbs, the Steelers don’t have any quarterbacks that are considered athletic. Ridder’s skills as a runner would allow Matt Canada to expand his playbook. The Steelers also like prototype-sized quarterbacks, and Ridder ticks that box too. There are several areas in Ridder’s game that need improvement, but if he continues to show progress as a passerby, he could be just what the Steelers need to remain a Super Bowl contender after Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement.
But what do you think Is Ridder worth considering in the first round? Do you see him as potentially suitable for the Steelers? Be sure to light the comments section with your thoughts on Ridder and anything Pittsburgh Steelers related!