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LAS vEGAS — First there was Kenny Pickett to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round. And with pick No. 74 overall in the third round, the second quarterback of the 2022 NFL draft came off the board to the Atlanta Falcons.
And it wasn’t Malik Willis, as all the pundits expected. The raw talent from Liberty University continues to slide.
It was Desmond Ridder from the University of Cincinnati.
And suddenly Ridder has a chance to compete with Marcus Marita for the starting job in Atlanta but more likely will get an opportunity to learn, develop and grow under coach Arthur Smith for a while.
Ridder, 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, is much more advanced in his game than Willis. He processes well, and manipulates safeties with his eyes. That’s a skill that takes time to learn and Ridder has it already.
That doesn’t mean Ridder is absolutely headed to NFL stardom. It’s going to take a lot of work.
“There is nothing special about Ridder’s size or arm talent but his improved confidence and field command has really helped him mature at the position,” NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote about Ridder. “He plays in rhythm and operates with consistently repeatable footwork and mechanics.
“He’s intelligent and processes quickly, which should help him find where the football needs to go regardless of passing scheme. Getting the ball to NFL targets accurately and safely, however, is not a given.
“Despite favorable mechanics, his accuracy and ball placement need work and he doesn’t have the arm strength or release quickness to consistently survive off-target throws against pro coverage. He can run but is more of a pocket passer who can win with his legs than a true dual-threat quarterback.”
So that covers Ridder. What in holy heck has happened to Willis?
It’s a question many are asking:
No one has an answer quite yet.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero