When Cincinnati became the first AAC team to qualify for the College Football Playoff last December, one could only assume the success of the Bearcats’ 2021 campaign would reverberate again in April at the 2022 NFL Draft.
Desmond Ridder was selected 74th overall in the third round by the Atlanta Falcons. He was the fourth Bearcat off the board, following cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, wide receiver Alec Pierce, and safety Bryan Cook.
Ridder is the second quarterback to be selected, following Pitt sensation and reigning ACC Player of the Year Kenny Pickett, who went 20th overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ridder served as a four-year starter at Cincinnati and his career was defined by victories. With 44 wins, he is third winningest quarterback in FBS history following Kellen Moore and Colt McCoy. In a prosperous tenure, Ridder crafted a perfect 26-0 at his home base of Nippert Stadium, collected two bowl victories, and landed in the New Year’s Six twice — including a College Football Playoff appearance in 2022.
As an individual, Ridder collected back-to-back AAC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2020 and 2021. He finished eighth in Heisman voting in 2021, edging out 2009 Mardy Gilyard as the highest finisher in Cincinnati history. Suggested by his Heisman finish, Ridder saved his best for his final season on campus. He totaled career highs in passing yards (3,334) and touchdowns (30) while only tossing eight interceptions. The quarterback also displayed impressive mobility, registering 592 yards at 6.0 per carry complemented with 12 touchdowns in the 2020 season.
Ridder is the first Cincinnati quarterback drafted since Tony Pike heard his name called by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. He joins a rebuilding Falcons roster moving on from longtime franchise quarterback and 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan. Ridder’s colleagues in the Atlanta quarterback room include former Heisman Trophy winner and 7-year veteran Marcus Mariota as well as young backup Feleipe Franks, who recently played in the college ranks at Florida and Arkansas.