The Falcons appear committed to giving Ridder a chance to be the starter at QB in 2023, at least on paper after Atlanta brought in Taylor Heinecke, who was 12-11-1 with Washington the last two seasons. If Ridder holds the job in training camp, expectations remain low and he's not on the radar in anything other than two-QB and Superflex leagues. Ridder's 6.2 yards per attempt is the most concerning stat from his rookie season and he also didn't show a consistent ability to keep a passing game in rhythm. Of course, these were Ridder's first starts. This year he'll have a full offseason to work, a healthy Kyle Pitts and blue-chip running back prospect Bijan Robinson added to the mix. A case can be made that he has one of the better supporting casts in the NFL from a pure talent standpoint. If you believe in his progression as a passer, Ridder is an interesting dart throw in the final round of your drafts.
Ridder’s biggest fantasy plus coming out of college was his rushing. We didn’t see enough of that in his limited rookie-year opportunities to count on significant ground upside. And his run-heavy offense with iffy WRs (beyond Drake London) makes for an unexciting passing environment.
All told, we’re not excited about Ridder’s 2023 fantasy outlook and aren’t worried about missing out on something big even if he plays well as a sophomore. Ridder’s no more than a QB3 for formats where such a player makes sense.
What We Learned Last YearThe third-round pick sat out most of his rookie season behind Marcus Mariota, before starting the final four games after Atlanta’s bye. He didn’t do much to impress.Ridder started with a 13-of-26 passing line for 97 yards in a Week 15 loss to the Saints.He completed a much stronger 67.4% of his throws over the remaining three games, averaging 6.9 yards per attempt.Ridder finished the year with 63.5% completions, 6.2 yards per attempt, 2 TDs (1.7% TD rate), and 0 INTs. He added just 64 yards on 16 carries, disappointing for a guy who averaged 43.6 rushing yards per game or his college career, even with sack yardage subtracted.Ridder did a lot more designed running in college: at least 40 such attempts in each of his four seasons, according to Pro Football Focus.Ridder ranked 32nd in PFF passing grade among all 50 QBs who attempted passes over the final four weeks last season. He ranked 22nd in passer rating and 45th in adjusted completion percentage.HC Arthur Smith said he thought Ridder got better over his starting span, specifically citing the rookie’s performance on third and fourth downs.It’s worth noting that Atlanta lost TE Kyle Pitts to injury before Ridder stepped in. That left little besides rookie WR Drake London. WR Olamide Zaccheaus finished second on the team in targets (61), receptions (40), and yards (533) for the season. Besides London and Pitts, Cordarrelle Patterson was the only other Falcon to reach 20 catches.
What to Expect in 2023The Falcons skipped drafting a QB, but they did sign Taylor Heinicke for $14 million over two years, with $6.32 million guaranteed. That’s backup money in today’s NFL. But the potential length and total money included seems to position Heinicke as more of an insurance option than straight backup. Only Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo got more total money on their free-agent deals this offseason.Ridder will get Pitts back to join London, who ranked second among all WRs in target share over Ridder’s four starting weeks.There’s still not much else to like among the pass catchers. Mack Hollins and Scotty Miller look like the favorites for the second and third WR spots. Hollins had a nice 2022 – 57-690-4 receiving line – but caught 56 total passes across five seasons before that. Miller has just 74 catches through four seasons.Atlanta traded for TE Jonnu Smith, who mustered just 28 and 27 receptions in two New England seasons after signing for big money.Ridder should get a better set of RB receivers than most teams can boast. Bijan Robinson caught 60 balls at 13.4 yards per catch across his college career and might be able to survive as an NFL slot receiver. Cordarrelle Patterson saw his receiving fall off last year but posted a 52-548-5 line in his first Atlanta season. Even Tyler Allgeier caught 16 of his 17 targets as a rookie, averaging a nice 8.7 yards per catch.The scheme might lower the volume ceiling for everyone. Last year’s Atlanta offense was the league’s second most run-heavy, running on 55.3% of plays. That said, Arthur Smith’s 2021 Falcons offense went 60.9% pass. That team even ranked 14th in the league in pass rate in neutral situations.Last year’s Falcons climbed from a clear 32nd in neutral pass rate through Mariota’s 13 starts to 24th over Ridder’s four games. And that came with no Pitts involved.We’re still betting on this year’s Falcons ranking among the league’s more run-heavy offenses. But it’s quite possible they pass more than expected.
Ridder is the starting QB in Atlanta after spending most of his rookie season backing up Marcus Mariota. The 2022 third-round pick made four starts as a rookie, but failed to make much of an impact, scoring only two TDs, both of which came in a Week 18 game against a Buccaneers team that was resting starters. Ridder has the ability to make noise with his legs, though he was held below 10 rushing yards in three of his four games last season. It's rare for Day 2 draft picks to emerge into stars, so Ridder is a long shot, but perhaps he'll make a leap in his second season, especially with young targets Drake London and Kyle Pitts on the ascent. He's a better asset in dynasty formats.