The Falcons will undoubtedly be linked to every quarterback prospect during draft time because of their glaring need for a long-term solution at the position. After shipping Matt Ryan to Indy, Atlanta signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year deal, making him the stopgap signal caller until the Falcons can find their future quarterback.
This crop of prospects has underwhelmed many, but history tells us there will be at least one future starter in this class. The Falcons aren’t the only team that needs a quarterback, though. The Panthers and Seahawks are notable franchises in desperate need of another quarterback. Most mock drafts I’ve seen have the Falcons passing on a signal caller, but in Pro Football Focus’s Anthony Treash’s latest mock draft, the Falcons draft Desmond Ridder over Evan Neal while adding George Pickens with the first of the team’s two second-round picks.
Arthur Smith’s offense is a dream fit for Ridder, the most NFL-ready quarterback in this class.
The Cincinnati product displayed high-level processing and flawlessly executed the Bearcats’ pure passing concepts this past season. He got through his progressions, consistently finding the right receiver, and had nine games without a turnover-worthy play this past season — the best mark in the FBS.
Ridder also ranked third among the top seven quarterback prospects in accurate-pass percentage on throws beyond the line of scrimmage. So, while it may not be perfect, his accuracy is not a liability.
Ridder has risen up NFL boards into the first-round conversation after lighting up the Senior Bowl and combine, and he’s my top prospect at the position.
From Treash on Pickens:
Pickens was a true freshman star back in 2019 before injuries derailed his college career.
The Georgia receiver went from an 88.0 receiving grade in 2019 to a 71.9 mark in 2020 while dealing with a nagging upper-body injury. Matters got even worse before 2021, as he tore his ACL in the spring, limiting him to just 32 routes for the season.
At his peak, Pickens looked like one of the most dominant receivers in the country. He showcased elite hands and routinely hauled in off-target throws with his massive catch radius.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound receiver dropped just two of 139 career targets at Georgia, so there’s no denying his ball skills are exceptional. Along with his size, he has the physicality and acceleration teams want in an X receiver. The question is, can he stay healthy?
Ridder over Malik Willis is one thing but over Evan Neal… who is undoubtedly one of the best prospects in this class regardless of position. I don’t see the Falcons passing on a prospect like Neal if he somehow falls to No. 8, but never say never. Atlanta has needs across the roster, but no quarterback will be successful with the current offensive line play. A player like Neal would change all of that because he can seemingly step into any role and succeed. The Falcons need improved play at guard and tackle, so taking Ridder over him is pretty mind boggling.
Photographer: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire
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