The Atlanta Falcons made a concerted effort to acquire Deshaun Watson over the offseason. Between failing to do that and also being forced to part ways with Matt Ryan, a clear void emerged at the quarterback position.
Many figured that hole would be filled in the 2022 NFL Draft – and they were right. Just not with the player that most assumed.
Despite every big name passer with the exception of Kenny Pickett still being on the board, Atlanta decided to go in an unexpected direction with the No. 74 overall pick. Rather than select Liberty’s Malik Willis, who some viewed as a top 10 prospect, the front office went with Desmond Ridder out of Cincinnati.
Understandably, many wondered why that call was made. This week, an answer emerged.
“After asking around, I get the sense that Atlanta felt Malik Willis, despite immense talent, lacked the signature moments while at Liberty to sway such a decision, whereas Desmond Ridder — the team’s pick at No. 74 — showcased a more complete body of work,” reported ESPN NFL insider Jeremy Fowler.
“Plus, Ridder’s confidence and polish in the process helped. Coaches who interviewed him noted that the QB outlined his plans to unseat a veteran wherever he landed.”
That feels eerily similar to the rationale cited by the Seattle Seahawks regarded why they passed on Willis.
“The Seahawks passed on Willis four times before he was taken 86th overall — feeling he was nowhere near NFL-ready, according to one source,” reported Brady Henderson of ESPN. “And didn’t think enough of the other quarterbacks to take one with any of their nine selections.”
The Falcons’ logic makes sense. Ridder went 44-6 as a starter at Cincinnati. Willis went 17-6. Neither really showcased their stuff against top-tier competition because both played at non-Power 5 colleges.
Now that looks like a fun honeymoon. https://t.co/eofbMHSIuf
— Game 7 (@game7__) May 13, 2022
Willis’ Wonderlic score and the role it played in how teams viewed him is also unclear.
In any case, both Ridder and Willis ended up with solid franchises who have a recent history of being relevant. What each youngster will do with the opportunity remains to be seen.