Does Desmond Ridder Need To Be A Top-5 Quarterback in the NFC To Cement The Franchise Quarterback Job?

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Ridder, according to newly-signed quarterback Taylor Heinicke, is set to take the reigns as the starter in 2023. Ridder ended 2022 with 708 yards, 2 touchdowns, and zero interceptions with a 63.5% completion percentage in four games. These stats on the surface don't foster much enthusiasm but he did improve from game to game. His passer rating started with an abysmal 59.3 against New Orleans to 108.2 to end the season against Tampa Bay. Now, Ridder has a chance to cement himself as this franchise's answer to the quarterback position for years to come. Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot are allocating the resources to build the roster around the quarterback position. It's now up to Ridder to prove to them that he can be the answer that this regime is looking for. This is a tall task for a third-round pick, for sure, but let's say that Ridder beats the odds and becomes the answer for the Atlanta Falcons. Where does that put him with respect to the other quarterbacks in the NFC? Does Desmond Ridder have to become a top-5 quarterback in the NFC as soon as next year?

Does Desmond Ridder Need To Be A Top-5 Quarterback To Cement The Franchise Quarterback Job?

Good Morning Football on the NFL Network did a segment on the top-five quarterbacks and the results were...shocking. Not in a sense that they're absurd or that the top five quarterbacks weren't listed but the quality of quarterbacks in the conference. The consensus top quarterback was the only one that was in the MVP conversation last year: Jalen Hurts. But after that, there was a bit of discussion that involved various quarterbacks across the conference. Justin Fields, Geno Smith, Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, and even Derek Carr got a vote. On the surface, these are all quarterbacks that have more questions surrounding their futures than answers. So, I wanted to look at the 2022 seasons for a few of these quarterbacks. Does Desmond Ridder need to break into this conversation before we can hand over the keys to him permanently?

All statistics were found on Pro Football Reference, unless otherwise stated.

1. Jalen Hurts

Michael Chow/The Republic / USA TODAY

15 Games, 306/460, 66.5%, 3701 yards, 22 TDs, 6 INTs, 101.5 QB Rate, 165 Rushes, 760 yards, 13 TDs

2. Justin Fields

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

15 Games, 192/318, 69.8%, 2242 yards, 17 TDs, 11 INTs, 85.2 QB Rate, 160 Rushes, 1143 yards, 8 TDs

3. Geno Smith

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

17 Games, 399/572, 69.8%, 4282 yards, 30 TDs, 11 INTs, 100.9 QB Rate, 69 Rushes, 366 yards, 1 TD

4. Kirk Cousins

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

17 Games, 424/643, 65.9%, 4547 yards, 29 TDs, 14 INTs, 92.5 QB Rate, 31 Rushes, 97 yards, 2 TDs

5. Dak Prescott

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

12 Games, 261/394, 66.2%, 2860 yards, 23 TDs, 15 INTs, 91.1 QB Rate, 45 Rushes, 182 yards, 1 TD

6. Derek Carr

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

15 Games, 305/502, 60.8%, 3522 yards, 24 TDs, 14 INTs, 86.3 QB Rate, 24 Rushes, 102 yards

7. Jared Goff

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

17 Games, 382/587, 65.1%, 4438 yards, 29 TDs, 7 INTs, 99.3 QB Rate, 29 Rushes, 73 Yards

Numbers Analysis

Don't worry, I crunched the numbers so that you don't have to.

These seven quarterbacks played a total of 108 games and completed 2,269 passes on 3,476 attempts for 25,592 yards. That amounts to completing passes at around a 65.27% clip. They have a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 174 touchdowns to 78 interceptions, an almost 2.25-1 ratio. According to Pro Football Reference's NFL Passer Rating Calculator, this amounts to a QB Rating of 94.49. They also added 523 rushes, 2650 rushing yards, and 25 touchdowns on the ground (Smith, Hurts, and Fields were responsible for over 75% of these rush attempts and over 85% of the yards).

On a per-game basis, that's around 20 to 21 completions on 32 attempts for almost 237 yards, averaging at least a touchdown or two a game with less than one interception. I used the three more run-oriented quarterbacks above for the rushing stats for a better look at how Ridder may need to affect the run game. In 47 games, Smith, Hurts, and Fields added a little over 48 yards rushing a game on a little over 8 rushing attempts equating to almost 6 yards a rush. They also added 22 touchdowns, which equates to a touchdown every two games.

What Does A Successful Quarterback Look Like in Arthur Smith's Offense?

One of the things these numbers can't account for is the offensive scheme and strategy. Not to mention the differences in philosophy for the offenses these quarterbacks run. So, I wanted to bring in the best example of success in an Arthur Smith offense: 2019-2020 Ryan Tannehill. Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans were 4th in offensive EPA from the time he took over the starting role from Marcus Mariota in 2019. In that span, he was 1st in success rate and completion percentage over expected while being 2nd in EPA+CPOE composite, only behind the eventual MVP, Lamar Jackson, according to He continued this high level of play into 2020 as he netted the 2nd highest EPA that season behind only the eventual MVP that year, Aaron Rodgers.

Over that span, Ryan Tannehill played 28 games and completed 516 passes on 767 attempts for a 67.27% completion percentage. He threw for 6561 yards, 55 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Good for a QB rating of 110.6. Tannehill also added 451 yards on 86 attempts and 11 TDs.

If you look at that from a per-game basis that's roughly 18 completions on 27 attempts per game for 234 yards a game. Tannehill added almost two touchdowns per game and an interception once every two games while adding only around 16 yards on 3 rush attempts a game and a touchdown every now and then.


Statistic (per Game)

2022 "Top-5" Quarterbacks

Ryan Tannehill

Completion Percentage









QB Rating



Rush Attempts*



Rush Yards*



Rush TDs*



*Using the rushing numbers from Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts, and Geno Smith only

If you look at the comparison between the two side-by-side, the production numbers seem fairly similar. Of course, Ryan Tannehill's are going to be better because this was Smith's offense running at its peak (so far). Also, Ryan Tannehill did not have to use his legs as much because of the usage of Derrick Henry during that time. I expect Ridder's rushing numbers to look more toward the rushing numbers on the left-hand side. But when it comes to the passing numbers, I believe that Ryan Tannehill, who has never been the most polished of passers, put up a great standard for Ridder to follow.

I believe that if these numbers are the standard for a top-5 quarterback in the NFC, Desmond Ridder will have to, at the least, be in the conversation for one of the top-five quarterbacks. That shouldn't be a horrible bar to reach in a conference where even its best quarterbacks all have question marks around them.

Can he do it? Can Desmond Ridder become a top-five quarterback in the NFC in just one off-season? I think he has the ability to. And I believe that Arthur and Terry will outfit him with the weapons necessary. It's going to be all up to the former Cincinnati Bearcat to answer the bell come September.