Throughout the draft process, the two quarterbacks viewed as most likely to be taken in the first round have consistently been two names. Liberty’s Malik Willis and Pitt’s Kenny Pickett. Willis with his high ceiling, Pickett with his Day One readiness.
But according to Pro Football Network Tony Pauline’s latest reporting, a third quarterback should probably be added to the list: Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder.
In an article posted yesterday, Pauline says “just about all” of the teams he’s talked to have a first-round grade on Ridder. Pauline added this blurb to his first-round overview while adding insight to where Willis and Pickett stand:
“Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis are graded neck and neck and stamped as mid-first-round choices. From what I gather, it’s 50/50 as to which signal-caller teams prefer. Meanwhile, just about all the teams I’ve spoken with give Desmond Ridder a first-round grade and believe he’ll come off the board in the bottom half of Round 1.”
Ridder has gained the most steam over the past two weeks. Players don’t typically “rise” in the process the way the media portrays it but it’s often a product of teams catching up to where clubs are at as they finish setting their boards, which happens around this time. Ridder has also reportedly impressed teams, including the Steelers, throughout the pre-draft process with his football IQ and maturity. Ridder turned around the Cincinnati Bearcats’ program from an afterthought to annual winner who made the college football playoffs in 2021.
Pauline doesn’t note how many or which teams he’s spoken with and we don’t know what grade the Steelers have on him. Pauline’s wording is a bit careful here noting that “just about all” teams have him as a first-rounder, meaning there’s at least one team who didn’t. Still, that clearer consensus differs from draftniks like us, who have Ridder graded anywhere from a first to third round prospect.
Based on what Pauline and others have reported, Ridder should be strongly considered to be drafted by the Steelers in the first round. That’d most likely come at #20, tracking with Pauline’s “bottom half of Round 1” comment but a small move up in the draft can’t be ruled out either.