Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder says he's the most ready quarterback in NFL draft – USA TODAY

INDIANAPOLIS — The winningest quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft class thinks he should be the first signal-caller selected next month.
Desmond Ridder went 44-6 during his four years as a starter for the Cincinnati Bearcats. He’s projected as a second-round pick, but he argued on Wednesday that he’s the most NFL-ready of any quarterback.
“I feel like I’m the most ready both mentally and athletically,” he said.
Ridder’s 44 wins are the third-most in FBS history, behind only Colt McCoy and Kellen Moore, and he led the Bearcats to the first-ever College Football Playoff appearance from a Group of Five team.
This year’s quarterback class has been labeled as weaker than most years, and there’s uncertainty as to who will be the first few picked during the NFL draft, which begins April 28. Matt Corral, Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Ridder, Sam Howell, Carson Strong and Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe are all likely to be selected during the seven-round draft.
“I think I should be the first quarterback off the board because I’m athletic, I make plays, I’m the most winningest quarterback in almost all of college football, and I think that can translate over to the NFL,” Ridder told NFL Network this week. “I think at the end of the day, I’m a winner.”
Ridder wasn’t a blue-chip recruit, but he’s made the journey from pee wee football with the Hikes Point Lobos to knocking on the door of the NFL.
He was born when his mother was 15 years old, and he’s said he “grew up watching her grow up.”
“She’s made me who I am today,” he said.
When he turned 21 in August 2020, his mom, Sarah, drove to Cincinnati to surprise him on his birthday. But it was her son who had the ultimate surprise.
Ridder showed his mom a tiny Bearcat onesie with his jersey number on it, revealing that he and his longtime girlfriend were having a daughter. That daughter, Leighton, is now 10 months old and is reportedly “crawling all over the place,” per Ridder.
Being a parent has also changed his perspective.
“She makes me the most selfless person I can be,” Ridder said.
In his ascent to the NFL, Ridder has named a few quarterbacks he seeks to embody, including Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson, who he said he began watching while Jackson was at Louisville and Ridder was in high school, although Ridder admitted: “I’m not as fast or as shifty as him.”
He also said he sees himself as similar to Deshaun Watson and Ryan Tannehill.
“I feel like those two guys, if you put them together, you kind of get a little bit of me,” he said.
Ridder said he’ll participate in all drills at the NFL Combine, except for the bench press, and ESPN’s NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said that Ridder has the most to prove of any quarterback, citing Ridder’s play in the Bearcats’ playoff loss to Alabama.
“If he would’ve played well, I think he maybe could’ve been QB1, QB2, but now he’s battling to be QB4 or QB5 and pushing into the second round, not the first round,” Kiper Jr. said.
While at St. X, Ridder was considered a two or three-star recruit and had only one FBS offer, from Cincinnati. But over the past few years, he’s accomplished what few others have — winning 44 college games — and has put himself in a position to be a second-round NFL Draft pick.
“I look back on it now,” Ridder said of recruiting rankings out of high school, “and some of those guys that were above me … just seeing where they’re at now and, myself being where I’m at, I’ve put in the hard work and time to be where I’m at, and so it just keeps me going day in and day out.”
Follow Hayes Gardner on Twitter: @HayesGardner.


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