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The Atlanta Falcons stunned the NFL world when they selected quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third round of the draft over Malik Willis and Matt Corral.
Ridder’s winning moments at Cincinnati appeared to be defining factor in the selection for the Falcons, ESPN reported Monday. Ridder led the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff – the first time a team outside the Power 5 Conferences made the sport’s premier event.
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“… 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,” the report said.
Ridder had 3,334 passing yards and 30 touchdown passes in his final season with the Bearcats. All were career highs in those categories.
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Atlanta is in need of a starting quarterback after trading Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts in the offseason. The Falcons were reportedly close to acquiring Deshaun Watson before the Cleveland Browns swooped in at the last minute to trade for him. The turn of events triggered Ryan’s trade to Indy.
The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota in the offseason. He had been a backup to Derek Carr with the Las Vegas Raiders for the last few seasons. Mariota was a former No. 2 pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2015. He hasn’t started a game since the 2019 season.
Willis proved in college he can throw the ball and run with it if needed. He had 2,857 passing yards and 27 touchdown passes in his final year at Liberty. He also ran the ball for 878 yards on 197 carries and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground.
With the No. 86 pick, the Tennessee Titans selected Willis. The Titans acquired the pick from the Las Vegas Raiders.
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Matt Corral was eventually selected by the Carolina Panthers.