Ryder has 'freak' speed, agility and leap for someone of his size and it is these attributes that has him compared to retired Indigenous Australian rules football star Graham "Polly" Farmer. Essendon secured Ryder with its first selection in the 2005 AFL Draft, which was the seventh pick in the League.
He made his debut in Round 1, 2006 and played mostly ruck. Ryder was awarded a NAB Rising Star nomination for his efforts in Round 1, 2007. He won the ANZAC Medal in 2009 after teammate David Hille was injured in the opening minutes of the game, resulting in Ryder rucking unassisted for the entire game.