NFL Draft NFL Draft Preview: Under Center

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With the retirement of Steve McNair, the Ravens need for a quarterback appears to have been increased but realistically, McNair’s retirement doesn’t change the team’s draft plans at all.

Regardless of whether McNair retired or not, the Ravens were expected to take a quarterback in either the first or second round.  Most of the talk has centered around Boston College’s Matt Ryan although Delaware’s Joe Flacco, Louisville’s Brian Brohm and Michigan’s Chad Henne are all in the discussion.

Ryan is hands down the top quarterback in the class.  He lacks any overwhelming physical characteristic but is extremely solid across the board.  I’m not convinced he is a "franchise quarterback" but you can not overlook what he was able to do at Boston College with mediocre talent around him at the skill positions.  I’ve debated it in the past but if he is there, he is absolutely the right pick for the Ravens and the team may even want to consider trading up to get him.  I still view cornerback as a glaring need and the addition of Leodis McKelvin would immediately revive the secondary but Ryan is the right pick for this team, regardless of whether it takes him with the eighth pick or if it requires trading up to get him.

Aside from Ryan, a lot of the talk has been centered upon Flacco, the small-school prospect with all the physical tools.  Flacco has the size (6-foot-6) and rocket arm that you look for in a quarterback.  Nonetheless, he is far from a finished product and would not be a wise pick for the Ravens if they are looking for a quarterback that will be capable of leading their offense within the next 2-3 years.  Flacco lacks experience against top competition and started just two years at the D 1-AA level.  Flacco played mostly out of the shotgun at Delaware and will need to refine his footwork.  Flacco did a better job reading defenses as a senior but still tends to lock onto his intended target and will stare down throws.  Ultimately, his upside and physical tools will get him selected in the late first or early second round pick but unless the Ravens are willing to let him sit and learn, they should pass on Flacco.

Brohm and Henne are both experienced signal callers who may not have the upside of Ryan or Flacco but are both future starting quarterbacks in the NFL.  Brohm’s stock has dropped significantly over the past year due to a number of concerns including his durability and the system he played in at Louisville.  Regardless, I rank Brohm as the second quarterback in this class behind Ryan and as someone who is capable of stepping into the fire as a rookie and leading an NFL offense.  Brohm is extremely intelligent and knows how to read a defense.  He has just average arm power but is very accurate and is a better athlete than he is given credit for. 

Two interesting players to keep an eye on are San Diego’s Josh Johnson and Oregon’s Dennis Dixon.  Johnson put up ridiculous numbers at his level of competition (113 TD-15 INT) and is a legitimate NFL prospect.  The talent he played against in college is questionable but he more than held his own throughout the pre-draft process and in the East-West Shrine game. 

Dixon was on the fast track to stardom before a torn ACL prematurely ended his season and Oregon’s run at a potential National Championship.  If he had stayed healthy and continued to play like he had all season, there is no reason to think that Dixon wouldn’t have been a first round pick while attracting consideration as the second quarterback taken after Ryan.  His physical tools are evident but his ability to read a defense is questionable, although he drastically improved as a senior.  Dixon is a dynamic runner, has above average arm strength and throws a very nice deep ball.  He will need to bulk up at the next level and may not be able to contribute his rookie year because of the torn ACL but definitely deserves a look in the later rounds as a developmental quarterback who possesses a ton of potential.


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About Matt Zenitz

Matt covers the Ravens for the Carroll County Times and Annapolis Capital. He is also a Ravens correspondent for the Associated Press. More from Matt Zenitz

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