site subscription.

OWINGS MILLS - Examining the tapestry of quarterbacks over the last decade is more akin to observing a disaster site than a mosaic of eye-pleasing spirals. "> site subscription.

OWINGS MILLS - Examining the tapestry of quarterbacks over the last decade is more akin to observing a disaster site than a mosaic of eye-pleasing spirals. ">

Quarterback search offers intrigue for Ravens

<p><i>This article is free to all readers. If you would like to support this site, read more of Aaron's stuff and participate in premium chats and forums, please consider a <A HREF="">site subscription.</A></i> <p>OWINGS MILLS - Examining the tapestry of quarterbacks over the last decade is more akin to observing a disaster site than a mosaic of eye-pleasing spirals.

Despite the scrutiny of a position dotted with overwhelming failure within the first round of the NFL draft, franchises are striking optimistic stances about the immediate future. That's because of the uncommon talent available this year for a league always starving for quarterbacks.

Between USC's Carson Palmer, Marshall's Byron Leftwich and Cal's Kyle Boller, it qualifies as a rich signal caller draft with three probable high first-round selections.

Factoring Florida's Rex Grossman, Texas' Chris Simms and Louisville's Dave Ragone into the equation as likely first-day choices adds more intrigue.

Count the Baltimore Ravens among the teams aware of the complex reasons for the diverse results between established passers like Peyton Manning, Drew Bledsoe, Donovan McNabb, Chad Pennington, Michael Vick and Steve McNair and these notable busts once anointed for stardom: Ryan Leaf, David Klingler, Heath Shuler, Cade McNown, Jim Druckenmiller and Akili Smith.

"Quarterback is the grayest area in the draft," said Ravens director of player personnel Phil Savage, whose team holds the 10th overall selection. "It gets so much attention, but no one can really pinpoint why these guys flourish or fail.

"Some are not accurate. Some don't have the leadership. Some weren't embraced by their organization. Some never got a chance. Some got hurt. It's a wide range of why they fail or why they succeed."

While the daunting track record is enough to make the Ravens wary, they're also aware of the potential upside. Still, Baltimore has never taken a quarterback higher than tabbing Chris Redman in the third round three years ago.

With Redman recuperating from back surgery, this looks like the most probable scenario for Baltimore to expend a top draft pick to address its quarterback situation.

Palmer is out of the Ravens' range as the Heisman Trophy winner is already negotiating with the Cincinnati Bengals, the owners of the top overall pick.

However, Leftwich is a traditional pocket presence who is generating heavy discussion in war rooms as being worthy of a Top 10 selection. He recently answered questions about a twice-broken tibia with an impressive audition in Florida and passed the Ravens' physical earlier this week.

It's widely believed that Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome would have to engineer a trade above the Jacksonville Jaguars' eighth pick to obtain Leftwich.

"I think Byron has proven himself at every turn," Baltimore quarterbacks and receivers coach David Shaw said. "He's accurate. He's got the arm strength. He doesn't get sacked a lot despite what people said about him having a lack of mobility. We like him a lot."

Despite the injury last season, Leftwich passed for 4,268 yards, 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In 2001, Leftwich compiled 4,132 yards, 38 touchdowns and only seven interceptions for the Thundering Herd.

Every time Savage has watched Leftwich play, he said he has come away feeling that Leftwich has the intelligence and heart to command respect in an NFL huddle.

"I think Byron is a terrific pure passer, one of the best to really come into the draft in quite a while in terms of accuracy," Savage said. "He has got more than just a fastball. He can throw the curve, the screw, the change and the knuckle. He's shown the ability to squirt the ball out at a lot of different depths.

"I think his character and charisma brings a lot to the table. Whenever I've left the stadium, I've thought he has his act together. He would certainly be a strong consideration for us if he makes it to 10."

The student newspaper in Berkeley labeled Boller as 'Jesus in Cleats' before he ever took a snap. During his first three years on campus, Boller hardly walked on water.

 He was 7-21 as a starter while tossing 38 interceptions and 36 interceptions as Cal had a steady churn of coaches and a sub-par supporting cast. Under a new coach in Jeff Tedford last year, Boller experienced a quantum leap in understanding and mechanics.

Plus, the 6-foot-3, 234 pounder has 4.59 speed over 40 yards. Last year, Boller led the Golden Bears to a 7-5 season with 2,815 yards, 28 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

"Terrific talent," Savage said. "Big, strong arm, very good size, quick-footed, Boller has all the physical qualities that people need to play in the NFL. The No. 1 concern with him is he only really had one year of being productive.

"Whoever drafts Kyle Boller will feel like they got Joey Harrington and not Akili Smith. I think if Kyle Boller was a junior and going back to another year with Jeff Tedford then the scouts would say he's worthy of a top-five selection."

Like Leftwich, Boller has visited the Ravens. He also expressed a strong desire to play for Ravens coach Brian Billick.

The question regarding Boller isn't his ability. It's whether he carries a high enough value for the Ravens to use the 10th pick on him, or if they could trade back and still draft him while picking up extra selections.

Beyond Leftwich and Boller, there are other solid prospects in Grossman, Simms and Ragone who are projected as first-day selections, too. Simms has the bloodlines as former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms' son, but hasn't played well in big games.

"Simms has the raw potential," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "The knock on him is how he's played against tougher competition."

Grossman is known for his quick release, but is undersized and slow afoot. Ragone has the requisite toughness and size, but had a disappointing senior year.

"It's a good group throughout," Shaw said. "All those guys can play in the league for a long time."

Obviously, it's imperative that the Ravens make the correct assessment because they've had eight quarterbacks start at least one game during the Billick era:

Ravens Insider Top Stories