Ravens eyeing quarterbacks

OWINGS MILLS -- As the Baltimore Ravens' delegation of scouts, coaches and executives descend on Indianapolis later this week for the annual NFL scouting combine, they're expected to devote a heavy portion of their time toward evaluating the quarterback prospects. That due diligence will include a long look at Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan.

He's regarded as the top passer available by most draft analysts.

That interest is not only sparked by the Ravens' uncertain quarterback situation with veteran Steve McNair recovering from surgery to his non-throwing shoulder following a diastrous season marred by injuries, backup Kyle Boller's inconsistency and former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith being relatively unproven, but also Ryan's size, arm strength, accuracy and pocket presence.

It's considered a long shot, though, that Ryan will still be available when the Ravens are on the clock with the eighth overall pick in April.

"At No. 8, Baltimore would love to have Matt Ryan fall to them," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said.

However, it's a hopeful notion that seems unlikely to transpire.

Ryan is a candidate for several teams selecting in the top 10 picks, including the Miami Dolphins' first overall selection.

"Matt Ryan will be long gone by the time Baltimore picks," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. predicted during a Monday conference call.

Besides Baltimore and Miami, other teams expected to be interested in Ryan are the Atlanta Falcons at No. 3, the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 5 and the New York Jets at No. 6.

Some analysts, including scout.com's Chris Steuber, forecast Ryan being available and Baltimore landing him with the eighth pick, as University of Virginia defensive end Chris Long could fit Bill Parcell's mold of strength, size and intensity for his first draft as the Dolphins' football czar.

Under that scenario, players like Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long, LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston and at least one other player would have to be picked before the Ravens were up for Baltimore to wind up with Ryan.

Not getting Ryan wouldn't necessarily preclude the Ravens from acquiring a future starter at quarterback, though.

The Ravens are expected to have multiple options at quarterback in the second round, including the University of Delaware's Joe Flacco, Louisville senior Brian Brohm and University of Michigan standout Chad Henne.

"If you're the Ravens, you have to determine who is the second-best quarterback because you're not going to get Matt Ryan," Kiper said. "Who is the second-best quarterback and is that second-best quarterback going to be an effective starting quarterback in this league."

Flacco is a strong-armed transfer from the University of Pittsburgh who has prototypical size at 6-foot-6, 235 pounds. He's also athletic enough to cover the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds.

Flacco struggled during the Senior Bowl all-star game as he completed just 2 of 7 passes, but he flashed a lot of potential during the practice sessions.

Last season, Flacco passed for 4,263 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. During a skills competition in Arizona, Flacco won the long-ball contest with a 74-yard heave, also winning the quarterback scramble while finishing third in accuracy.

In a victory over Navy last season, Flacco completed 30 of 41 passes for 434 yards and four touchdowns.

"I don't think the Senior Bowl will impact him that much at all, because during the practices he showed that live arm," Kiper said. "He's big, he's very confident and he has that inner competitiveness. In my opinion, he's got the best arm of any quarterback in this draft. He flicks that wrist and the ball jumps off his hands. He's got a chance to be really, really good."
BR> In some scouting circles, Henne has apparently eclipsed Brohm.

Brohm's stock has been slipping due to injury concerns and having less arm strength than Ryan, Flacco and Henne.

A former Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Brohm was extremely productive. Last season, he set a conference record with 4,024 passing yards, including 555 against Syracuse, and finished with 30 touchdowns. He completed 65.7 percent of his passes for his career.

"Brohm doesn't have the great arm, doesn't have the great mobility and has had some injury issues," Kiper said. "I could see Henne going ahead of Brohm because Henne has a bigger arm than Brohm."

Henne is a pocket passer with a big arm who didn't have a great senior year with 17 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

Kiper also gave high marks to University of San Diego sleeper Josh Johnson, who played for Ravens coach John Harbaugh's brother, Jim Harbaugh, before he took the Stanford job. "Josh Johnson is a very athletic kid, but it's a huge jump in competition for him," Kiper said. "He's got talent."

Meanwhile, University of Kentucky senior Andre Woodson's outlook has plummeted lately.

"He's got a hitch in his delivery," Kiper said. "He's got a slow release. He has ideal size and he powers the ball. That delivery is going to cause some concerns. I started dropping his grade to the third round by December."

Kiper also gave solid marks to Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge, whom he said is a potential third-round pick, as well as USC quarterback John David Booty, Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon and Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith.

Due to a slight build, questionable velocity and the perception that he's a product of the University of Hawaii system, Colt Brennan isn't expected to be picked until the fifth or sixth round despite career totals of 14,193 yards and 131 touchdown passes.

"Booty is more of a Chad Pennington type who manages the game and doesn't have the big arm," Kiper said. "He throws a lot of underneath stuff. Brennan is going to have to wait a while to hear his name called.

"In this draft, there are at least 12 quarterbacks who will have a chance to start in this league, but it's very hard to tell who's going to be good enough."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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