Ravens zeroing in on quarterback prospects

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh weighs in on the team's quarterback outlook and the draft prospects available at football's top leadership position. Please keep reading for further details.

OWINGS MILLS -- Not surprisingly, the Baltimore Ravens carved out some time at the annual NFL scouting combine this weekend to meet with Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan.

Ryan is the consensus top passer in the draft, and he apparently did nothing to diminish his stock as he vies against University of Virginia defensive end Chris Long and others to be the Miami Dolphins' first overall pick.

Although Ryan elected not to throw, preferring to work out in the familiar environment of the Boston College campus this spring, he did take part in other drills as well as conducting interviews with multiple teams.

"Very impressive, sharp, competitive good person," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters in Indianapolis regarding Ryan. "He did a nice job."

It's considered unlikely, though, that Ryan will be around for the Ravens to nab with the eighth overall pick.

With the Atlanta Falcons winning a coin flip to select third overall, speculation has increased that Ryan may wind up being the Falcons' next franchise quarterback following the Michael Vick debacle.

Ryan went out of his way to praise the Falcons' organization, especially owner Arthur Blank, during interviews.

Harbaugh didn't offer a prediction on the slim chance that Ryan might slide down to Baltimore.

"Anybody that's got that answer feel free to give us a call," Harbaugh said. "I have no way of knowing."

Meanwhile, Harbaugh noted that the Ravens also met with University of San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson, a potential sleeper who has gained the attention of talent evaluators with his athleticism and productivity.

Johnson was initially graded as a fifth or sixth-round pick, but could be moving up after topping most wide receivers' 40-yard dash times with a 4.41 clocking Sunday. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder threw 43 touchdowns with just one interception last season and was named the Offensive MVP in the East-West Shrine game with a touchdown pass and 93 rushing yards on three carries.

"My strengths are that I play under an NFL coach and I run an NFL offense," Johnson said. "I feel I can make any throw they put in front of me. I can also run if I need to and I have a good feel for the game.

"My weaknesses are I need to be more consistent with my mechanics. The times I'm not accurate are when I get lazy in my mechanics."

Of course, Harbaugh has a ton of inside information on Johnson. The small-school standout used to play for Harbaugh's older brother, Jim Harbaugh, prior to him moving on to Stanford.

"We started off our interview process with Josh Johnson," Harbaugh said. "He did a great job. Jim did a nice job with him."

Delaware's Joe Flacco, who had an impressive combine, Louisville's Brian Brohm and Michigan's Chad Henne are other highly-regarded quarterbacks on the Ravens' radar.

Keeping his options wide open, Harbaugh reiterated that the Ravens' starter could either be someone currently on or off the roster.

Although former Pro Bowl selection Steve McNair remains the frontrunner, Harbaugh did say he considers former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith to be a contender for the job.

In three games as a rookie last season, Smith completed 40 of 76 passes for 452 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 79.5 quarterback rating.

"Absolutely, you look at those last two games and you've got to feel like Troy Smith can be a quarterback in the NFL," Harbaugh said.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and Harbaugh have been complimentary of McNair, backup Kyle Boller and Smith.

Harbaugh outlined his general prototype of what he's looking for at football's most high-profile position.

"I want a leader, a competitor, a winner who can throw it run around a little bit if necessary," Harbaugh said. "A tough guy."

NOTES: Harbaugh was asked whether discipline was an issue with the Ravens, who went 5-11 last season after a franchise-record 13-3 campaign the previous year. "Discipline is kind of an elusive thing," he said. "They didn't do the things they needed to do to win games at critical moments. That's what we've got to get our football team do, but they did them two years ago. We've got to find that, no question about it." ...

Harbaugh said that he met recently with safety Ed Reed, calling it a tremendous conversation. "If you're going to win in the National Football League, you better have some strong men, because you've got to beat another team down," he said. "I love those kind of guys. I'm looking forward to what they have to say. And they've already told me what they think, so that's a good thing. I feel we're going to be on the same page."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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