Kyle Boller redux?

It's 2003 and the Baltimore Ravens want to trade up to the seventh pick and select quarterback Byron Leftwich. We all know how that turned out -the deal fell through and Jacksonville swooped in and took Leftwich, leaving the Ravens at the same pick, 10, and selecting defensive end/outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

The Ravens then moved back into the first round at pick 19 to select the team's next option at quarterback, Kyle Boller. Fast forward to 2008 and the Ravens faced an eerily similar scenario.

Following the first day of the draft, general manager Ozzie Newsome admitted the team discussed trading up to the second pick in a move believed to be for quarterback Matt Ryan. "To make the statement that we had conversations with the team ahead of the Falcons, would be a true statement," said Newsome.

This created the impetus for the Ravens to move down in the draft to select their next best option at quarterback, Joe Flacco.

Newsome said the team had been contemplating its options well before the draft began, but the back up plan came to fruition as the picks started to roll off.

"It started out with watching the way the picks were coming off the board, with the quarterback going to Atlanta," said Newsome about the chain of events that led to the selection of Flacco. "It basically put some things in motion that we had been working on in the last eight or nine days, with moving back with several people."

After the team slid back to 26, they decided it was safer to move back up to 18 to lock up their man.

"But after getting back there [to 26], then contacting the teams in front of us, and the teams in front of us contacting us, we decided it was time to pull the trigger on the quarterback that we felt was the guy to lead our football team into the future," said Newsome.

Enter Flacco – the team's second attempt at the quarterback of the future. Flacco is enormous at bigger than 6'6 and close to 235 pounds. He has a laser-arm and can easily make all of the throws necessary for the NFL. I'm sure, by now, you've seen the video of him throwing the ball 74 yards in the air; I think ESPN only showed that about five times. He's billed as a smart player, a hard worker and some compare him to arch-rival Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"Well, he's big, which is important, I think," said director of college scouting Eric DeCosta in commenting about what elevated Flacco above the second-tier quarterbacks. "He's played in some bad weather, which we like. He's got a rocket arm. He's highly accurate. We love the kid, he's very smart. He took Delaware to the national championship game, and played in the Senior Bowl. He did well.

He passed every test. We grinded on these quarterbacks until the very end. Joe was the guy that separated himself from the other guys." The major knocks on him are his footwork (considering he primarily operated out of the shotgun formation) and he did not face elite competition at NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA) Delaware.

Let the comparisons to former quarterback-of-the-future Kyle Boller begin.

However, circumstances are somewhat different this time around. For one, the Ravens did not have to give up a second first round pick to get Flacco, like they did with Boller and, this time, the team has a quarterback guru to mentor him in Cam Cameron. Yes, I know guru is a strong term because we said the same thing about former head coach Brian Billick, but Cameron even propelled Gus Frerotte to his one and only pro bowl and that merits guru status.

Yet, the impact of the selection of a quarterback in the first round holds the same risks. The team and the fans for that matter must remain patient with Flacco and not thrust him into the game too early like Boller. Like the old adage says, only time will tell whether he was the right pick to lead the Ravens into the future.

Hank Nathan is a guest columnist for Ravens Insider and a journalism student at Washington & Lee.


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