Ravens Deal to Land Delaware QB Flacco

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 27, 2008

OWINGS MILLS, Md., April 26 -- The Baltimore Ravens had watched the quarterback they coveted the most, Boston College's Matt Ryan, come off of the board early in the first round of the NFL draft. So as they sat toward the bottom of the first round -- having traded down from the eighth overall pick -- they wanted to make sure they didn't miss out on their clear-cut second choice.

The Ravens sent three picks to the Houston Texans to move up eight spots and grabbed Delaware's Joe Flacco with the 18th overall selection. He becomes the highest-drafted quarterback in franchise history.

Said General Manager Ozzie Newsome, "We decided that it was time to pull the trigger on the quarterback that we felt like was the guy to lead our team into the future."

Baltimore made no secret of its need to draft a quarterback, particularly after Steve McNair retired April 17. But the price to move up to get Ryan -- the St. Louis Rams were reportedly asking for the Ravens' first-, second- and fourth-round picks in exchange for the second overall pick -- was too steep, particularly for a team that is coming off a 5-11 season and has myriad holes to fill.

After Ryan went to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 3, the Ravens sent the eighth overall pick to Jacksonville for the Jaguars' first-round (26th), two third-round (71st and 89th) and one fourth-round (125th) selections; the Jaguars took Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey (Eleanor Roosevelt High). Later, Baltimore shipped the 26th, 89th, and 173rd picks to Houston to move up for Flacco.

The Ravens were concerned another quarterback-hungry team from the top of the draft might try to jump back in late in the first round. They were pleased to get the player they wanted from the second tier of quarterbacks: Flacco, Michigan's Chad Henne and Louisville's Brian Brohm.

Flacco is "a big kid, which is important, I think," said Eric DeCosta, Baltimore's director of college scouting. "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, he played at the Senior Bowl and did very well. He passed every test."

Kyle Boller, who was the 19th pick in 2003, is the only other quarterback taken by Baltimore in the first round. Boller started as a rookie, but he has yet to establish himself as a dependable, consistent NFL starter.

Still, Coach John Harbaugh reiterated Saturday that Flacco will have every opportunity to win the starting position, in competition with Boller and second-year player Troy Smith. That's one reason why Flacco was so excited to get Baltimore's call.

"I think it fits great," said Flacco, watching the draft at his family's home in New Jersey and who spoke with reporters on a conference call. "They're a team looking for a quarterback, and they're competing their quarterbacks, and they want a guy to stand out and come in and do the job for them. . . . It's just a great opportunity for me to go in and play football and compete and prove to people that I'm a good quarterback."

In two seasons at Delaware, Flacco completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 7,046 yards and 41 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. He certainly looks the part of an AFC North quarterback. He is 6 feet 6 and 235 pounds, which puts him in the same neighborhood as Cincinnati's Carson Palmer (6-5, 230), Cleveland's Derek Anderson (6-6, 230) and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (6-5, 241).

Roethlisberger "is a really talented player, and he was a high pick. I would say that physically, there are some comparisons. But Joe is Joe," DeCosta said. "From an arm strength perspective, from an accuracy perspective, from a size perspective, sure, there are some similarities."

The biggest question surrounding Flacco is how he will respond to NFL competition after spending the past two seasons at Delaware, which plays in what was formerly known as Division I-AA. Flacco started his career at Pittsburgh, a BCS school, but transferred after throwing just four passes in two seasons. As a senior at Delaware, he took the Blue Hens to the NCAA Championship Subdivision title game, and along the way, he led them to two comeback wins on the road against higher-seeded teams.

The Ravens are confident Flacco has both the physical tools -- DeCosta cited his "tremendous, tremendous physical skill as a pure passer" -- and the intelligence to make the jump. DeCosta also pointed to the success that Tony Romo and Kurt Warner have had, after coming from smaller schools.

"All quarterbacks have to make a jump from college football," Harbaugh said. "It's a tough jump, and that's been proven. When you get to know Joe, you'll find that this guy feels like he has something to prove. He's a very competitive guy. He's a leader. . . . We're satisfied that he's got the personality to be a real good quarterback."

The Ravens had been following Flacco since August, when area scout Joe Douglas went to Delaware and came back raving about the big, strong thrower.

They watched him play at Towson in late September, and DeCosta himself was in Annapolis when Flacco completed 73 percent of his passes for 434 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions against Navy.

Overall, the Ravens made three trades to stockpile as many picks as possible. In addition to the two first-round trades, they swapped their second-round pick (38th overall) to Seattle, and received second-round (55th overall) and third-round (86th overall) selections. Baltimore chose Rutgers running back Ray Rice at No. 55.

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