Ravens' Billick dismisses rumors of QB quandary

Leftwich, Boller at center of debate in organization

But `our perspective ... is unified'

Production vs. potential reportedly is the issue

Nfl Draft

April 23, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Dismissing rumors of a division within the organization, the Ravens' brain trust said it is of one mind on the NFL draft's quarterback class.

Over the past month, several published reports have speculated that the team's scouting department prefers Marshall's Byron Leftwich while its coaching staff supports California's Kyle Boller.

But Ravens coach Brian Billick said everyone has come to an agreement on how the quarterbacks stack up.

"I cannot remember a position that we have looked in as much detail collectively as the quarterback position this year," Billick said. "Our job is to make a decision, not develop a consensus. I would venture our perspective where the quarterbacks are rated now is as unified as any I've ever seen. We are all of the mind that [Southern California's Carson] Palmer, Leftwich and Boller are a very close group with regards to their abilities."

The quarterback position has been the hot topic surrounding the Ravens entering Saturday's NFL draft. For the Ravens to draft a quarterback in the first round, the most likely scenarios have them trading up from the 10th overall pick to take Leftwich or trading down to the middle of the first round to select Boller.

It is believed Leftwich is rated among the Ravens' top seven prospects and Boller is graded between 13 and 19. According to an Internet report this week, Billick debated that distinction in pre-draft meetings, but general manager Ozzie Newsome decided to stick to his system of drafting players by their value and not their position.

"Like play-calling, there has to be a singular voice," Billick said. "Clearly on draft day, Ozzie has that singular voice, and I'm very comfortable with that."

Newsome said he'll listen to discussions but usually keeps his opinions to himself.

"If I disagree, I don't have to necessarily come out and say that I disagree with it, because they find out on draft day," Newsome said.

Between Leftwich and Boller, the debate focuses on production vs. potential. Leftwich has the more successful college resume, and Boller is believed to have more raw talent.

Once considered the top pick of this year's draft, Leftwich is a classic pocket passer who completed 67 percent of his passes and threw for more than 4,000 yards in each of his final two seasons. But a leg injury may push him to the bottom half of the top 10.

"He is a great pure passer and can win from the pocket," player personnel director Phil Savage said. "The biggest concern is the leg injury. But as far as we're concerned, he's over that hump."

In contrast, Boller has steadily climbed every team's draft board after beginning his senior season projected as a third- or fourth-round pick. He had never completed more than half of his throws before connecting on 53.4 percent last season under first-year coach Jeff Tedford, who has helped tutor the likes of Trent Dilfer, Akili Smith and David Carr in college.

Boller's stock continued to rise after the season, showcasing his arm - perhaps the strongest in the draft - in individual workouts and running the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.6 seconds.

"Kyle has the ability to put touch on the ball, but, right now, he is a fastball thrower," Savage said. "He is a little like the 95-mph high school pitcher that baseball scouts go out and say we can teach him these other things."

Billick said he is intrigued by the intangibles with Boller.

"He's got a real magnetism about him," Billick said. "He's got that aura of greatness about him that a quarterback has to have."

If the Ravens are unable to draft a quarterback in the first round, the second tier of quarterbacks includes Texas' Chris Simms, Florida's Rex Grossman and Louisville's Dave Ragone.

Simms could be available when the Ravens draft early in the second round. The son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, he has smooth mechanics but struggled with his consistency.

"He is certainly someone that could develop over the course of time," Savage said.

If the Ravens make it out of the first two rounds without a quarterback, they are expected to pursue Brian Griese, who is scheduled to be released by the Denver Broncos on June 1.

"We have contingency plans afterward should the draft go a certain way," Billick said.

Draft data

Rounds 1-3: Saturday, noon-10 p.m.

Rounds 4-7: Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Ravens' picks: 10, 41, 77, 109, 134, 146, 173, 182, 223, 250, 258

Quarterback outlook

A look at quarterbacks who may be available for the Ravens' first- and second-round picks:

First round (No. 10)

Name, School Ht. Wt. Jamison Hensley's skinny

Byron Leftwich, Marshall 6-5 240 Breaks down defenses with draft's most accurate arm

Carson Palmer, USC 6-5 235 Fundamentally sound passer likely to be draft's top pick

Kyle Boller, California 6-3 233 Blossomed in senior year, labeled boom-or-bust prospect

Second round (No. 41)

Rex Grossman, Florida 6-1 218 Confident and proficient leader doesn't have ideal size

Chris Simms, Texas 6-4 222 Phil Simms' son has smooth mechanics, questionable vision

Dave Ragone, Louisville 6-3 251 Big, strong thrower who lacks quickness and consistency

Other quarterbacks available in later rounds: Seneca Wallace, Iowa State; Brooks Bollinger, Wisconsin; Ken Dorsey, Miami; Curt Anes, Grand Valley State; Brian St. Pierre, Boston College; Drew Henson, Michigan; Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech; Brad Banks, Iowa.

Ravens' picks

A look at the Ravens' history of drafting quarterbacks:

Player Year Rd.

Jon Stark 1996 7th

Wally Richardson 1997 7th

Chris Redman 2000 3rd

Wes Pate 2002 7th

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