Tossing a hint

O, BY THE WAY

If you say Ravens, he says quarterback

On NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr.

April 17, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

Mel Kiper Jr., who has been plumbing the mysteries of the NFL's annual rite of passage from boola-boola to the pros for more than 25 years, really wants the Ravens to pick a quarterback in the NFL draft.

Kiper was on the telephone yesterday with about 50 reporters from around the country answering questions about players from the obvious to the obscure. As always, Kiper can give height, weight and 40-yard dash time on virtually anyone who wore pads in college without taking a moment to cogitate or inhale.

My computer downloads should be so fast.

In his customary machine-gun delivery, Kiper touched on the plethora of cornerbacks in this draft, the merits of various ball carriers and the debate of whether to draft for team need or the best player available, among dozens of other topics.

Kiper is ESPN's lead draft expert, so his points of view obviously extend across the breadth of the NFL empire. But as a Baltimore guy who graduated from Calvert Hall and still lives in the area, you have to think that deep down in his hometown heart, Mel pays just a smidge of extra attention to the Ravens.

Yesterday, he didn't exactly scream for the team to draft a quarterback, but in discussing the Ravens he used the phrase "most pressing need" and the word "quarterback" in the same breath (although for Kiper, admittedly it's a long time between breaths).

Two names flashed, neither of them surprises - Boston College's Matt Ryan and Delaware's Joe Flacco. In Kiper's mind, Ryan is the only top-of-the-first-round QB coming out. The next three are Flacco, Louisville's Brian Brohm and Michigan's Chad Henne, with some wiggle room in there for exact order.

In his mock draft posted on ESPN.com, Kiper has the Ravens taking Ryan, although in many other mocks (including that of ESPN's Todd McShay), Ryan is considered a top-five pick.

In a separate conversation, Kiper talked about how the Miami Dolphins passing on quarterback Brady Quinn at No. 9 last April in favor of receiver-returner Ted Ginn Jr. was among the most stunning moves he had witnessed in the draft.

"I already had Brady Quinn's name written in - in pen," Kiper said.

"He falls into your lap ... and you don't take him?"

So you get an idea about what Kiper thinks the Ravens should do if the same were to happen with Ryan slipping to No. 8.

Should Ryan be selected by then - Kiper speculated that Carolina might swap with New England for the No. 7 pick to beat the Ravens to the punch - the draft expert suggested that the Ravens might consider trading down. Then, he talked about what a terrific selection Flacco would be at the top of the second round or even the bottom of the first. At the moment, the Ravens' pick in the second round is No. 38 overall.

The Blue Hens' triggerman has size (6 feet 6, 236 pounds), what Kiper contends is the strongest arm in the draft, and has been impressing coaches and offensive coordinators in his visits around the league.

Flacco went from "intriguing" to the "real deal" in his senior season, Kiper said, and had he played in a major college program, he would be in Matt Ryan draft territory right now. Then Kiper compared Flacco to other smaller-school quarterbacks, such as Dallas' Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois) and Arizona's Kurt Warner (Northern Iowa).

Trying to match NFL teams to draft picks is a tantalizing but highly inexact exercise, Kiper admits, and one that's further complicated by endless permutations of trades and stunning and/or bonehead moves. But it sure makes for an exciting weekend every April.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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