|Ravens stake future on Flacco, who embraces role|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 27 April 2008 11:34|
Baltimore entered the draft with a shortage of defensive backs and offensive linemen. By dealing away the eighth overall selection, however, general manager Ozzie Newsome made it clear that quarterback was the team's most pressing need.
Newsome could have taken highly touted cornerback Leodis McKelvin or offensive tackle Ryan Clady. Instead, he moved down in the first round, then moved back up and grabbed Flacco at No. 18.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Flacco has the look of a pro quarterback. He put up some impressive numbers at Delaware, too. But performing well against Towson and Rhode Island in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) doesn't necessarily translate to success against Green Bay and New England.
If making the jump from Division I to the NFL is like going from Triple-A to the majors, then Flacco is seeking to make the leap from Double-A ball.
``I'm ready to work really hard to prove to everybody they made a good decision,'' Flacco said Sunday. ``I think everybody has to make an adjustment, no matter what level of college football they were playing. I think I'm just as prepared as anybody else. I have confidence in my ability.''
The Ravens feel the same way. Flacco will compete against Kyle Boller and Troy Smith for the starting job, and the coaching staff is certain their new quarterback has the tools to climb to the top of the depth chart.
``He's a perfect fit for what we want to do,'' first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. ``Here's a guy that has a gift to throw the football, a gift for throwing it quickly and accurately. This kid is going to develop and get better and better.''
Flacco is the highest-drafted quarterback in franchise history and the first Delaware player to go in the first round of the NFL draft. He knows that starting for the Blue Hens doesn't compare to playing for Pittsburgh, the school he initially attended before transferring after two frustrating years.
``I never really got a shot there,'' Flacco said. ``I still carry that with me, that I'm a I-AA guy and had to go down to the minor leagues of college football and prove who I was. I'm going to carry that with me for the rest of my life, and hopefully use it for the best.''
After addressing the quarterback situation by taking Flacco, Newsome turned his attention toward filling the team's other needs. His first move came Saturday night with the second-round selection of Rutgers running back Ray Rice, who will serve as the backup to Willis McGahee.
The Ravens needed a strong showing from their scouting staff Sunday to make this a successful draft. Newsome will ultimately be judged on how Flacco fares, but beyond that, he had to address a thin secondary and an offensive line that could lose perennial Pro Bowler Jonathan Ogden to retirement.
Newsome began the day by drafting Miami linebacker Tavares Gooden, who went to the same school, plays the same position and wore the same number (52) as Baltimore's Ray Lewis. The Ravens can only hope Gooden turns out to be nearly as good as Lewis, the team's defensive captain and a Super Bowl MVP.
``The only thing I told him is he couldn't have 52,'' Newsome said. ``He gives us depth and helps us on special teams right away.''
Baltimore then added depth at safety by taking Tom Zbikowski of Notre Dame, who has dabbled in pro boxing, started 48 games for the Fighting Irish and also returned punts. With their third pick of the third round, the Ravens chose 6-4, 310-pound offensive tackle Oniel Cousins of Texas-El Paso.
The fourth round produced Newsome's fourth trade in two days. After using the 106th overall pick on wide receiver Marcus Smith of New Mexico, who had 91 catches in 2007, Newsome dealt the 125th overall choice to Oakland for cornerback Fabian Washington.
Washington learned Tuesday that he'll avoid prosecution for his February arrest on a domestic battery charge as long as he completes a program for first-time offenders. A first-round pick in 2005, Washington started three games last season and had one interception.
``In the draft, we didn't think there was any other player that was comparable to Fabian,'' Newsome said.
The Ravens then selected offensive tackle David Hale, a four-year starter at Weber State, another FCS school like Delaware, toward the end of the fourth round.