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Outstanding article on 2008 NFL Draft QBs


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Evan Silva

NFL Draft Preview

February 8, 2008

Draft '08: The Quarterbacks

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There are only two underclassmen in this year's quarterback crop Florida State fourth-year junior Xavier Lee and Oklahoma State true junior Bobby Reid. Neither will be drafted. Lee was more or less kicked off the Seminoles last season for skipping classes. Reid's claim to fame is being the subject of coach Mike Gundy's "I'm a Man" rant. But that doesn't mean this year's class of signal callers is weak. In fact, early entrant quarterbacks tend to have considerably less success at the next level than do tested seniors with 30+ college starts on their resume.

Two years ago, FootballOutsiders statistician Dave Lewin discovered that among early-round quarterbacks, college starts and completion rate are the two most telling predictors of NFL success. The theory has since been stolen by Gil Brandt of NFL.com and referenced by several other well known members of the media. Lewin's hypothesis has held remarkably true for quarterbacks drafted high over the past decade.

Here is a link to the original quarterback projection article. Lewin's premise is that because quarterbacks with the most starts are seen more by scouts, those scouts get a more sound evaluation. Some can be thrown off by physical prowess (see Kyle Boller, Akili Smith, JaMarcus Russell), but the ultimate test of an elite QB is accuracy. If a QB is drafted high, he will likely already possess the necessary physical traits it takes to succeed. However, if he is not accurate, he is much more likely to fail.

I had a chance to interview Lewin for this column and have included some summarized commentary from our conversation for each quarterback in the top ten.

1. Brian Brohm, Louisville

Height/Weight: 6'3/224

College Experience: Fourth-year senior

Projected 40: 4.79

Comparison: Carson Palmer

2007 Statistics: 308-of-473 (65.1%), 4,024 Yds, 30 Tds, 12 Ints, 3 Rush Tds

Positives: An all-state high school point guard who was drafted by the Rockies in 2004, Brohm is a natural athlete. He started three and a half years at Louisville and never completed under 63.6% of his passes. Brohm's release, touch, and all-around mechanics are outstanding. His preparation and passion for the game is comparable to Peyton Manning's. Brohm is adept at reading coverages and was effective in new coach Steve Kragthorpe's more pro-style offense after Bobby Petrino left for the Falcons in early 2007.

Negatives: Brohm tore his ACL ten games into the 2005 season and missed three games in 2006 following thumb surgery. Brohm also had surgery on his throwing shoulder in January of 2007, although he didn't appear to lose any arm strength, averaging 8.51 yards per attempt with more passes thrown and yards than ever.

Lewin on Brian Brohm: There is very little not to like about Brohm. People were turned off by Louisville's struggles in 2007, but Brohm stayed exceptionally accurate. He hardly ever threw interceptions in college. In terms of execution, Brohm compares to Tom Brady. He is as close to a surefire franchise quarterback as there is in this year's draft.

Verdict: Brohm's arm isn't on Andre Woodson's level, but his combination of accuracy, smarts, and work ethic is the best in the draft. Durability is a concern, but his specific injuries haven't been recurring. Brohm is unlikely to be the top QB taken because of all the hype surrounding Matt Ryan, but he has the best chance to be a Pro Bowl caliber player. Brohm is still likely to go in the middle of the first round, and could creep into the top ten.

2. Andre Woodson, Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6'4/234

College Experience: Fifth-year senior

Projected 40: 4.80

Comparison: Jason Campbell

2007 Statistics: 327-of-518 (63.1%), 3,709 Yds, 40 Tds, 11 Ints, 3 Rush Tds

Positives: Woodson took over after Shane Boyd's departure in 2005 and started the next three years, improving markedly in each. Woodson was never injured during his college career. He has ideal arm strength, and has been known to throw the ball 70-80 yards downfield. He also isn't afraid to tuck and run. Woodson is from a military background, has a disciplined personality, and showed excellent decision making skills against elite college competition.

Negatives: Woodson has a somewhat deliberate throwing motion. He can get happy feet in the pocket and pat the ball too much. Woodson took at least 30 sacks in each of his three years as a starter, although his protection was inconsistent and SEC opponents hardly had to worry about the Kentucky running game. Woodson will not be a scrambler in the NFL.

Lewin on Andre Woodson: Woodson's accuracy is not spectacular, but he projects as an above average to good starting NFL quarterback. Brett Favre got away with a windup, and Woodson's isn't in Byron Leftwich's league. The only way Woodson should fail is if NFL coaches tinker with his delivery. Teams can be very confident using a late first-round pick on Andre Woodson.

Verdict: Woodson threw for 358 yards and four TDs against a highly talented Florida State secondary in the Music City Bowl. He entered the offseason a potential top-15 pick. His stock now appears to be falling after a shaky Senior Bowl showing. It is amazing that three seasons of superb production in the SEC could be erased by one pre-draft event. Considering who coached him (QB-breaking 49ers coordinator Mike Martz) and that every quarterback on the South squad (also Colt Brennan, Erik Ainge) struggled in those practices, it is no surprise that Woodson, whose skill set is the exact opposite of a Martz QB, did as well. Woodson has a minor mechanical flaw, but it will be a crime if he falls well into the second round.

3. Matt Ryan, Boston College

Height/Weight: 6'5/221

College Experience: Fifth-year senior

Projected 40: 4.82

Comparison: pre-Super Bowl XLII Eli Manning

2007 Statistics: 388-of-654 (59.3%), 4,507 Yds, 31 Tds, 19 Ints, 2 rush Tds

Positives: Ryan redshirted as a freshman and took over for injured Quinton Porter as a third-year sophomore. He showed toughness playing through a foot injury as a junior. Ryan had a weak supporting cast at BC, but still found ways to win. He has ideal intangibles and is a proven leader. He doesn't have a cannon, but possesses good arm strength and can make most of the NFL-required throws. Ryan's best attributes are his picturesque delivery and consistency in the clutch.

Negatives: Ryan only started for two and a half seasons. His completion rates dropped each year. Ryan missed a game as a fourth-year junior with a high ankle sprain and underwent offseason foot surgery. He will force throws into coverage and threw too many picks as a senior. Ryan's upside is limited because of his only above average combination of athleticism and arm strength.

Lewin on Matt Ryan: Ryan's number of pass attempts as a senior is staggering and may have contributed to his modest completion rate. Ryan is like Carson Palmer in going through his progressions and his mechanics are flawless. But his production just wasn't that great in college and his inconsistent decision making sends up a red flag. People fall in love with guys like Matt Ryan, but he certainly isn't worth the No. 1 pick overall. Ryan would be a better fit in the second round.

Verdict: Ryan's completion percentage to college starts ratio is not nearly as impressive as Woodson or Brian Brohm's. He wasn't surrounded by great weapons, but did have an elite offensive line. Because he can look so special on film, Ryan will be a first-round pick and projects as a solid NFL starter. But his tendency to force things is a flaw that can be uncorrectable. Ryan's decision to withdraw from pre-draft events also will not help him on April 26.

4. Chad Henne, Michigan

Height/Weight: 6'3/228

College Experience: Fourth-year senior

Projected 40: 4.79

Comparison: Jake Plummer

2007 Statistics: 162-of-278 (58.3%), 1,938 Yds, 17 Tds, 9 Ints, 0 Rush Tds

Positives: Henne has rare experience as a four-year starter. He gets another leg up because of his time under center in Michigan's pro-style offense. Henne has close to an ideal arm and can make all the necessary throws. He is especially accurate in the vertical game. Henne is mechanically sound and puts good touch on underneath passes. He can be a game manager and is effective on play fakes.

Negatives: Considering his weapons (Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington, Mike Hart), Henne should have put up better numbers across the board in college. He doesn't always know when to throw the ball away and can be streaky. Henne will not be a running threat in the NFL. His senior year was his worst, as Henne struggled while playing through a separated shoulder.

Lewin on Chad Henne: Henne was never all that accurate at Michigan, but his college pedigree and skill set are similar to Brady Quinn's. With loads of starts against top defenses, Henne established that he can play at a pretty high level. Scouts do not miss on guys who started all four years. Henne is probably the No. 2 quarterback in the draft, behind only Brohm, and just ahead of Woodson and Ryan.

Verdict: Henne's college stats were never prolific, which could be due to a number of factors (i.e. opponents, conservative UM offense). He also never got much better after his freshman season. But Henne has the intangibles, toughness, and physical traits to be a ten-year starter and an above average NFL quarterback. His stock is on the rise after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he's a late first-round pick. Just don't expect many Pro Bowl appearances.

5. Josh Johnson, San Diego

Height/Weight: 6'3/198

College Experience: Fourth-year senior

Projected 40: 4.61

Comparison: Steve McNair

2007 Statistics: 206-of-301 (68.4%), 2,988 Yds, 41 Tds, 1 Int, 101 carries (7.2 YPC), 2 Tds

Positives: Johnson is the top athlete among QBs who will be drafted. He has speed to pick up yards with his feet and moves to elude defenders in the open field. Johnson started three years at USD and never completed less than 66.3% of his passes. He improved by leaps and bounds each season. Johnson faced weak competition in D-IAA, but excelled against higher level players and won Offensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game. He is a legitimate dual threat who is not known to be involved in dog fighting.

Negatives: Johnson must add weight to his frame to hold up at the next level, and more bulk could slow him down. He is considered to have a good arm, but must work on his touch. He also faces a major jump up in not only competition, but concepts as he learns an offense that will be much more complex and demanding than the one he played in at San Diego. Johnson is highly unlikely to make an impact during his initial one to two NFL seasons.

Lewin on Josh Johnson: In comparing two D-IAA quarterbacks, Johnson clearly is a better prospect than Joe Flacco. These are the Steve McNair-type numbers you look for from sub-Division I QBs.

Verdict: Johnson was recruited by Jim Harbaugh before Harbaugh took the coaching job at Stanford. Johnson drew interest from D-I schools, but was not offered scholarships. His high school used a run-first attack, with Johnson's cousin Marshawn Lynch the centerpiece on offense. Johnson broke his leg as a prep junior. Clearly he is a project, but Johnson's elite multi-faceted skills make him well worth a third- or fourth-round pick. Because Johnson has exhibited a high degree of accuracy, he is a far better prospect than Tarvaris Jackson was at this time two years ago.

6. John David Booty, USC

Height/Weight: 6'2/213

College Experience: Fifth-year senior

Projected 40: 4.93

Comparison: Damon Huard

2007 Statistics: 215-of-340 (63.2%), 2,361 Yds, 23 Tds, 10 Ints, 0 Rush Tds

Positives/Negatives: Booty was at USC for five seasons and injured in four. He underwent back surgery in spring 2006 and was limited in or missed five games as a senior with a broken finger on his throwing hand. Booty is an excellent touch passer and throws well on the run, but his arm strength is average. He also lacks good size. However, Booty is very bright, plays well under pressure, and his mechanics are NFL ready. He was also in a pro-style offense for five years.

Lewin on John David Booty: Booty definitely isn't a top-two round pick, but you could see at USC why he was the No. 1 quarterback recruit coming out of high school. Booty comes from a quarterback family and a school rich in quarterback history. He has a real chance to be a good NFL starter.

Verdict: There are enough physical limitations on Booty's game that his upside in the pros is as a manager who won't make mistakes and cost his team wins. But Booty is tailor made for a West Coast offense that relies on timing patterns and asks a quarterback to roll out and make throws on the run. Booty played well when healthy at USC against top competition. At worst, he projects to be one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL.

7. Erik Ainge, Tennessee

Height/Weight: 6'6/225

College Experience: Fourth-year senior

Projected 40: 4.98

Comparison: Charlie Whitehurst

2007 Statistics: 325-of-519 (62.6%), 3,522 Yds, 31 Tds, 10 Ints, 0 Rush Tds

Positives/Negatives: Ainge briefly split snaps with Rick Clausen as a sophomore, but ultimately started all four years. He had two legitimately good seasons. Ainge missed time as a freshman with a separated shoulder, five games as a sophomore with a neck injury, parts of two with an ankle sprain in 2006, and had ankle surgery in spring 2007. Ainge is bright and was annually an All-Academic SEC pick, but was prone to poor decisions and wildly inconsistent year to year at Tennessee. He did make huge strides when David Cutcliffe took over the Vols' offense in 2006 and finished his career on a high note.

Lewin on Erik Ainge: After four years, people know what Ainge is. He's not super talented, but is tall and has a pretty good arm. This is the type of quarterback you use a fourth-round pick on.

Verdict: Ainge has ideal size and can make most of the throws, but his extreme ups and downs are alarming. His confidence is easily shaken. Ainge's durability is another huge question mark. He was surrounded by NFL-caliber talent each year in college, but was something of an underachiever. While he's a risk worth taking on the second day of the draft, Ainge is still a work in progress. He should benefit from two or three years of learning behind an entrenched, veteran starter.

8. Colt Brennan, Hawaii

Height/Weight: 6'2/185

College Experience: Fifth-year senior

Projected 40: 4.73

Comparison: John Beck

2007 Statistics: 359-of-510 (70.4%), 4,343 Yds, 38 Tds, 17 Ints, 8 Rush Tds

Positives/Negatives: Brennan's production was outrageous in coach June Jones' run-and-shoot system. He throws a tight spiral and will spread the ball around. A three-year starter, Brennan is a quick study and doesn't telegraph his throws. However, he's worked almost strictly from the shotgun and didn't have to go through progressions often. He also wasn't consistently asked to throw downfield. Brennan is confident and was a leader at Hawaii, but was kicked out of Colorado as a freshman after being accused of sexual misconduct. The charges were later dropped. Brennan entered the offseason as a possible first-day selection, but struggled (like Woodson) while being nitpicked by Mike Martz at the Senior Bowl. He also weighed in at 6'2/185 after being listed at 6'3/201 at UH.

Lewin on Colt Brennan: People knock Brennan for playing in Jones' run and shoot, but you didn't see Timmy Chang putting up those numbers. Chang's completion rates were always in the 50s. Brennan's were consistently in the high 60s and low 70s. Brennan has an unbelievable combination of vision and accuracy and his arm strength isn't a problem. His main issue is the big learning curve moving to a pro-style offense. With the right coaching, Brennan can be a successful starting NFL quarterback.

Verdict: It's going to be all about patience and opportunity with Brennan. If he falls to the sixth or seventh round or goes undrafted, Brennan will be buried on a depth chart or practice squad. He could get lost because he won't see any practice reps and his physical skills won't stand out. The signs do point to Brennan becoming a successful starter if he's brought along and nurtured like one. But as it stands now, he probably won't get that chance.

9. Joe Flacco, Delaware

Height/Weight: 6'6/232

College Experience: Sixth-year senior

Projected 40: 5.0

Comparison: Andrew Walter

2007 Statistics: 331-of-521 (63.5%), 4,263 Yds, 23 Tds, 5 Ints, 4 Rush Tds

Positives/Negatives: A classic dropback passer, Flacco has possibly the strongest pure arm in the draft. His accuracy at Delaware was solid, but Flacco faced weak D-IAA competition. He possesses tremendous size and is hard to bring down. However, Flacco played in a shotgun-heavy offense in college and struggled taking snaps from center at the Senior Bowl. His footwork is poor, and he has a slow dropback. Flacco also lacks any kind of mobility.

Lewin on Joe Flacco: Flacco's inability to beat out Tyler Palko for a starting job at Pitt sends up an immediate red flag. He posted good numbers in two seasons, but they still weren't on McNair or Chad Pennington's level. You want D-IAA guys to dominate like Josh Johnson. Flacco carries a lot of risk, and isn't worth a first-day pick.

Verdict: Flacco was behind Tyler Palko on the Pittsburgh depth chart early in his college career. He opted to transfer to D-IAA Delaware, sat out 2005 on transfer rules, and began starting in 2006. Flacco has some intriguing tools, but wasn't good enough to beat out a quarterback that ultimately went undrafted and likely doesn't have a career in the NFL. Using reason, the idea that Flacco should be a second- or third-round draft pick is illogical. Flacco is more of a second-day to late second-day prospect who should be viewed as a project, not relied on to play within the next two seasons.

10. Kevin O'Connell, San Diego State

Height/Weight: 6'5/224

College Experience: Fifth-year senior

Projected 40: 4.88

Comparison: Matt Gutierrez

2007 Statistics: 257-of-439 (58.5%), 3,063 Yds, 15 Tds, 8 Ints, 135 carries (3.0 YPC), 11 Tds

Positives/Negatives: O'Connell has good arm strength and ideal size. A four-year starter, he was also team captain each season after being redshirted. O'Connell exhibited resourcefulness, leading the Aztecs in rushing as a senior after RB Lynell Hamilton aggravated a knee injury that cost him the season. O'Connell also frequently played through nagging injury. However, his delivery, footwork, and accuracy are below NFL standards. O'Connell was a threat to run at SDSU, but won't be in the NFL.

Lewin on Kevin O'Connell: O'Connell's San Diego State teams were never any good and his statistics weren't either. Take him in the seventh round and see what happens, but there's little reason to believe he has a future.

Verdict: From a raw physical standpoint, O'Connell offers some potential. But his inability to win games or produce at an outstanding level against low-end Mountain West competition should eliminate most expectations. O'Connell was a decent quarterback at San Diego State, but has a ways to go if he hopes to have a career as a backup. He's a long shot to ever start an NFL game.

11. Dennis Dixon, Oregon

12. Paul Smith, Tulsa

13. Matt Flynn, Louisiana State

14. Nick Hill, Southern Illinois

15. Ricky Santos, New Hampshire

Other QBs with an Outside Shot to be Drafted: Sam Keller (Arizona State), Anthony Morelli (Penn State), Bernard Morris (Marshall), Kyle Wright (Miami FL), Xavier Lee (Florida State), Bret Meyer (Iowa State), Adam Tafralis (San Jose State), Bobby Reid (Oklahoma State)

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It's going to be a long time until April....

So, we have people projecting Ryan as the first pick in the draft, but he is 3rd best on this list.

Sad thing is, I don't disagree with his position on this list. I am not so sure I like Woodson at the second best QB, but I guess if you just look at numbers, he is a lot better than Ryan, but not as good as Brohme.

I sure would like it if we would up with Johnson or Henne in the 3rd or 4th round. Maybe even Ainge.

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Andre Woodson is better than Jason Cambell who just went to the playoffs. I have watched all of Woodson's games this year including being at the Kentucky UGA game. This guy is the perfect play action quarterback which makes him perfect for the Falcons.

He is already being scouted by the Falcons.

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Excellent article; Thnx. I like the way he analyzes these qb's. I thought it was very significant that Matt Shaub had that skill of being very accurate when he came out (68% cpr). I also think woodson might just be the steal of the draft at QB if some one gets him in rd 2.

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I don't agree that I would put Henne 2nd on the list. If I was ranking them I would have

1. Ryan 2. Brohm t3. Henne t3. Flacco 4. Woodson

Remember that Henne was only 7 and 11 in the big game through out his career and 1 and 4 in bowls. Now with that said I would draft him in the second round because I think that Brohm and Ryan are a little overhyped. Flacco may have better numbers, but he has not played in any big games. At least Henne has played in those games. whether he won them or not.

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I like the theory that emphasizes accuracy. We all get caught up in the strength of an arm, or the mobility of a prospect. But, when you get down to it, a QB needs to make quick decisions and delivery the ball accurately.

After reading the post, I wonder whether we would be better off trading for a QB. If we can work a trade for Derek Anderson, we will have an accurate QB with experience in reading NFL defenses.

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What a great article with what appears to be ACTUAL observation and evaluation of each prospect. Matt Ryan is vastly overrated and it's refreshing to finally see an article saying that he belongs in the 2nd round.

I'd like to land Brohm, but I don't see it happening. He could be a great QB for us, but I just don't see the cards falling our way. Beyond him I'm only really content with Josh Johnson, Dennis Dixon, or John David Booty. I also like Henne, but I just don't want him in a Falcons uniform.

It's also nice to see someone give a straight evaluation of Joe Flacco. The hype surrounding that guy is also pretty lame to me. He's got prototypical measurables and a very strong arm, but everything else about him is just questionable.

I'd like to see what they have to say about Dixon as well. He fell off big time due to his injury late in the season, but prior to that he was working his way into the 2nd round... maybe even 1st round had he been able to finish out and go through the full process with everyone else.

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bigdawgintn (2/9/2008)
I don't agree that I would put Henne 2nd on the list. If I was ranking them I would have

1. Ryan 2. Brohm t3. Henne t3. Flacco 4. Woodson

Remember that Henne was only 7 and 11 in the big game through out his career and 1 and 4 in bowls. Now with that said I would draft him in the second round because I think that Brohm and Ryan are a little overhyped. Flacco may have better numbers, but he has not played in any big games. At least Henne has played in those games. whether he won them or not.

You could honestly put Ryan #1 and feel good about that? He hasn't done anything at all to even closely earn that spot. I think that guy has it right with Ryan being #4.

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Good article but he is wrong on a few things , ON Flacco , "Flacco also lacks any kind of mobility". This statment is totaly false , I have seen what Flacco can do running with the ball.

But he is right on most of his evaluation.

Call me crazy ,but I'd rather have JJ than Woodson. And JJ cna be gotten in the 4th round.

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Interesting rankings and logic. I agree with the Flacco Observation and have stated in the draft forum that Flacco is way overvalued--even more so than Ryan. He had a 2000 yard rusher (almost); 2 1000 yd wrs and still put up just decent numbers against weak opponets. He was also wildly inconsistent--on fire first 7 games; sucked ##### the last 8 games.

But most interesting is the Woodson entry. Put in the right situation this kid will be a stud. I'm not sure that he's right for ATL. But screw the mechanics he has got a great arm and great leadership ability.

And as for the Ryan Haters; well the same ones hated Eli Manning as well :)

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stoned_jc7 (2/9/2008)
It's going to be a long time until April....

So, we have people projecting Ryan as the first pick in the draft, but he is 3rd best on this list.

Sad thing is, I don't disagree with his position on this list. I am not so sure I like Woodson at the second best QB, but I guess if you just look at numbers, he is a lot better than Ryan, but not as good as Brohme.

I sure would like it if we would up with Johnson or Henne in the 3rd or 4th round. Maybe even Ainge.

Actually if you read the whole article he had Brohm rated as the #1 & Henne as the #2, Woodson & Ryan were ranked 3 & 4 respectively.

I don't disagree with these rankings either, which is why I would rather wait until the 2nd round to draft Henne or Brohm if he slips.

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The real ranking?That was more than a little off.After the senior bowl woodson will be very lucky to be drafted in the first day.I think brohm is the best qb in the draft but they have him creeping into the top 10?Thats a joke.Ryan and brohm are top 5 guys.Look at te qbs starting in the league now.Quality is far and few between.Brohm has better numbers than any qb comeing out in 9 years.Ryan is a gunslinger that dragged a bad team to a good season.I doubt either one works out at the combine.Weight and measurements only.

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I would love if we took JJ with our 3rd pick , let him sit for a year and some games, get him plenty of time in practice and preseason and clean up time.

Do it right, let him grow, learn the system, gain confidence and learn how to lead an NFL team!!!

Please dont' spend a high pick on a QB we need to built our lines first!!!

Unless we want a squished QB!

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Well, I'm not interested in anybody in the 1st.....I know most of you guys are not either....

...I have been a big Flacco fan but something scares me about him, too. Probably the small school thing but I believe Flacco can be very good.

...I keep coming back to Chad Henne, though.

4-year starter

pro-style offense

great leader

strong arm

Michigan bloodlines......same as Dimitroff's QB snob comment-Tom Brady

My gut tells me the Atlanta Falcons will select Chad Henne with their first 2nd round pick.

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