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Rookie quarterbacks could make immediate impact

NEW YORK -- When it comes to quarterbacks, this year's college crop is supposed to be closer to ordinary than extraordinary. There is Matt Ryan … and there is everyone else.

The NFL draft pretty much reflected that common refrain. After the Atlanta Falcons selected Ryan at No. 3, the "other" four -- Joe Flacco, Brian Brohm, Chad Henne, and John David Booty -- were taken.

What all five quarterbacks do have in common, however, is a chance to compete to become immediate or eventual starters.

The Falcons clearly targeted Ryan to be the new face of their franchise in the aftermath of Michael Vick's arrest and suspension for dogfighting charges. And as the third overall pick, the former Boston College star will be expected to deliver results fairly quickly.

The Falcons were so determined to start anew with Ryan that they passed on arguably the most dominant player in the draft, LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who ended up going to Kansas City at No. 5.

"It came down to, as far as a tipping point, us considering the value of that position and the need that we had," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "But most importantly we decided that the skill set that Matt Ryan possessed, along with his intelligence and leadership ability, we were excited about going in that direction. This guy is a prototypical quarterback. He can stand tall in the pocket ... he's very intelligent, a big-time leader. He has the accuracy at all levels. He's a game winner.

"In the end, he'll take a shot in the face and get up."

Although Flacco fell lower in the first round -- the Baltimore Ravens traded up from No. 26 to select him at No. 18 -- he carries equally high expectations for a team equally desperate for a franchise quarterback after the recent retirement of Steve McNair. The former Delaware standout impressed the Ravens' brass with his exceptionally strong arm, his command, and the way he quickly absorbed a copy of the team's playbook that was sent to him before the draft.

In the end, it was easy for Baltimore's decision-makers to conclude that Flacco was the best of the second-tier quarterbacks after Ryan. They weren't bothered in the least by the fact that he played at a small school and had his success against defenders who will never receive NFL consideration. Flacco's many assets transcended the competition gap, so much so that the Ravens made two trades to maneuver from the eighth overall pick (where they had hoped Ryan might be available), down to the 26th spot (originally held by Jacksonville), and then back up to 18 (originally held by Houston) to land him.

"There are other quarterbacks, like Kurt Warner and Tony Romo, who came from small schools and (have) done extremely well," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "Joe has tremendous physical skills as a passer."

"I think the most important part is that you can play, that you're confident enough within the offense, and with your position as quarterback, that you're confident to be in that position," Flacco said. "And then it's about gaining the respect of your team, which comes with how well do you play. How hard do you work? How well do you prepare? Leadership has to do with all of that."

Now, he has a chance to prove that he is a better answer at quarterback for the Ravens than Kyle Boller, who has been a disappointment.

The Green Bay Packers might have gotten the steal of the draft by landing Brohm with the 26th pick of the second round, 56th overall. Most draft analysts had the former Louisville star being chosen higher than Flacco, and some had him going as high as the middle of the first round.

Packers officials have tried to downplay the impact Brohm's selection would have on Aaron Rodgers, who is supposed to be the heir to retired Brett Favre. Rodgers, Green Bay's first-round pick in 2005, has shown impressive flashes in Favre's place. General Manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy were quick to stress that Rodgers is still the team's starting quarterback. However, his inability to stay healthy has raised concerns over whether he has what it takes to be a consistently effective starter.

It would not be a shock to see Brohm provide a fairly strong push during the preseason. He was not drafted to spend his career as a backup. At the same time, it will be interesting to see whether the Packers still feel the need to add a veteran quarterback to the mix. They recently had Daunte Culpepper in for a visit, but the urgency could now be diminished.

"The way I look at the camp, as far as any position, you want to have as many good players as you can," McCarthy said. "So is that a veteran? Is that another draft pick? I think time will answer that. And we have two young guys here that have been working throughout the quarterback school along with Aaron Rodgers (Jerry Babb and Dalton Bell). So we have some options, and we'll just continue to try to make every position -- particularly the quarterback position -- as competitive as possible."

The Packers hammered home that theory when they took yet another quarterback -- LSU's Matt Flynn -- in the seventh round.

After Brohm was chosen, Miami promptly grabbed Henne with 57th overall pick. The Dolphins' new decision-makers, led by Bill Parcells, clearly have their doubts about the quarterback that the team's previous administration selected on the second round last year, John Beck.

Henne, a former Michigan standout, is expected to have an excellent chance to compete for the starting job and line up behind former teammate Jake Long, whom the Dolphins made the No. 1 overall choice. It is hardly a stretch to see Henne beating out Beck and veteran Josh McCown, acquired earlier in the offseason.

Jeff Ireland, Miami's new general manager, and other club officials liked the nine comeback victories Henne led during his collegiate career. They especially liked the way Henne handled himself through a series of quarterback-specific mental and physical tests.

"They had me go on the board and draw some plays from my offense," Henne said. "They gave me a couple of coverages to draw up, and (had me) draw up a play that will attack that coverage. They put me through a bunch of throws trying to fit balls into holes instead of just throwing it as hard as you can."

The Minnesota Vikings traded with the Green Bay Packers to move to the second pick of the fifth round to select Booty. Tarvaris Jackson is shaky as the Vikings' starter, and Booty just might be able to put a little bit of heat on him this summer.

"(Watching videotape of Booty) you see him do so many things that we do in our offense," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "You say, 'I wonder if he can make that kind of throw,' and there is that kind of throw. It's easy to factor him in. He looks like he has a good command of the game. There's always a learning curve, and that's why (veteran) Gus Frerotte is here.

"Obviously, John is going to get some snaps in the preseason and you'll have chance to evaluate him there."

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