PACKERS DRAFT 2008 QUARTERBACKS
By Jerry Gilbert
The retirement of Brett Favre will have a huge effect on the offseason plans of the Green Bay Packers. Had he continued to play, they may have added a young quarterback in the 2008 NFL Draft, but drafting a quarterback was not a necessity. Now it is. With only Aaron Rodgers to play quarterback, and he has a history of being injured, the Packers ideally would like both a veteran who is ready to start if needed. The draft should provide a rookie who might develop into a starter in the future.
That plan has some problems. Today, many NFL teams do not even feature one decent quarterback, which means an excess of veteran talent from which to choose will not be out there. Drew Bledsoe and Vinnie Testaverde could have jobs in the league if they wanted to play. Moreover, there could be a timing issue. The best option may not become available until after the draft as each team settles on its quarterback rotation. Tampa Bay , for example has 5 or 6 veterans under contract. In this unsettled situation, the Packers team may be compelled to draft a young quarterback with the potential to play as a rookie, if necessary. The selection of a first or second round quarterback is not out of the question.
The quarterback class in the 2008 Draft is not among the strongest ever. The consensus top choices are two multi year starters, Matt Ryan of Boston College and Brian Brohm of Louisville. While it must be remembered that highly touted quarterbacks have been known to plummet in the first round, both should be gone by the 30th pick. In any event, Green Bay has its projected starter in Aaron Rodgers, and General Manager Ted Thompson may not want to incur the expense and difficulty of signing a first round quarterback.
One quarterback turning heads is 6-6 236 lb Joe Flacco from Division I-AA Delaware. He has a Brett Favre type arm, and the big question for him is readiness for the pro game. He did not face top competition and he worked almost entirely from the shotgun. However, at both the East West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, Flacco competed on an even basis with the big school quarterbacks, and he seemed to have the strongest arm at the NFL Combine. Joe Flacco impressed me in the Division I Championship game last December against Southern Illinois. His passing numbers for the game were not overwhelming because the Southern Defense played well. However, but when his team needed a late drive to snare the victory, Flacco delivered. He was poised, and his passes were sharp. Surrounded by better talent, Flacco could become a pretty good pro.
MichiganÍs Chad Henne 6-3 230 would be a safer pick for an immediate contribution. He was a four-year starter in the Big Ten and one of the all time statistical leaders at his school. The knock on Henne is that he seemed to have reached a level in his excellent first season as a freshman starter and basically stayed there. Had he significantly improved over his freshman performance, he might be a top five pick. As it stands, Henne is a very good college quarterback, who should be drafted by the second round. He was the most effective quarterback in the Senior Bowl.
The star of the post season East West Shrine Game, Josh Johnson 6-3 200 from Division I-AA San Diego, appears to have a good arm, but he can also turn around a game with his legs. Unfortunately for Johnson, he apparently suffered a back spasm while running at the NFL Combine, and his accuracy throwing the ball was poor. The NFL scouts flocked to his pro day on March 9 for another look. Like Flacco, Johnson has not faced top competition. However, against pretty good opponents in the Shrine game, Johnson brought a charge to his offense every time he entered the game. He had no difficulty passing or running against the big school players. Johnson seems to be the kind of player a team would like to have as a back up. He can crate plays on his own, and that is sometimes what is needed to bring a team back from adversity.
Another pretty good runner from a small school, who could be worth a late round flyer or free agent signing, is Nick Hill 6-3 219 Southern Illinois. Hill faced off against Flacco in the Division 1-AA Championship and played about as well as his highly touted adversary. HillÍs supporting crew was not quite up to the challenge. Very careful with the ball, Hill attempted 103 passes before his first interception last season and gave away only four picks all year. Unfortunately for him, he did not have his best performance in the post season Texas Against the Nation All Star contest. Nevertheless, Hill could be worth a look.
In the middle rounds, the Packers might take a look at TennesseeÍs Erik Ainge 6-6-233 and Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon 6-3 195. The product of an athletic bloodline, Ainge never reached star status in four years at Tennessee, but he did improve as a senior. In the post season, Ainge did not stand out in the drills, but in game conditions, Ainge engineered some nice drives in the Senior Bowl. .
Dixon had as good a season as any college quarterback until he was injured. He was selected Pac 10 offensive player of the year. Similar to Josh Johnson, Dixon is an excellent runner as well as having an NFL arm. His two issues are whether he is recovered form injury and whether he will try Baseball. Once those questions are answered, Dennis Dixon could be a steal in the later rounds.