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Anatomy of a Draft Pick

The NFL draft is fast upon us and while fans are trying to figure out who the team should select and more importantly who will actually help the team in the 2009 campaign a major move happened this past week in terms of the club’s ability to draft players.

Kyle Boller signed with the St.Louis Rams on April 4th to become the backup to Marc Bulger. That probably means considering Bulger’s health that Boller will be back under center at some point in 2009.

Boller’s signing doesn’t seem like much on the surface. A shoulder injury forced him to miss all of 2008 and he was pegged to start the season. I only wonder how things would have been different if he was healthy. But since every analyst will want to grade out teams on how well they draft after April 26th, they really can’t say much about it until years later.

Let’s go back to 2003.

Baltimore was  in charge of the 10th pick overall and there was some question if they would choose the next quarterback in the draft after the Bengals took Carson Palmer with the first selection. The brass had their sights set on Bryon Leftwich and worried that he wouldn’t be there at number ten.

So they tried to swing a deal. Minnesota held the 7th pick and Baltimore worked to engineer a trade.But the Vikings did not make their selection in the allotted time. By rule, they could make a selection at any time afterwards, however Jacksonville and Carolina were able to make their own picks before Minnesota could make its own.

So, Jacksonville nabbed Leftich and Carolina quickly obtained the rights to lineman Jordan Gross. That pushed the Vikes back and ended the Ravens chances. Supposedly at the last minute Minnesota did not answer their draft phone and the confusion may have cost them a deal.

In the end the pick worked out well for the Ravens. At number #10 they chose Terrell Suggs.

But, Baltimore wasn’t finished as they worked out a deal with New England to go back in the first round at #19 and with it made California’s Kyle Boller their choice.

Boller had size and excellent arm strength but had only limited college experience. Most people saw the move as a gamble but one that had potential to pay off.

Looking back at the five years that he played in Baltimore the statistics tell part of the story.

45 Touchdowns – 44 Interceptions – QB Rating : 71.9

7,846 passing yards (1st in franchise history)

The other part that was harder to quantify were the expectations. Expectations from fans and the coaching staff of what a first round signee should be able to do on the field.

He was given the job too soon. He didn’t have the skill or the temperment to helm a pro team as a rookie. But, those in charge felt that with an All-Pro runner in Jamals Lewis and a world class defense Boller would simply manager the game and things wouldbe ok. Sound familiar?

The team was 5-3 when he went down to a thigh injury and was replaced by Anthony Wright. That 2003 team had enough to win its first AFC North crown but lost to the Titans in the playoffs.

Boller showed moderate improvement as he played all 16 games in 2004. He still appeared jumpy in the pocket and would often take off before recievers broke their routes. But this time the team went 9-7 and missed the playoff cut.

2005 was to be the year for Baltimore as they were projected as a Super Bowl contender. Mid-way into the third quarter against the Colts on opening night Boller went down with “turf toe” and was out for 7 games. The season went into a tailspin as they finished 6-10.

The following year management made it clear that they needed better production out of the quarterback position and obtained Steve McNair. In 2006 the team rolled to a 13-3 record but were tripped up by the Colts in the post-season.

McNair had a variety of injuries and Boller was called upon to lead the team in 2007. His finest moment might be considered a prime-time game against the Patriots. He threw two touchdowns and was unusually poised but threw a costly pick late in the game that led to a 27-24 loss.

Boller was slated to be the starter in 2008 with Troy Smith as the second and young Joe Flacco as the number three.Injuries and illness pushed Joe Flacco to the front and the rest is history.

So, what is the final summation of his tenure now that the former first rounder is in St.Louis?

Boller was a tough, gritty player who took a multitude of hits from, at times a shaky line and other times his own inexperience. Kyle was always known as a “stand up” guy always taking blame where it was due and never offered excuses. He did show improvement in some areas but his time in Baltimore had reached its end.

He had been the victim of some things that were out of his control but while he was on the field he never showed enough poise when leading the club under center and quite frankly wasn’t that skilled. It takes more to be a NFL quarterback than a big arm. He didn’t seem to possess the intangibles.

So he’s a player that for Baltimore, among it’s many draft day jewels, has to be considered a bust that never panned out to his perceived potential.

I wish him well in St.Louis and hopes that he finds success but to me he was a player that was overvalued on draft day because of need. That’s something to think about as the Ravens prepare to select in a few weeks.

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