Snap Judgments: How the Class of 2008 QBs stack up on depth charts
IRVING, Texas -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as the NFL draft weekend winds down ...
Quarterbacks make this league go round, and you have to think that most of the passers taken in the 2008 NFL draft landed in spots that are well-suited to give them chances to get on the field fairly quickly.
There were 60 quarterbacks who started for the NFL's 32 teams last season. In order of how I see them impacting their team's quarterback depth charts this season, here's how I break down the Class of '08 QBs so far:
1. Matt Ryan, Atlanta -- The Falcons won't want to rush the Franchise, but they also won't want to suffer through another season of watching Joey Harrington and Chris Redman as a starter. They're trying to win some fans back in Atlanta.
2. Chad Henne, Miami -- Put me down for believing that Josh McCown could wind up being the Dolphins starter on opening day, but I think Henne is going to get every chance to leap-frog John Beck and be No. 1 in Miami by midseason.
3. Joe Flacco, Baltimore -- The Ravens will play Kyle Boller and/or Troy Smith early because they've said all along this spring that Flacco might need some time to acclimate to the NFL game. But a lot will depend on how comfortable Flacco looks in training camp. If he's solid and smooth in his execution, he's going to get a shot at some point in his rookie season.
4. Brian Brohm, Green Bay -- I don't view Brohm as immediate competition for Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers seem committed to the guy who has patiently waited three full seasons for his starting shot. But Brohm is at least now in position to be visible just over Rodgers' shoulder, and his presence gives Packers fans someone to clamor for if Rodgers struggles or gets off to a sluggish start.
5. John David Booty, Minnesota -- The Vikings are still Tarvaris Jackson's team. But Booty, who was taken by Minnesota with the second pick of the fifth round, makes things much more interesting in a way that merely re-signing veteran backup Gus Frerotte did not. Booty can throw the ball, and this is the pivotal third year for coach Brad Childress in Minnesota, so he can't afford to wait forever for Jackson to develop as a passer.
6. Erik Ainge, New York Jets -- Ainge went in the fifth round, 162nd overall, and he represents another option for a team that isn't quite certain of anything at quarterback other than Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington will be in a preseason competition. Ainge is probably destined to be a backup in the NFL, but he probably overachieved at Tennessee and might be able to surprise once again.
7. Josh Johnson, Tampa Bay -- I'm absolutely shocked that Jon Gruden took a quarterback. Shocked. Add the University of San Diego's Johnson to the mix that includes Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown, Bruce Gradkowski and, for the time being at least, Chris Simms. And don't forget -- Tampa still owns the rights to Jake Plummer. Who knows how the Bucs' always-fluid quarterback depth chart will shake out?
8. Kevin O'Connell, New England -- Call me crazy, but I think O'Connell, a third-round pick, isn't going to force Tom Brady to the bench this fall. But taking O'Connell probably got the attention of Patriots backup Matt Cassell, I'll grant you that.
9. Dennis Dixon, Pittsburgh -- The Steelers took a fifth-round chance on Oregon's Dixon, who at least gives them a youthful backup option behind Ben Roethlisberger.
10. Andre Woodson, New York Giants -- The former Kentucky standout fell a long way from last November on, but at least he went to a team that will give him a long look. And why not? All the Giants have behind Eli Manning is David Carr, Anthony Wright and Jared Lorenzen (himself a former Wildcat quarterback).
11. Colt Brennan, Washington -- The Hawaii star was worth a sixth-rounder for the Redskins, who are set with starter Jason Campbell and backup Todd Collins, but have need for a No. 3 passer to develop. Brennan getting the chance to be schooled in head coach Jim Zorn's version of the West Coast offense sounds like a break for him.
Let me get this straight: the Lions traded two picks to Miami to select Central Florida running back Kevin Smith with the first selection of the draft's second day, No. 64 overall? I think I'm beginning to understand the draft strategy in Detroit. Whenever possible, you take the best available generically named running back -- providing his first name is Kevin.
The Lions cut injury-prone veteran running back Kevin Jones (first round, 2004) earlier this offseason and just replaced him with Kevin Smith. What, was Kevin Doe draft ineligible?
But seriously, not a bad recovery by the Lions after passing on Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall with their No. 15 first-round pick on Saturday. Smith, of course, led the nation in rushing last year for UCF, and listening to him at the scouting combine in February, he clearly has a chip on his shoulder with something to prove to the teams that classified him a second-day pick. Detroit seems satisfied to go to work with a backfield tandem of Tatum Bell and Smith.
San Diego really must have a conviction about LSU fullback/running back Jacob Hester, throwing New England a second-round pick in 2009, plus a fifth this year to move back into the third round and take Hester 69th overall. Hester is certainly a different kind of runner than the departed Michael Turner, LaDainian Tomlinson's former backup, but he has been productive for the Tigers, rushing for more than 1,100 yards last season.
I'm going to give Chargers general manager A.J. Smith the benefit of the doubt on this one because his body of work in the past five drafts or so deserves it. When Smith targets a player and goes after him, he usually knows what he's doing. And let's face it: The Chargers' roster is so talent laden that Smith can afford to be choosey and take a few chances.