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Why The Falcons Shouldn't Draft Matt Ryan

Update [2008-2-27 18:28:46 by Dave the Falconer]: Had to share this with you guys, too, for how ridiculous it is. ESPN's Matt Mosley says the Falcons should take Matt Ryan at #3 because, and I quote, he "seems to have the type of intangibles that you could build a team around." What the hell does he mean? Who builds a team on intangibles?!

Is he worthy of being the #3 overall pick by the Falcons? Your garden variety expert seems to think so, with many talking about how badly the Falcons need a quarterback of his caliber to solidify the position. To which I reply: what the hell are you talking about, garden variety experts?

Look, Matt Ryan could be a very good quarterback in the NFL. More than likely he'll be at least an average starter, which most teams don't have. I just fail to see where the enormous fuss is coming from, here.

Let's start with Ryan's stats at Boston College, a decent program which hasn't been an annual national powerhouse for a while. In his first three years, Ryan threw 25 TDs versus 18 interceptions, with an aggregate competion percentage hovering around 60%. He was also sacked 29 times, which ain't bad. It is, however, a little bit of a knock on his mobility. Those aren't the kind of numbers that get a guy drafted in the first five picks of the NFL draft.

But wait! It's Matt Ryan's final year at college that makes him so gosh darn great, isn't it? It must be. Otherwise, everything I've ever been taught is a soul-scorching lie. Woe unto thee, O false prophet of Ryan's non-greatness!

Except, again, Ryan wasn't great. The 59.3% completion rate was the lowest since his freshman year, when he threw but 71 passes. His yards per attempt were a pedestrian 6.89, and he was sacked 21 times, the highest total of his college career. Yeah, he threw 31 TDs, but he also threw 19 interceptions. Which one do you think is going to translate to the pros during his first season? I'm going to bet picks. You can also forget about him doing anything with his legs; he ran 68 times for a total of two yards in 2007, and 51 times for -35 yards the season before.

So what does that leave? Ryan has repeatedly said that the 19 interceptions came from him being aggressive and slinging the ball, which is fine. I just don't understand why nobody's taking his 31 touchdowns in the same vein, or reading into the fact that he threw more than 200 passes more his senior year than his junior year to get those yards, those TDs and even those interceptions. The easy answer is that he was just airing it out more. Just to reiterate my earlier point here, Ryan will be facing much stiffer competition at the NFL level. If he's aggressive, he'll throw plenty of picks to those tougher cornerbacks, which will limit his effectiveness. He still can't run, though, so managing the game will also greatly limit his effectiveness as a passer.

What you're left with is a series of anecdotes from Ryan's college days (useless but not a panacea), his size (6'5 is prototype, dude) and some wishy-washy "evidence" about his leadership and toughness. You're also left with the unsettling thought that Ryan is a quarterback with average arm strength, average accuracy and questionable upside. If he was a projected 3rd or 4th round pick, he'd be an absolute steal. As a set-in-stone top 10 selection who isn't even going to throw at the combine, he scares the crap out of me.

Some team will take him to make him a franchise quarterback, and good luck to them. Maybe they'll be rewarded by a guy who learns to emphasize his strengths and control his weaknesses. More than likely, though, Matt Ryan will end up being looked at like near-bust Alex Smith of the 49ers. All the draft experts in the world can say the Falcons need the BC product, but I've got a different idea.

Let's pass.