Saturday, May 3, 2008

No flameout: Flacco a surprise at 18th pick for Ravens

By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — Joe Flacco was at the center of a more memorable draft-day drama than most. And that wasn't pre-draft smoke the Flacco family and the neighbors were sniffing.

A surprise trade up by the Baltimore Ravens to select the strong-armed Delaware passer with the 18th overall pick wasn't the only excitement.

DRAFT DAY: Day one analysis

Hundreds of friends and relatives packed the Flacco household in Audubon, N.J. Then, a morning fire broke out in the nearby elementary school where Flacco and agents Joe Linta and Tom Kleine had scheduled a press conference after the player's selection.

Eight fire trucks responded and firefighters wielding axes had to break down doors and walls, according to Linta. It looked like the fire would cause the news conference to be moved to the Flacco front yard. But then firefighters found one big room unscathed so things went according to near plan — with a couple of wild twists.

After the Atlanta Falcons selected Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan third overall, the Ravens traded down from No. 8 overall to acquire Jacksonville's No. 26 pick and two third-rounders. They then leveraged a third- and sixth-round selection to trade up with Houston for the 18th overall pick to select the strong-armed former Blue Hen whose arm and game have been compared favorably with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Denver's Jay Cutler.

"It was just crazy," Flacco said of the fire. "It made the day more interesting."

Flacco talked to Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on the phone.

"They said, 'Are you ready to come be a Raven and be the quarterback we want you to be and you can be?'

"Being picked by Baltimore is a great situation," he said. "I felt really comfortable with their coaches. It's a great organization and it's close for my family."

With incumbent and inconsistent Kyle Boller entering the final year of his contract and last year's fifth-rounder Troy Smith competing, Flacco won't have the burden of heavy expectations coming in.

Flacco threw for 23 touchdowns with five interceptions last year in leading Delaware to the Division I-AA championship game.

"I'm out to prove the Ravens made the right choice," Flacco said. "I want to go in there and compete for the job and show I'm ready to lead the Ravens organization into the future."