With offseason surgery on his foot and a new head coach, it would have been easy for Boston College Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan to write off any poor play in 2007. However, the Eagles signal caller came through last year, setting numerous BC records in addition to garnering some Heisman Trophy consideration. He finished the season completing 388 of his 654 passes (59.3 percent) for 4,507 yards, 31 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. His play earned him an award as the Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year, as well as a seventh-place finish in the Heisman voting.
Ryan has had a solid but not spectacular offseason. He ran a 4.89 40-yard dash at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine but chose not to participate in any throwing drills. He also skipped the Senior Bowl. Instead, he waited until Boston College's Pro Day to throw, where reviews were mixed. Some felt he was not as accurate and instead relied on his receivers, while others felt his accuracy was not an issue. Either way, Ryan is the top quarterback on the board and will certainly go in the top 10.
If you had to come up how a pocket quarterback should look, Ryan could be a prototype. He stands tall at 6-foot-4, and Ryan weighs 228 pounds. He has decent mobility but won't be a threat to break any big runs. However, his game is built around his passing, where he is as good a threat as any in this draft class.
Ryan is at his best throwing the short-to-intermediate ball. He has touch on his passes and can thread the needle when throwing into tight coverage. His awareness is one of his strong points as he can avoid the rush, usually by stepping up in the pocket and getting his throw off before going down. Even if forced to run, he can still complete the passes and has accuracy outside of the pocket. His accuracy has led some scouts to believe he will function best in the West Coast offense.
Perhaps his best ability comes from Ryan's leadership. The team underwent a coaching change prior to last season, yet Ryan was able to quickly pick up the offense and served as one of the team leaders. His rehab from foot surgery also speaks to his dedication and work ethic as he was able to come back stronger. Furthermore, Ryan had to learn a new offense. His interviews at the combine only backed up the claims to his high football intelligence.
It is easy to peg Ryan's biggest drawback: arm strength. His deep throws last year were often lacking in velocity, which caused the ball to flutter and allowed defenders to get under it. Of the 29 interceptions he threw over the past two seasons, 19 came on deep balls. This isn't a technique issue. He could stand to plant his feet better before throwing, but Ryan just seems to lack arm strength, which in turn affects the accuracy of his deep throws.
Ryan's arm strength also works against him when he is throwing on the run. If he can't get his feet set and is throwing from his back foot, he tends to lack power on his throws, leading to deflections. Almost 10 percent of his pass attempts were deflected last year.
Interceptions were a problem for him, especially in his final year. He sometimes lacks vision on the field and makes the wrong throw. His deep throws were a big part of this, but he also needs to run through his progressions better. Too often he focused on his primary receiver, allowing defenders to jump on his passes. He finished his career with 37 interceptions, 19 coming last year.
Durability issues have been slight problem for Ryan, having suffered a broken bone in his foot during the 2006 season. He was able to play through the pain, missing just one game, but it limited his ability to run and made him a bigger target. He underwent offseason surgery to correct the problem. Even when he is healthy, Ryan tends to stand upright and doesn't protect the ball as well as he could.
Expected Draft Placement
Ryan is the top quarterback in this draft, although it is tough to say if he would have been even a first round pick in any other year. The Atlanta Falcons are considering him with their third overall pick, although there is a possibility they will pass on him. If he slips, the Kansas City Chiefs at the fifth pick have shown an interest in him and could use a franchise quarterback. If not, don't expect a Brady Quinn-like freefall as the Baltimore Ravens would likely take him at the eighth spot, especially since quarterback Steve McNair retired.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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