Baltimore Evaluating Quarterbacks

Boller or Leftwich?

<b>BALTIMORE:</b> Boller's rapid ascent has Ravens pondering QB situation<br> <br> Four weeks before the NFL draft, the Ravens are trying to come to a consensus on a divided issue.

Team officials are debating whether to use the 10th overall pick on University of California quarterback Kyle Boller. The Ravens scheduled a private workout on March 27 to determine whether he's a franchise quarterback or a one-year wonder.

Boller is one of the fastest rising prospects after impressive off-season workouts and, in some league personnel directors' eyes, has risen into that elite quarterback tier with Southern California's Carson Palmer -- who is expected to be taken in the top five -- or Marshall's Byron Leftwich.

At this point, the Ravens' organization is split, with some favoring Leftwich while others lean toward Boller. But that decision could be resolved in a couple of days, when general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach Brian Billick, player personnel director Phil Savage and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh have a first-hand look at Boller.

"I don't know that it's indicative of any increased interest," Billick said. "We've said from the get-go there are viable choices at No. 10."

The Ravens are not locked into taking a quarterback in the first round, but it would add fill a need as well as long-term insurance behind Chris Redman, who is coming off back surgery.

Other possibilities could easily include players from the second tier like Washington State cornerback Marcus Trufant and Oklahoma State defensive tackle Kevin Williams. Drafting a wide receiver with the top pick is a long shot but not out of the question.

If the Ravens end up selecting a quarterback, they might not have a choice on draft day.

The Cincinnati Bengals (first pick), the Chicago Bears (fourth), the Dallas Cowboys (fifth) and the Carolina Panthers (ninth) all could be looking at taking a quarterback in the first round. But one quarterback should slip to the 10th pick, with the smart money on Boller.

A projected second- or third-round pick during the college season, Boller caught the scouts' attention with a strong Senior Bowl and then wowed them by running the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds.

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Boller raised his stock further during his on-campus workout earlier this month for NFL scouts and coaches, which included Cavanaugh. During his 100-throw display, he launched one pass on the run more than 70 yards in the air and put an exclamation point on the day when he took a knee at midfield and launched a pass that sailed between the goal posts 60 yards away.

"He's athletic and has a strong personality," Billick said. "He has all the measurables as does Palmer and Leftwich."

To be included in that class, Boller has had to shake off the one-year wonder label.

In his first three years in college, he never completed more than half of his throws. But in his first season under new Cal coach Jeff Tedford, Boller he threw for 2,815 yards and 28 touchdowns last year.

"His No. 1 forte is his arm strength," Savage said. "But he's has had just one year that you would quantify as successful."



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