Quarterback Joe Flacco has always been known for his superior arm strength. But a glance at the statistics from the 2008 NFL Combine reveals a deceptively agile, athletic side to the Ravens' first-round selection.
While touted as having one of the strongest arms in the draft, the 6-foot-6 gunslinger put up impressive times in the 3-cone agility test (4.27 seconds, second among quarterbacks) and 40-yard dash (4.84 seconds).
"One thing about Joe that surprised me at the combine was that he was quicker than I thought he would be," Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said. "He ran a better 40 time and moved quicker."
Flacco was redshirted as a freshman at the* *University of Pittsburgh, and found himself stuck behind quarterback Tyler Palko in his second year, seeing virtually no game action. After requesting a transfer and sitting out a season, the small-town New Jersey native found a home with the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens, a Division IAA team certainly not known for producing NFL-caliber talent.
"I never really got a shot there," Flacco said of his time at Pittsburgh. "I wanted to go prove, when I was at Delaware, that I was capable of playing [at Pitt], and I just didn't [get a chance]. I still carry that with me. I still carry it with me that I'm a I-AA guy and I had to go down to the minor leagues in college football and prove who I was. I'm going to carry that with me for the rest of my life, and hopefully, use it for the best."
Flacco started gaining draft momentum after two impressive seasons at Delaware, setting 20 school records and leading the team to the D-IAA National Championship game during his senior year. Flacco's impressive statistics, combined with his physical tools, helped solidify him as a top-five quarterback in draft projections.
"He has the biggest arm in the draft, can make every throw with touch and accuracy, and teams are going to move up the draft board to get him," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of Flacco. "He's a little bit of a project, and he needs work on his footwork. But two, three years from now, because of his work ethic, determination and intelligence, you could have a Pro Bowl quarterback."
Come draft day, the Ravens took Flacco as the second quarterback off the board (Matt Ryan, third pick overall) at pick No. 18 in the first round, making one of the most important selections in the history of the franchise.
"We decided to pull the trigger on the quarterback to lead us into the future," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said.
A Super Bowl ring, Super Bowl MVP award and a slew of toppled Ravens' franchise records later, and the future that Newsome envisioned on draft day has been brighter than anyone could have expected.