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2008 NFL Draft Review: Matt Ryan, The Symbol Of The First-Year Starting Quarterback

Round one, pick three: Matt Ryan, Boston College QB

Also available: RB Darren McFadden, DT Glenn Dorsey, LT Ryan Clady, LB Jerod Mayo, DE Sedrick Ellis

New Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff had a choice to make with the first draft pick of his career that was entirely his responsibility. He could take the sure thing, LSU Tigers DT Glenn Dorsey, and slowly rebuild a shattered franchise while Chris Redman held down the starting quarterback job. Or he could draft a skinny and brainy quarterback high, an always-risky move and one that Falcons fans had been dreading* for months.

Isn't it funny, looking back at the days when drafting a top-ten quarterback was the biggest gamble a team could make?

Remember, this was the year after JaMarcus Russell was picked ahead of sure-thing Calvin Johnson, and after Matt Leinart, Alex Smith, and all those epic busts from the early part of the decade. And before Sam Bradford, Matt Stafford, Josh Freeman, Matt Sanchez, Joe Flacco, and, well, Matt Ryan took over as starters and actually met expectations.

It's not like Ryan's success in Atlanta changed the game and ensured all future blue-chip quarterbacks would be instant NFL stars. Eli Manning and Philip Rivers made general managers look smart years earlier, and Peyton Manning, John Elway, and many other eventual Hall of Famers were drafted high. But Ryan arrived just as NFL scouts apparently learned how to evaluate quarterback lottery prospects with consistency, and his name has become an April shorthand. Listen as TV guys describe Andrew Luck's chances of instant NFL starting success. They won't call him a Eli Manning type; they'll say he could be a Ryan or a Flacco.

Dorsey has gone on to become a decent player for a young defense that's going to be good for years to come. If the Falcons had taken him, he would've formed a mean pair with Jonathan Babineaux, the team would've drafted high again, and Freeman might be Atlanta's quarterback today. Which wouldn't be bad at all, but the only Falcons fans who'd go back and change Dimitroff's first pick as Falcons GM are those who wanted the team to keep Michael Vick's seat warm until he got out of prison.

Ice the fall prior, leading Boston College on two touchdown drives in the final four minutes and to a win over No. 8 Virginia Tech:

* I linked to The Falcoholic here, as it has been the Falcons blog since Falcons blogging began. But if there were a way to link to the 2008 thoughts of Falcons fans besides Dave Choate, you'd see such teeth-spitting and finger-digesting at the thought of drafting Ryan that it would make you sort of wish they'd taken Dorsey, until you realize it's still impossible to link to spent thoughts, until the Singularity at least.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.