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All eyes on Ryan

CHESNUT HILL, Mass. -- Dispatches and observations from Matt Ryan's pro day workout at Boston College, which resembled a mini-NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday afternoon, with the throng of league talent evaluators and media members on hand to check out the presumed first quarterback to be taken in April's draft. ...

• All told, 42 different club executives, coaches, scouts and personnel men representing 22 of the NFL's 32 teams were gathered in the Boston College practice bubble, and when it was finally Ryan's turn to throw the ball, every eye in the place was on him. It's understandable. Having skipped the Senior Bowl and elected not to do his passing drills at last month's combine, this was the first chance for league types to see Ryan showcase his skills since the Eagles' 24-21 season-ending win over Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Among those checking Ryan out Tuesday were one NFL head coach (Kansas City's Herman Edwards), two general mangers (Carolina's Marty Hurney and K.C.'s Carl Peterson), and three offensive coordinators (K.C.'s Chan Gailey, Minnesota's Darrell Bevell, and Carolina's Jeff Davidson). In addition, two teams sent their top personnel official: Minnesota's vice president of player personnel Rick Speilman and Atlanta's director of player personnel Les Snead.

Overall the verdict on Ryan's workout was pretty darn good. He threw the ball very accurately, and while some passes wobbled on him despite the indoor conditions, he got more than passing marks on his arm strength, mobility, and his presence in a fairly pressure-packed situation.

Throwing to his own Boston College receivers, Ryan attempted 52 passes of varying patterns from drops of three steps, five steps, seven steps, and while rolling away from imaginary pressure to both his left and right. He completed 48 of them, with three drops and just one legitimate incompletion.

"I thought it was impressive, but it didn't leave me spell-bound," one club's college scouting director told me afterward. "The kid was accurate, and had good feet, with an above average arm. Not a great arm. But definitely above average. The one thing of concern was that his ball was wobbling a bit. But even though his ball wobbled, his passes were still right on target. So you can't kill the kid on that. He solidified his place I think. He looked pretty good."

Spielman was one of three Minnesota officials on hand, joining Bevell and quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers. While the No. 17 Vikings likely won't be in position to land Ryan, who is widely expected to go somewhere in the top 8, Spielman liked what he saw.

"He moves around better than people think," Spielman told a small gathering of reporters. "And I think his arm strength is plenty good enough. And I like where he places the ball. He's what you call an anticipatory thrower. He has a good sense for where to put it.''

• While there was lots of tea-leaf reading going on here in regards to who attended for which teams, and who didn't show, don't read too much into it at this point in regards to the real level of interest in Ryan. True, both No. 1 Miami and No. 3 Atlanta didn't have large contingents on hand. The Dolphins sent director of college scouting Chris Grier and quarterbacks coach David Lee, while the Falcons had Snead and their director of college scouting Phil Emery looking on.

But a source close to the situation told me Ryan will conduct private workouts for at least five teams, all of whom pick in the draft's top eight: No. 1 Miami, No. 3 Atlanta, No. 5 Kansas City, the No. 6 Jets, and No. 8 Baltimore. One of those five is going to come away with Ryan, because the top eight's other three members -- No. 2 St. Louis, No. 4 Oakland and No. 7 New England -- aren't in the market for starting quarterbacks.

Just my instincts at this point, but I believe the Falcons may not think Ryan's their guy just yet, which probably means the Chiefs are in the best position to land him. Stay tuned (as I know you will).

• Judging strictly from the numbers, the No. 5 Chiefs had the biggest collection of heavy hitters at the workout, with their three-man contingent including almost every set of eyes in the organization that you'd want eyeballing a potential franchise quarterback, with the possible exception of the team owner. The Chiefs had their GM (Peterson), their head coach (Edwards), and their offensive coordinator (Gailey) in attendance.

The Chiefs also need a starting offensive tackle, and Boston College's Gosder Cherilus was here working out in an attempt to keep his name in the running for being taken in the middle to final third of the first round. But when you looked over and saw Edwards sitting on the turf chatting up Ryan before he threw, and then watched as Ryan's agent, Tom Condon, stood with Peterson for a good bit of the afternoon, you quickly realized it might not be the best of days to be Chiefs incumbent starting quarterback Brodie Croyle.

Edwards gave Ryan a decent enough review, but mentioned at least three times that he thought the BC quarterback "pressed'' on some of his throws, trying to throw the ball too hard. Some of Ryan's passes did wobble considerably, although most arrived quickly enough and found their receivers in stride.

"He pressed some on some throws, but that's generally what happens when you have the media there," Edwards said. "The thing this guy has is his ability to win. (When I went over and talked with him), I was trying to relax him. He's been waiting around since 10 o'clock this morning, trying to throw. I told him to just go out there and throw the ball and have some fun.

"(Today was) in shorts, there's no (pass) rush, and he knows where he's throwing the ball. Which is part of it. But the guy has a good enough arm, he's smart enough, and he has good poise in games. He has all the intangibles a quarterback needs to win games. With him, if he has the ball in his hands at the end of the game, you have a chance to win.''

Edwards certainly gave off the vibes of a head coach who's looking for his next franchise quarterback. After all, he was the only member of the headset crowd in attendance.

"That's the one thing about the draft, everybody is playing poker right now,'' Edwards said. "We're all playing poker, and you keep your poker face on until it's your turn to pick.''

• While the No. 13 Carolina Panthers had a workout-high five staffers in attendance, don't make the mistake of believing they're hot on Ryan's trail. Carolina's contingent included Hurney, Davidson and director of college scouting Don Gregory. But the Panthers' heavy turnout no doubt had more to do with Cherilus than it did Ryan.

The Panthers are in the market for an offensive tackle because they're not optimistic about signing their starting left tackle, Jordan Gross, to a long-term deal after franchising him this year. Cherilus is projected to go anywhere from the middle of the first round to early in the second round, which puts him very much on Carolina's radar screen.

The Panthers are said to have fallen in love with Boise State offensive tackle Ryan Clady, who could go as high as fifth overall to Kansas City. Carolina is rumored to be at least open to the idea of trading into the top 10 to have a shot at Clady. Carolina is not thought to be after Ryan, given that the Panthers probably need to return to the playoffs in 2008 in order to ensure the continued employment of both head coach John Fox and Hurney. It's win-now time in Carolina, and that's not the year you draft a franchise quarterback.

• One of the more interesting takes I heard Tuesday came from one club's college scouting director who would have liked to seen more throws from Ryan than the pre-determined 52-pass workout.

"A lot of times you get to ask a kid to do things for you and he's going to do them,'' the college scouting director said. "But this was an orchestrated workout. We didn't run the workout. Boston College did. We didn't get to ask what we wanted to see. We weren't allowed to have input. It was a little orchestrated, like watching a play unfold. That's not the first time we've seen that. Condon does that with his clients. But typically you leave that kind of workout wanting to see more, with a variety of more throws.''

The college scouting director went on to say that last week his team worked out a quarterback prospect and had him make about 120 throws during the session. "That's two and a half times more than we got to see Tuesday from Ryan,'' he said. "But the throws he made were good.''

Later in our conversation, that same college scouting director had one more kudo to toss Ryan's way, and it's a sentiment that has been heard elsewhere within the league:

"Those Boston College receivers that he was throwing to, there's not a lot of talent there,'' he said. "It tells me that Matt Ryan must be a pretty impressive leader, a pretty impressive kid to have won 11 games this year with some mediocre talent around him. And that's taking into account those receivers and those linemen. They weren't much. To win 11 games in the ACC, which is a pretty good league, he must be a pretty good kid and a pretty good quarterback.''

• Ryan was satisfied with his showing, and voiced no second thoughts about his decisions in regards to the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine. People within the league say he continues to impress NFL types with his poise, personality and self-confidence.

"I thought I showed I can make every throw that you need to make in the NFL,'' Ryan said. "I went through the entire route tree and showed that I can throw on the run. But it's all stuff they can see on tape. I just wanted to show them what I can do in person.''

Ryan pushed back a bit against the notion that he was pressing at times on Tuesday. Just before meeting the media, he stood off-stage and heard Edwards three times refer to that term to describe some of his less artistic passes.

"It's tough to go out there, and like (he) said there's no rush,'' Ryan said. "It's so atypical of what goes on in football. It's so different from how you actually play. For me, I didn't think I pressed or anything. I thought I just went out there and threw. The first couple throws are always a little rusty when you come out, but I didn't think they were too bad.''

With what could be fairly critical personal workouts for teams still ahead, Ryan seemed unfazed by criticism that he missed opportunities in bypassing the Senior Bowl and limiting his combine work to just running and interviewing.

"The criticism comes with the territory,'' he said. "I made the decisions I made and I'm comfortable with them. I decided to not go to the Senior Bowl because I didn't think I needed to, and I didn't throw at the combine because I thought it'd be better for me to throw here today. I made those decisions. I stick by them, and I think I've made good decisions throughout this entire process.

"I don't think anybody's really certain what's going to happen. Obviously I'm hoping for the best and trying to do everything I can to be drafted as high as I can.''

• Even though the Falcons have requested and received word that Ryan will be in for a private workout at some point, it was a little surprising that Atlanta had just two front office members at the workout -- and neither one was new general manager Thomas Dimitroff or new head coach Mike Smith.

Maybe Dimitroff feels he knows Ryan pretty well from his days as the Patriots director of college scouting. Or maybe Atlanta will save the closest scrutiny for its private workout. Makes me wonder if Dimitroff and Smith might be thinking that defensive stars such as Glenn Dorsey, Vernon Gholston or Sedrick Ellis are more in line with where they need to go with the No. 3 spot. Then maybe the Falcons nab their quarterback of the future with their second-round pick in Louisville's Brian Brohm?

• Not that I expected one, but it was a bit disappointing that there was no Tuna sighting in Chesnut Hill. That would have been a headline, eh, to see Bill Parcells come strolling across BC's practice bubble field, eyes trained on the work of Ryan's right arm? To re-iterate, Miami had no one of higher rank than its director of college scouting in attendance, although quarterbacks coach Lee watched Ryan's every move as well.

• Sitting at No. 8, Baltimore is definitely doing its due diligence on Ryan should both No. 3 Atlanta and No. 5 Kansas City pass on him. The Ravens sent three officials to the workout, including director of college scouting Eric DeCosta and director of pro personnel George Kokinis.

I have to think that Baltimore would do cart-wheels down to the podium to hand in the card for Ryan on draft Saturday.

• With three sets of eyes in attendance, No. 17 Minnesota was also well represented, which makes sense for a team whose starting quarterback (third-year veteran Tarvaris Jackson) has a less than vise-like grip on the position. Can't quite imagine Ryan getting past No. 8 Baltimore however, meaning I don't see a Brady Quinn-like first-round tumble coming in April.

• Wondering which 10 NFL teams weren't represented Tuesday? By and large they were clubs with pretty set quarterback situations: Denver, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Jacksonville, San Diego, Green Bay, Chicago, Oakland and the Jets. The Jets, however, will host Ryan in a private workout at some point.

• Ryan has legs that aren't much bigger than mine, but he revealed Tuesday that he's put on almost 10 pounds this offseason while training at Athletes Performance in Arizona. Ryan said his weight fluctuates around 227-228 pounds most days.

He also claims his preparation for the draft is essentially finished, a curious opinion given that he has at least five personal workouts just ahead.

"All my work in trying to convince them is done,'' he said. "I'm open. I'm excited to go wherever.''

• One interesting footnote to Tuesday's workout was the participation of former Boston College and Cleveland running back William Green, who was a first-round pick in 2002, but has been out of the league for two full years after being cut by the Browns. Green, 28, worked out before NFL scouts in an attempt to re-start his career.

Green opened some eyes with a 42-inch vertical leap and an 11-foot broad jump, but his hopes for a comeback might have faded when he ran a 40-yard dash that was timed in the range of 4.77 to 4.82. That's considerably slower than the 4.54 he ran at the combine as a BC prospect six years ago.

Said one NFL personnel director in attendance: "He looked okay, but with so many good running backs in this draft, why would you sign a re-tread like him?''

Said one club scouting director: "He looks like he's in great shape physically, but he got a lot slower in the past few years and that's going to make it tough. Maybe somebody signs him to a minimum deal and invites him to camp. That's probably all he can hope for at this point.''

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