GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If Delaware's Joe Flacco goes on to have a stellar career, he will have crossed the line of demarcation for successful quarterbacks in the National Football League.
Flacco, who has been measured at 6-feet-6¼ inches, is taller than any above-average NFL starter in the last 20 years, perhaps much longer.
Since 1988, just six quarterbacks 6-6 or above have been drafted. Five -- Scott Mitchell (fourth round, 1990), Matt Blundin (second round, '92), John Navarre (seventh round, 2004), Andrew Walter (third round, '05) and Derek Anderson (sixth round, '05) -- measured at 6-6 or slightly taller.
The other, Dan McGwire, stood almost 6-8 in 1991 when the Seattle Seahawks drafted him with the 16th pick. Perhaps the tallest quarterback in history, the oafish McGwire hung around for five years without ever being a starter.
"I've got a problem with Flacco," a personnel director for an AFC team said. "You know why? He's 6-6. I don't know why it is but history tells you they're not going to be any good."
Although Mitchell made 71 starts in the 1990s, primarily for Detroit, it is Anderson who should give hope to Flacco. He used his big frame and big arm last year in leading Cleveland to a surprising 10-6 record.
"I think Derek Anderson really helped a guy like Flacco," Browns general manager Phil Savage said. "He's got a big arm, he's tall, he was a bit under the radar to a degree during the fall. I think people saw him more like a third- or fourth-round type project but now he's been elevated to the end of the first round. If not, the second round for sure."
The Green Bay Packers own the second-to-last pick in the first round and need someone to go with Aaron Rodgers.
Ted Thompson's mentor, the retired Ron Wolf, much preferred quarterbacks with size. Although Brett Favre came in at 6-2 and Mark Brunell stood 6-1, Wolf found Matt Hasselbeck (6-4) and Aaron Brooks (6-3½) in the mid- to late rounds.
Green Bay's tallest quarterback was Frank Patrick, a 10th-round pick in 1970 from Nebraska. Patrick was 6-7, or 3 inches taller than the strapping Rich Campbell a decade later, but neither accomplished a thing.
"Just because I'm 6-6, 236, doesn't mean I can't move," Flacco said at the combine in February. "I like to think I'm a pretty good athlete."
At least Flacco's in good company with his pedestrian 4.84-second clocking in the 40-yard dash. For the first time in years, not one of the top six prospects can even break 4.8.
"I'm just glad I'm not drafting one," another AFC personnel director said. "To me, the league has gotten away from these type quarterbacks. You're going to have to protect these guys."
When Indianapolis president Bill Polian refers to the class as having "one contender and the rest pretenders," it's understood that he ranks Boston College's Matt Ryan head and shoulders above the pack. Of Ryan, Polian said, " I never say 'can't miss' but Matt Ryan has really no down side."
Savage, who traded his first-round choice this year to take Notre Dame's Brady Quinn 22nd last year, remains wary.
"I'll say this: I'm glad we moved up for Brady Quinn," Savage said. "If you think Matt Ryan is going to be the answer with not much around him, I think people would be disappointed. I don't know that he has a special quality other than his personality and leadership."
In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel survey, 15 personnel people were asked to rank their top five quarterbacks. A first-place vote was worth five points, a second was worth four and so forth.
Ryan, with 12 firsts, won going away with 71 points. Following, in order, were: Louisville's Brian Brohm, 53 (one first); Michigan's Chad Henne, 38 (two firsts); Flacco, 36; Southern California's John David Booty, 11; Kentucky's Andre' Woodson, 7; Tennessee's Erik Ainge and Oregon's Dennis Dixon, 4; and San Diego's Josh Johnson, 1.
"To me, they're all guys you're going to have to coach up and get them in position to manage games," said Trent Baalke, San Francisco's director of player personnel. "There's no Brett Favre coming out of this draft."
Yet one scout for a team that had a private audition with Flacco last month labeled it "arguably the most impressive quarterback workout I've ever seen."
"Really, if he goes to Michigan or Boston College, he might be the first pick in the draft," said Jerry Angelo, general manager of the Chicago Bears. "Delaware is what puts a cap on him. But three years from now, who knows?"