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Allow me to explain the quality of Joe Flacco's 1-AA competition

Let me come out and say this upfront: I was not a very good college football player. A little too slow, and a little too short, I didn't have the physical tools to get on the field very often during my brief career at Montana. But I do know a little about the level of competition that Joe Flacco -- the Ravens' first-round pick -- faced at Delaware, because like Montana, it's considered one of the elite programs in 1-AA, which the NCAA now ridiculously asks that I call the Football Championships Subdivision.

I think it's worth attempting to clear up some misconceptions for any of you that have your doubts, and I know there are doubts, because I've read a few of them on Ravens message boards and in comments recently here at The Life of Kings.

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Do we really want a guy who played against Towson? Why would we draft a guy who was essentially the star of college football's JV Division?

For starters, it's not always that simple. Flacco, you should remember, was originally recruited and signed by Pitt out of high school, and could have, for all we know, been a star in the Big East had he decided to stick around instead of transferring to play for the Blue Hens. That's fairly common at the 1-AA level, which is littered with players who originally signed with big schools, but for whatever reason (playing time, grades, criminal behavior, homesickness) decided to take their chances playing in football games you're rarely going to see on television.

What it doesn't mean, however, is that the teams are flat out inferior. Appalachian State showed Michigan that the top 1-AA teams do, in fact, have the speed to compete with some of the biggest programs in the country. What schools like Delaware can't do is go toe-to-toe with big Division I schools on a week-to-week basis because they simple don't have the depth. Most 1-AA starters could see significant time at the I-A level. Look at Maryland's Madieu Williams, who transfered from Towson, starred at Maryland, and is playing well for the Cincinnati Bengals. It's their backups (guys like me!) who wouldn't sniff a Division I roster, and thus one major injury can have a devastating effect against teams that have talented freshmen all-Americans ready to step in if a similar situation happens to them.

What most I-AA stars have in common is, for some reason (maybe height, maybe exposure, maybe speed), they were overlooked by major programs who, two years later, would love to have them on their team instead of some of the talented, highly-rated busts who lack the desire to be truly great.

I'd argue that Delaware would have given Maryland a hell of a game last season, and probably would have won. What the Blue Hens wouldn't have been able to do, however, is play an entire ACC schedule. Flacco would have taken far too much punishment.

Sometimes, though, stars like Flacco can benefit significantly from going to a school like Delaware because they learn to elevate their teammates. They can't rely on the crazy athleticism of an all-American wide receiver to bail them out when they make poor throws under pressure.

Flacco was a late-bloomer. Just check out this recent New York Times profile on Flacco. He had no idea he might be a first-round pick in the NFL draft 12 months ago. He thought his future might be in baseball. Sometimes late-bloomers end up turning into the perfect fit because they seem to get stronger each time they take a step up in the level of competition. They've learned to dominate, no matter who they're playing against, and that's not something you can teach.

The Ravens will certainly hope that's the case with Flacco.

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