Last week in The Life of Kings, I posed the question of whether the Ravens should take a chance on Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, should he fall to them at No. 8. A spirited, and I think healthy, debate ensued in the comments that followed, with posters equally divided on whether or not it was the right move. Those who thought that Ryan might be a reach that high seemed inclined to roll the dice on one of the other quarterbacks that might be avaliable later, like Louisville's Brian Brohm, Michigan's Chad Henne, Delware's Joe Flacco or even Hawaii's Colt Brennan.

After mulling it over, I feel like I've got a better idea, and it won't cost the Ravens more than a third or fourth round pick: Oregon's Dennis Dixon.


Dixon, if you can recall, was probably the best quarterback in the country for much of last season, and would almost certainly be a first-day pick in this year's draft if he hadn't torn up his knee against Arizona State late in the year with the Ducks leading by 19 points. When I look at Dixon, and when I read this interesting profile by Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins about Dixon's rehab process, I'm reminded of Ravens running back Wllis McGahee, who suffered a gruesome knee injury in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State, but still managed to rehab and become an elite NFL player.

I realize some people's immediate reaction might be: Why draft Dixon when we already have a similar quarterback in Troy Smith? But don't fall into that trap. They're not that similar, and if you think so, it might have more to do with their skin color than their actual size and skills.

Smith -- who I'm actually intrigued by, and would like to see get a shot -- is generously listed at 6-feet. Height is always going to be an issue for him. He tumbled down draft boards because he had trouble making reads when he had pressure in his face in the National Championship game. He's shown some flashes of poise and playmaking ability in the pros, but there are still questions about his arm strength and whether or not he can overcome his lack of height.

Dixon is 6-foot-4, and has (or at least had) blazing speed (check out his 80-yard run against Houston), plus he was completing a jaw-dropping 67.7 percent of his passes at Oregon before he was injured. He has a cannon of an arm. And unlike a lot of college football players, he left school with a degree, graduating in sociology with a 3.27 GPA. In addition to the fact that he out-played Ryan, Brohm, and Henne when he was healthy, what I like best about Dixon is that he's fearless. Check out his web site, www.dennisdixon10.com. Because Dixon wasn't healthy enough to attend the combine, it features videos of Dixon running, throwing, reading coverage, all post-surgery. He's basicaly said to scouts: I'm an open book. You don't believe in me? Please, please check out my web site. Just give me a chance.

Dixon wouldn't cost nearly as much as Ryan, who, as the first quarterback drafted, will certainly have the right to ask for a sizeable signing bonus. If he doesn't work out, then you're out a third or a fourth round pick. Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron worked wonders at Indiana with another fleet-footed quarterback, Antwaan Randle El. Dixon might be a bigger, more accurate version of Randle El, and if it doesn't work out in a few years, the Ravens could probably turn him into a wide receiver (because he has the size). If his knee is healthy -- and to be fair, that's a big if -- he could be a cross between Vince Young and Donovan McNabb.

Matt Ryan is going to be a gamble either way. More first round quarterbacks are busts than all-Pros, and they cost a lot more. Ever been car shopping? With Matt Ryan, you have to pay the sticker price, and with no mark downs. With Dixon, you're getting a discount. All the other buyers have been scared away because the car had a scratch on it, even though the scratch has already been repaired and buffed to a shine.

If you're the Ravens, you going to pick a quarterback at some point. Instead of Ryan, why not roll the dice, later, on someone with just as much talent?

Photo: AP