Former Ravens quarterback and current ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer recently evaluated the ceilings of the league's top passers under the age of 27 and ranked them based on their potential to become "elite." You might be surprised by which players -- there are five of them -- Dilfer said had a higher ceiling than Joe Flacco.
Flacco was sixth on Dilfer's list behind, in order, Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan. The article was published before Sunday, so no, Dilfer wasn't typing this up as Flacco was chucking a pair of interceptions in the Ravens' 26-13 loss to the Titans in Tennessee.
Here is Dilfer on his methodology: "Ceiling is about how far a guy can ascend. It's not about who is better right now. For me, it's age, arm talent, setting, presence, smarts, growth so far and the ability to learn."
Flacco, who won 32 regular season games and four road playoff games in his first three seasons in Baltimore, has completed 61.6 percent of his career passes for 10,627 yards and 64 touchdowns while throwing 36 interceptions. According to Dilfer, the fourth-year quarterback has "very good physical attributes with elite arm strength, but not arm talent." But given his rocket arm and his resume, why isn't Flacco's ceiling higher than others?
"Flacco needs to prove he can win those big games and succeed in critical moments," wrote Dilfer, who gave Flacco credit for the win against Pittsburgh but also said that Flacco will have to do it again when the stakes are higher. "Bottom line: He's a pick-and-stick passer. He sees the initial option and used his big arm to target it. He still needs to get through his progressions if he wants to have a higher ceiling."
Flacco and his wide receivers haven't clicked this season. Anquan Boldin has seven catches. Lee Evans has two. Neither Torrey Smith nor David Reed has caught a pass. And LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss have yet to suit up on Sundays. While Dilfer believes Flacco has trouble getting through his reads, the Ravens say their issues can be chalked up to a lack of familiarity between Flacco and his new targets.
"Anquan has been here for two years now. Lee has only been here for one. It's just one game at a time, building that chemistry with Joe," said second-year tight end Ed Dickson, who has seven receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown this season. "We've seen a glimpse of how we can look in Week One. If we maintain that, do that every week, we're going to be dangerous."
Mike Preston thinks that Flacco needs to be more consistent for the Ravens to win a Super Bowl and, presumably, be considered one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But it was somewhat surprising to read that Dilfer, the only quarterback to lead the Ravens to a Lombardi Trophy, thinks that some of the NFL's other young QBs -- namely Mark Sanchez -- are more likely to become an elite passer than Flacco.
What are your thoughts on Dilfer's analysis? Which young quarterbacks have a higher ceiling than Flacco?