The quarterback position is the most hyped, dissected and scrutinized position in all of sports. None more so than during the NFL Draft and its lead up stages. From the time that some QB’s are sophomores in college, how they can relate to the NFL game is heavily discussed. This is a necessary process of sorts, because having a solid QB is everything in the NFL game. Very few, if any, teams make any noise in January without a solid QB. Virtually none make it to Super Bowl Sunday without an exceptional one (the 2001 Ravens with Trent Dilfer at the helm are the last victors to have a questionable QB by my evaluation, but that team had one of the great defenses of all-time).
Also, no position is paid more before even taking a snap than the QB position, especially at the top spot. 2010 top pick Sam Bradford, despite having proved his worth now, was automatically one of the top five highest paid players in the league due to this phenomena. All of these factors make understanding both what a young signal caller is, and can become, crucial, for both on-field and payroll successes.
Here is a look at the newest crop of youngsters being looked at as the next answer for some QB, and win, hungry NFL franchises. The 2011 class has been heralded as one of the deepest classes in sometime. While that sometimes proves to be a disastrous proclamation (see the 1999 NFL Draft), it sometimes pays off greatly, with multiple Super Bowl winning and Pro Bowl attending QBs (see both the 1983 and 2004 Drafts).
It’s a crap shoot of the highest order in the sporting universe, but if you’re going to gamble, go big or go home.
ANDREW LUCK-Sophomore-Stanford Cardinal
Measures: 6’4/245 lbs
Stats: 3,051 pass yards, 28 TDs/7 Interceptions, 70% completions; 438 rush yards
Should be picked….: As the #1 pick, no lower than 2.
Compares to: Ben Roethlisberger
Breakdown: Big time playmaker who is a horse that can deliver the ball anywhere. He’s the clear-cut choice as top QB on the board, and also top player in the draft. While he’s not a runner in the Tebow style, he can make plays with his feet and is hard to bring down. Like Bradford, he’s the type of guy a struggling franchise can rebuild around. Carolina currently has the top pick, and it will stay that way unless they trade it, but their selection of Jimmy Clausen in 2010 should not be a deteriment to taking Luck, who has the ability, like Sam Bradford before him, to turn a franchise around in short order.
RYAN MALLETT-Junior-Arkansas Razorback
Measures: 6’6/240 lbs
Stats: 3,592 pass yards, 30 TD/11 interceptions, 66.5% completions
Should be picked….: In the top 20, potentially top 10
Compares to: Joe Flacco or Carson Palmer before the knee injury.
Breakdown: A big tosser with easily the strongest arm in college football, that would already be a top 5 arm in the NFL. He can make any throw down field and would create a virtual game for many teams such as the Cardinals and Niners who have none right now. He may benefit from sitting for a little while to gain some touch on his passes and increase his awareness, but he’s the type that will be able to pick up some big yardage numbers over the course of his career.
CAM NEWTON-Junior-Auburn Tigers
Measures: 6’6/250 lbs
Stats: 2,589 pass yards, 28 TDs/6 interceptions; 1,409 rush yards, 20 TD
Should be picked….: Hard to say. Could be anywhere in round 1, but no later.
Compares to: Vince Young or Josh Freeman
Breakdown: His numbers are amazing and he seems to always find a way to make it work, with either his arm or feet, evenly. In the NFL he won’t be able to run the ball in the same order, because he’s not flat-out fast like a Michael Vick. However, he will be able to make plays on the move, and if he develops a solid intermediate passing game and puts a bit more zip on his outside ball (which he currently lacks), he will be a problem of the highest order, because on short yardage gains he will still be able to run the ball well and will force defenses to stay honest, which opens up deep options. However, he will definitely benefit from sitting for a while to gain some polish, which is why he may not be the answer for a team that is on the verge of competing right now, such as Minnesota or San Francisco.
BLAINE GABBERT-Junior-Missouri Tigers
Measures: 6’5/240 lbs
Stats: 3,186 pass yards, 16 TD/9 interceptions, 63% completions; 5 rushing TDs
Should be picked….: Late first round, perhaps to a team trading up.
Compares to: Aaron Rodgers or Tony Romo
Breakdown: He has a world of talent, and has played in a wide open system to showcase everything he can do. He isn’t a running QB, but has the mobility to make plays on the run and pick up extra yardage in the open field. With better coaching on his footwork in the pocket, he could become a very good pocket playmaker. His biggest issue is his lapses in judgement with the ball, which could become detrimental in the NFL, where he won’t be able to just lean of his natural talent. He has all the tools, but needs to be reeled in some to maximize them. Good player for a team that doesn’t need a starter right now or next year.
JAKE LOCKER-Senior-Washington Huskies
Measures: 6’3/230 lbs
Stats: 2,209 pass yards, 17 TD/9 interceptions, 56% completions; 302 rush yards, 5 TD
Should be picked….: Second round for now.
Compares to: Mark Sanchez or Matt Cassell
Breakdown: Despite being a senior, Locker is the oldest prospect here, Locker is by and far the rawest. He has all the skills to be a multi-threat trouble behind center, but he has far too many lapses in judgement still and seems to be struggling to make the transition from run first (and second) QB, to a pro style, versatile threat, which his skill set suggests he could be. He has played in a sub par program and has been leaned on quite heavily, and many scouts feel the best is yet to come when he plays with a higher standard of talent. While this could be true, and his skill set is undeniable, it’s too late in the game to commit either the future of your franchise or a huge sum of money to his continued development on potential only. He could pan out to be a true late bloomer, but it would be better served on a team where he can back up indefinitely.
Others to watch: Christian Ponder-Florida State, Pat Devlin-Delaware, Terrelle Pryor-Ohio State, Nick Foles-Arizona