I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been working on my rankings for the prospects at each position in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft. I’ll be posting my rankings of the top prospects over the coming days and weeks, and I’ll kick it off today with my top quarterbacks. For all of these lists this is how I would stack my board if I were a coach or GM in the NFL, running a system similar to that of the Patriots but there are some players I like that don’t fit in NE. I’ll note where applicable if the player is not suitable for the Pats. So, the quarterbacks:
- Blaine Gabbert – Missouri
For me it’s Gabbert and then the rest in this class, and I’m not even fully sold on him either. This isn’t a great quarterback class but since Andrew Luck decided to stay in school, Gabbert is clearly the no. 1 guy in my opinion. He has an NFL-calibre skill set – good arm, mobile, good accuracy in the pocket or on the run. If I were the Carolina Panthers and I couldn’t shop the #1 pick – Gabbert’s my guy. Projection – Top 3.
- Jake Locker – Washington
Locker or maybe Ryan Mallett will likely be the third QB taken in the draft, but for reasons I’ll explain later, I prefer Locker to Cam Newton, who will probably be the second signal caller off the board. Even more so than Gabbert, Locker fits the athletic needs for the position. The fact that Locker is no. 2 on this list, however, reflects the class more than the player. I wouldn’t touch Locker until the late 1st-early 2nd round range, maybe a team like Seattle who needs a QB but has a veteran in place. Locker has an element of boom-or-bust about him. With a baseball career as a backup for him, you need to have the belief that you can improve his accuracy and get his full focus on football. A shot at a starting job might do that for him. Projection – 1st round.
- Cam Newton, Auburn
Newton has huge potential. The best athlete at the position, but with many question marks over his ability to translate to the NFL, he’s this year’s Tim Tebow. When you compare him to Tebow however, he matches up very favourably in the physical sense. Faster, a more elusive runner, a better throwing motion. Tebow was a proven leader and an absolute winner in college, and Newton doesn’t have that track record, but still a very good one. He’s won the Heisman and led his team to the National Championship as well after all. Huge boom-or-bust but someone will take the risk in the top 10. Projection – Top 10 but I wouldn’t take him.
- Ryan Mallett – Arkansas
Part 3 in my boom-or-bust quarterbacks and the last one I can see possibly going in the 1st round is Arkansas’ Mallett. At 6-7, 247 lbs he has a big arm and can make any throw you ask of him. The downside? Needs to take a big step into his throws to fire that cannon-arm and is not mobile in the pocket. Doesn’t have the accuracy or ability to play a West Coast style, needs to be in a vertical passing system and lacks maturity. However, in the right system behind a good O-line that gives him a good pocket most plays, he could be a top class QB if he sets his mind to it. Projection – late 1st, early 2nd round.
- Christian Ponder – Florida State
I like Ponder and if the Patriots want to take a QB in the 3rd round range as they did with Kevin O’Connell, Ponder might fit the bill (and hopefully be more successful). Has the intangibles – strong character and leadership, makes good reads (most of the time) and really sells the play action (one of Tom Brady’s many strengths). The negatives are an elbow injury, and the occasional horrible decision. He intrigues me as a developmental prospect. Projection – 3rd round.
- Ricky Stanzi – Iowa
Stanzi is a pro-style QB and, like Ponder, would be a guy I’d look at if I were the Patriots in the 3rd round. He also has the intangibles, the leadership, and has drawn comparisons to Tom Brady. Has a poor Senior Bowl but has shown up in the 4th quarter early in his career and is a real competitor – has played hurt. Projection – 3rd Round.
- Andy Dalton – TCU
Dalton has a lot of fans, both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have raved about him on the ESPN: First Draft podcast, for example, but he’s physically limited in my eyes. All his physical attributes could be described as “average”. One thing I do like about him is the widespread perception that he improved dramatically every year during college. Makes him a perfect candidate to groom behind a sure starter, but he’ll probably be over-drafted following all this hype. Projection – 2nd-3rd round, but I’d take him in the 4th.
- Pat Devlin – Delaware
Occasionally compared to Joe Flacco, which is ridiculous, but he is a very intelligent signal caller and led his team to a title. Good short accuracy but questionable down-field throws would suggest he’d excel in a dink-and-dunk offense, but needs plenty of grooming on a practice squad or as a 3rd QB. Projection – 6th round.
- Colin Kaepernick – Nevada
Has a lot of physical tools but is being well over-hyped as a result. Athleticism is one thing but he also lacks bulk up top and worked in a simple system with few NFL-style plays. Projection – 2nd-3rd round but I wouldn’t touch him til much later.
- Greg McElroy – Alabama
Leader, winner, but played with a good supporting cast on a strong team. Alabama is one of those Patriots’ pipeline schools because of the Nick Saban connection but lacks arm strength and other physical tools. I like him as a Brian Hoyer type camp competition guy that could be a backup. Projection – 6th round.
Well there’s my top 10 QBs for the draft, overall a weak group up top with some intriguing guys in the mid-to-late rounds. Next up – running backs.