The 2011 NFL Draft Class has arguably the deepest group of quarterbacks since the class of '83, that included Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and John Elway. Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallett all have a shot at the first round, while a handful of others are pushing for that achievement.
The following rankings are based on how I believe these quarterbacks will translate to the next level. I have based my evaluation on my own analysis of game tape as well as a number of scouting reports. Here are my top ten quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL Draft Class.
I doubt Blaine Gabbert declares for the 2011 NFL Draft, because he still needs some work. Gabbert has the size and arm strength necessary to play in the NFL, the problem is he lacks any sort of pocket presence.
Playing in a spread offense, he operates exclusively out of the shotgun and flushes the pocket too early. He is a clutch player with great intangibles but will need good coaching at the next level to succeed.
Foles has great bulk and decent enough arm strength to succeed at the next level. He runs a lot of shotgun offense at Arizona and is unpolished as a result. That being said, I think he has the talent to warrant a mid-round selection as a developmental backup.
TCU gets a lot of attention for their defense, but Andy Dalton often flies under the radar.
I really like Andy Dalton as a mid-round prospect. He gets the ball out of his hands quickly and makes good decisions.
I think he makes a great pick in the middle rounds and projects as a solid game manager and quality second string quarterback.
Pryor is a flashy prospect who does not amount to a whole lot on tape. His accuracy is questionable and his feel for the position is borderline at best. His athleticism is excellent but he is too inconsistent to be drafted in the first round. However, I am sure some front office will take a shot at him in the first few rounds.
Nathan Enderle has tons of experience as a four-year starter in a pro-style offense. He is an intriguing prospect, possessing great leadership qualities and solid accuracy. In addition Enderle has displayed above average decision making and a quick release during his tenor at Idaho.
Devlin is drawing comparisons to Joe Flacco because of his Delaware roots. Devlin is not quite the prospect Flacco was, however he has a quick release and is very decisive with the football. He has adequate arm strength but questionable accuracy that could keep him out of the first round.
After this past weekend Mallett's stock has taken a significant hit in my book. The difficulty of his offense is not impressive and he failed to step up at crunch time.
Meanwhile he has zero mobility and will get chewed apart by NFL blitzes.
Andrew Luck has a natural ability to play the quarterback position. He has great mechanics and decision making. Meanwhile, he operates a pro-style west coast attack with great efficiency.
However, he lacks the arm strength and accuracy for me to grade him as an elite prospect. That being said he will make some team very happy in the first round.
The Locker and Luck debate is close, and I like them both as top fifteen prospects. You have to look at more than just the box scores. Locker has the better arm and athleticism without question. Locker arguably has the better accuracy, and Luck throws an ugly deep ball that tends to float.
Also do not overlook the fact that Locker plays on a far worse team. Luck has the better wide receivers and offensive line as well as defense. Locker is doing everything he can with the team he has.
The Nebraska game was not as bad as the box score would let you believe for Locker. His receivers were constantly blanketed and he was under pressure all day. He made some bad throws, but he was playing against arguably the best defense in the country with no talent around him. He can only do so much.
Locker displayed some of the concerns I have with him, which is that he tends to lock on to receivers occasionally and that he lacks a feel for the position at times. However I remain confident that the tools are there.
There is no need to look at the Nebraska game and immediately say Locker is the worse quarterback. Let's see how he bounces back. He is still a more talented prospect than Luck and only slightly less polished.
Ponder showed me a lot in 2009. On film I see a tough poised quarterback who is more than capable of making all of the throws. He has a quick release and tremendous pocket presence. In addition, he has excellent foot work and a natural feel for the position.
Ponder showed a great deal in bouncing back from that tough game against Oklahoma. His leadership, intelligence, and toughness give him the intangibles to make him a top notch quarterback prospect.