2011 NFL Draft: Ranking the Cam Newton and the Top 10 Quarterbacks
Saturday, January 15th marks the start of Draft Season for many fans, writers and NFL teams. This is the date that all underclassmen, at least three years removed from high school, have to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Sunday morning their fates are sealed and the draft board is set.
We are ahead of the curve. After compiling notes, film and talking to top scouts in the industry; we are ready to roll out our 2011 NFL Draft rankings. On deck first- quarterbacks.
This was supposed to be a great year for quarterbacks with Andrew Luck (Stanford) leading the class, and Jake Locker (Washington) following close behind. Boy were we wrong.
Luck is returning to school, Locker is the third or fourth best quarterback (or fifth) and a junior college transfer named Cam Newton is changing everything.
Don't you just love draft season? We do.
10. Nathan Enderle, Idaho
Enderle is a very interesting prospect, and one we are anxious to see more of. At 6'4" and 234lbs he has the body to absorb NFL tackles, the height to see down field and the agility to make plays in and out of the pocket.
Enderle has not seen top defenses at Idaho, but when looking at his skills you see an accuracy that has improved every year, and is very good in the pocket. Enderle does have a weak arm compared to many other quarterbacks in this class, but his accuracy and experience as a four-year starter make him a great prospect in the later rounds.
Draft Prediction: 6th round
9. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
Lost in the hype surrounding Cam Newton and co., people are not talking enough about Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.
You think Jake Locker is a good athlete? Kaepernick might give him a run for his money. At 6'6" and 226lbs he runs a legitimate 4.5 in the 40-yard dash and could even be moved to receiver at the next level.
While a few teams might look at Kaepernick as a Brad Smith-type receiver/return man, many will see him at quarterback. He does have great athleticism, and good arm strength, but his accuracy and footwork need a lot of time, patience and refining.
Draft Prediction: 6th round
8. Greg McElroy, Alabama
McElroy is a little small (6'2", 225lbs) and a little slow (5.0 in the 40-yard dash), but he is also a winner (1 National Championship).
A very good college quarterback, McElroy is slowly winning over NFL scouts and decision makers. His throwing motion needs changed, as he has a wind-up delivery right now, but he has the raw tools to be an NFL quarterback.
There is a lot to work with here. McElroy would be a great draft pick for a team with a veteran quarterback (hello, Indianapolis and/or Seattle).
Draft Prediction: Late 5th round
7. Pat Devlin, Delaware
The Joe Flacco comparisons will flow, but we want to stop them here before they start. Flacco and Devlin are as comparable as Tom Brady and Chad Henne. The only thing they have in common is they played football at the same school.
Not many fans know much about Devlin, other than he is the quarterback for Delaware. Here are a few things to know: Devlin has great numbers in a spread offense for the Blue Hens. Unlike Flacco, he has an average arm and questionable accuracy down field. He has a great delivery, but wasn't pressured much and has not seen a top-flight defense since leaving Penn State.
A big game in the East/West Shrine Bowl will help Devlin's stock a lot. A bad game and his stock will plummet.
Draft Prediction: 4th round
6. Christian Ponder, Florida State University
Many people will see Christian Ponder rated #6 overall and ask "Why don't you like Ponder!?". We do like Christian Ponder plenty, but injuries and inconsistent play are a reality here. Like many FSU players in the past, his hype was not matched with production.
Ponder is an intelligent, accurate and experienced quarterback who will transition quickly to the NFL. However, he has to stay on the field to be a value to his NFL team. Ponder has finished the last two seasons at FSU injured.
Ponder has all the tools you want in an NFL quarterback, but something is missing. He was never dominant in college and does not scare defenses. This is definitely a case of a bad supporting cast overshadowing the raw talent of the quarterback.
Draft Prediction: Early 3rd round
5. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
And let the hate mail begin in three, two, one...
Having worked for years in the football industry as a scout, my job is and was to predict NFL success and rank players accordingly. This is not a ranking or prediction of the order the quarterbacks will be drafted in; this is a ranking of how each quarterback will perform in the NFL.
And Ryan Mallett should not be higher than any quarterback that will follow him. For good reason.
Mallett brings a ton of hype, but why? He was a 60% passer at Arkansas in a favorable spread offense that sees many other passers hitting on 70% of passes. He is also quite clumsy. At 6'6" (or 6'7"), he moves like that awkward tall kid from high school who hadn't quite grew into his feet yet.
The NFL today is built on timing routes and throwing to openings. Mallett struggles when throwing short and intermediate passes and struggles moving his feet to create openings. Imagine Drew Bledsoe playing in the NFL today. That's a best-case comparison for Mallett. Worst case, Andrew Walter, formerly of the Oakland Raiders.
This doesn't even touch the many personality issues being reported. Mallett, to be blunt, is reportedly an ass. We can't speak on this one way or the other, but if the shoe fits...
Draft Prediction: 1st round
*On our draft board Mallett would be a 2nd round prospect. He'll be over-drafted this spring.
4. Andy Dalton, TCU
We have been screaming all year about one player that other draft gurus had not picked up on yet. His name is Andy Dalton.
After an ass kicking performance against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, everyone loves Dalton. And we can't blame them.
Dalton has the same "it" quality that Tom Brady and Matt Ryan had in college (not comparing the three otherwise). He has a calm demeanor no matter the score, a likable personality and a leadership ability that is unmatched.
On the football field Dalton is a fierce competitor. He can run (ask Wisconsin), has great accuracy to every level and has a good enough arm to pressure defenses. His vision is the best in the class, as is his accuracy.
Many other writers and scouts will have Mallett and probably even Ponder higher than Dalton, but not us. We rank players based on how good they will be in the NFL, and Dalton will be a starter.
Draft Prediction: 2nd round
3. Cam Newton, Auburn
Heisman trophy? Check. National Championship? Check. NFL Draft? Next.
Newton has done it all this year for the Auburn Tigers, drawing the notice of the NCAA, NFL scouts and even the FBI (sorry, couldn't resist).
You know the story: Newton's dad Cecil allegedly offered a play-for-pay scheme to Mississippi State, among other schools, before Newton signed with Auburn.
Fast-forward to present day and Newton has dominated the college football landscape all season.
As an NFL draft prospect he has great mobility and can break a defense with his ability to run. He throws well on the move and has above average arm strength. Much like Vince Young during his time at Texas, Newton makes throws look effortless. Also like Young, his accuracy can be hot and cold from throw to throw. With only one year as a starter in Division 1 football, Newton is the most raw player in the draft, at any position.
Newton comes across as a mix between Young, Tim Tebow and Ben Roethlisberger. He has the chance to play early in his NFL career because of the threat he poses as a runner and because he will most likely be drafted very early and to a team with an immediate need at the position (Arizona, San Francisco and Minnesota are likely).
Newton's success in the NFL will be based largely on how well he takes to coaching, and if he finds himself on a team with a good quarterbacks coach.
Draft Prediction: Early 1st round
2. Jake Locker, Washington
Locker was seen by many as the top high school quarterback in his class, the best quarterback in the NCAA before the 2010 season began and will be viewed by some as the best quarterback in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Locker has seen his stock level off some after a high during the preseason. Many expected him to make big improvements in his second year with head coach Steve Sarkisian. Instead, Locker regressed by trying to force too many throws and playing hurt.
Locker is the ultimate dual-threat at quarterback. He has run an officially timed 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, has a John Elway-like arm and tons of potential. He also makes some bone-headed plays and has not shown great accuracy in the pocket.
Locker excels when on the move. He throws better across his body than any other passer in the class and can make exceptional reads when moving outside the pocket. He seems to come alive when moving. Unfortunately, that won't work in the NFL.
When watching Locker on film he seems perfect for a West Coast offense, making him an intriguing pick for San Francisco, Washington and Minnesota. He has an unlimited upside at his point, making him a boom-or-bust pick at the position.
We would bet on boom.
Draft Prediction: Early to mid 1st round
1. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
It is possible that no player benefited more from Andrew Luck staying in school than Blaine Gabbert.
Few were surprised when Gabbert decided to leave Missouri, especially after many had heard rumors of Gabbert telling players and coaches he would leave after this season regardless.
Anyone who concentrated on Missouri's last few games this season would wonder how Gabbert is rated so high on draft boards. Thankfully he has shown tremendous upside during his career. Gabbert's play against Iowa in the Insight.com Bowl (despite his game-ending interception) was perhaps the best game we've ever seen him play.
Gabbert has played in a system that is designed for the quarterback to succeed. He does a great job making short-to-intermediate throws that are well timed and brilliantly designed. The system at Mizzou is very close to what teams like Green Bay and New England are running today.
Want proof of Gabbert's potential? Two throws to Jerrell Jackson against Iowa in the first quarter show his brilliance. His 26-yard strike to Jackson, under pressure, on third and nineteen was one of the best throws we saw in college football all year.
There are rumors of him being a primadonna and immature, but there is plenty of that in the NFL at every position. For our money there is no better quarterback in the class than Gabbert.
Draft Prediction: Early 1st round