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2011 NFL Draft: Blaine Gabbert and the Top 5 Quarterbacks in This Year's Class

Jeff ShullAnalyst IApril 8, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Blaine Gabbert and the Top 5 Quarterbacks in This Year's Class

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Last year, the Denver Broncos surprised everybody by jumping in to the first round to take Tim Tebow.

    Who will be taken in the first round this year?

    If you've been reading my mock drafts, you'll know that I'm only predicting two of the following guys to go in the first round, but with so many teams needing a quarterback you never know what trades are going to happen.

    Anyways, this list is my top five quarterbacks, it is in no way a prediction of the order they will be drafted.

5. Jake Locker—Washington

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    I can't believe how terrible this class is that I have Jake Locker as my No. 5 guy. Locker really struggled his senior year—albeit with no talent around him—and has been terrible during the draft process other than the Scouting Combine.

    He had by far the worst Senior Bowl of any of the quarterbacks and looked awful in the game among the college elites. He missed receivers, fumbled twice, and displayed very poor footwork.

    You have to like his athleticism and arm strength, but if you're looking for an accurate quarterback Locker is not your guy at this point.

    He is a very hard worker, but he often makes poor decisions and can't make the NFL throws to the outside of the field. His Pro Day was solid, but it was tailored for him to do well and he rarely threw the ball to the sidelines.

    I'm very low on Locker and I don't think he can be a great QB in the NFL. With work and the right coach he has potential, but his ceiling isn't very high.

4. Colin Kaepernick—Nevada

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    Colin Kaepernick has had one of the better draft processes of any of the quarterbacks so far. He has gone from a late round project to possible first round selection. He will likely be taken in the second round, but he has all the tools to be a successful quarterback in the NFL.

    Scouts are drooling over his size (6' 5'', 233 lbs) and arm strength, and he has drastically improved his mechanics and throwing motion. After the 2010 season Kaepernick spent seven weeks in Atlanta working on his timing, accuracy, and release.

    At his Pro Day he showed several teams that he can be successful at the next level despite running the Pistol offense at Nevada. One thing he does very well is use his athleticism to make plays outside the pocket and can also avoid the rush when needed.

    He definitely will need some work to adapt to a pro style offense, but if he can do that he'll make a team very happy.

3. Cam Newton—Auburn

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Of all the quarterbacks in the class, Cam Newton definitely has the best intangibles. He has been a winner at every level and is a great leader. Everyone that is around him admits he is an imposing presence.

    He makes everyone around him better and led the Auburn Tigers on an improbable undefeated season and a BCS National Championship.

    He also has great size and an unbelievable arm. He may not be as fast as Michael Vick, but he can run well and can sling it down field just as good.

    What he lacks is accuracy; he didn't do himself a favor by throwing at the Combine. He missed several throws, especially those to the outside and down the field.

    He may be able to throw it a mile, but he often led receivers too far. He looked good at his Pro Day, however, and some believe he'll be the first overall pick.

2. Christian Ponder—Florida State

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    I actually think Kaepernick could go off the board before Ponder, but Ponder has been outstanding in the draft process. He had the best Senior Bowl of any of the quarterbacks and displayed great accuracy and arm strength at his Pro Day.

    Not many people were high on Ponder after a poor career at Florida State that was marred by injuries. He suffered a shoulder injury in 2009, and had elbow and concussion problems in 2010. Prior to the injury in 2009 Ponder looked like he could have been a first round lock if he came out, but the injury forced him to stay in school another year.

    His arm strength was questionable during the 2010 season, but after having elbow surgery to correct those problems, he looks great now.

    Ponder doesn't have the athleticism of the others in this class, but he makes up for it in other areas. He has few weaknesses, but his injury concerns may steer teams away from him.

1. Blaine Gabbert—Missouri

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    I wasn't sold on Gabbert coming out. The guy who played quarterback at Missouri before him—Chase Daniel—has not transitioned to the NFL well after playing in the spread offense.

    However, Daniel did not have the size, arm strength, and intangibles that Gabbert has. People have begun to place Gabbert ahead of Newton in their mock drafts because of the outstanding job Gabbert has done the past month.

    He did not throw at the Combine, smartly, and surprised a lot of people with his speed. Nobody thought he was athletic, but his 4.61 40-time suggests otherwise.

    At his Pro Day Gabbert was flawless. NFL network's Mike Mayock compared it to Sam Bradford's, after which the Rams pretty much declared they were going to draft him over Ndamukong Suh.

    This draft is full of quarterbacks with imposing stature, and Gabbert falls in to that category at 6' 4'', 234 lbs. What was most impressing about his Pro Day was the down field throws—he was accurate on all of them.

    Gabbert has shown the ability to make every NFL throw, and every team at the top will be aiming to get him.

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