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Cam Newton led Auburn To The National Championship
The San Francisco 49ers have several needs and quarterback is a major one. However, there is no quarterback in the 2011 draft that's a sure thing. In fact, I believe there are as many as seven QBs who could make an impact in the NFL. That being said, there is risk with all of them.
Cam Newton has tremendous athletic ability and a strong arm. He has tremendous upside and also showed good passing accuracy at Auburn.
However, Newton played in a spread offense and if his first option was covered, he was just as likely to run as to survey the field and find secondary receivers. There will be a big learning curve for Newton
Blaine Gabbert is perhaps the most polished of the quarterbacks available, but is he worthy of a top seven pick? There are many who say yes. I say no.
Gabbert has a strong and accurate arm, but he played his college ball in a spread offense. There will be some learning to do, but he seems like a quick study.
Jake Locker has a strong arm and played in a pro-style offense at the University of Washington. He is a good leader and ultimately could turn out to be very good.
However, Locker is often inaccurate and injury prone. His all-out style and propensity to try and run over people leave him vulnerable. Locker will need to learn to play under control and leave his tendency for reckless abandon back in college.
Ryan Mallett has an outstanding arm and he is a pure pocket passer. However, he is a bonehead. Because of his boorish attitude, he has blown his Round 1 draft status. Several teams that he visited will not to select him under any circumstances.
On the field, he lacks mobility and apparently also lacks the common sense to be a leader. Mallett reminds me of Ryan Leaf, another big, strong kid who never made it, largely because of his head. Under no circumstances do I see Jim Harbaugh taking him.
Andy Dalton was originally slated as a Round 3 or Round 4 pick. He has impressed the NFL brass with his accuracy and intelligence. Dalton also has good mobility and would be a good fit for Jim Harbaugh's plan to install a West Coast offense in San Francisco.
The two concerns about Dalton are that he played in a spread offense and he does not have an overly strong arm. However, Dalton's accuracy is important in a West Coast system and he seems to have the understanding of the game to transition from the spread to the pro game.
Christian Ponder from Florida State is another player, like Dalton, who should be available in the second round or perhaps even the third round. Ponder is a very good athlete with a strong arm. He is also tough and he has shown good leadership qualities.
The concern with Ponder is whether he can stay healthy, as he has had some injury problems in the past. In addition, many scouts warn that his decision-making abilities on the field need improvement. If available in the third round, he would be a good pick for San Francisco.
The final quarterback who I believe has star-caliber potential is Colin Kaepernick from Nevada. Kaepernick is a strong athlete with a good arm and excellent mobility. He will be a bit of a project as he played against lower-level competition and his throwing mechanics need improvement.
Kaepernick could be available in the third or fourth round and that would be a good investment for the 49ers.
The 49ers should not select a quarterback in the first round. There are impact players on defense who will help the Niners a lot more. If Jim Harbaugh is able to get someone like Dalton, Ponder or Kaepernick in a later round, that would be ideal.
Harbaugh is known for developing top-notch quarterbacks and I'm sure he has his eye on one or two of these players after Round 1.