NFL Draft 2011: Why Ryan Mallett is the Best Quarterback in This Draft Class

JW NixSenior Writer IIApril 22, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: Why Ryan Mallett is the Best Quarterback in This Draft Class

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks looks on against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Image
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The draft stock of Ryan Mallett is all over the place. Some swear he will be drafted in the first round, while others think he can drop to the second.

    Not only is he the biggest quarterback in stature for the 2011 NFL draft, but he has the strongest arm and uses sound mechanics. His footwork is mostly sound, but he's had moments where it has gotten sloppy.

    While his accuracy and decision-making could be more consistent, Mallett can fit the ball into tight places and throws the best deep out of all the quarterbacks in the draft.

    He is the most ready to play of the upper-echelon quarterbacks, having played in pro-style systems, and he understands reads and progressions. His release is smooth, and it is not easy to bat down a ball off the arm of the 6'7" Mallett.

    He is a fierce leader who can take control of the huddle. He is mobile in a pocket, but he's not athletic enough to run for chunks of yardage if needed. He keeps his head downfield, so he stands tall in a collapsing pocket. 

    Some teams worry about Mallett's character and question his ability to take coaching because of a lack of maturity, and there have also been allegations of drug use. If these concerns never rear their heads in his entire career, Mallett has the ability to be a franchise player who has the skills to get to Canton.

    Let's compare him to the other quarterbacks who may get selected early.

Blaine Gabbert

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    TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Missouri Tigers drops back to pass during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes  at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers 27-24.  (P
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Gabbert has everything a team wants physically from a quarterback, but it may be many years before he's ready to lead an NFL offense. He is a product of a spread offense and never took snaps under center or made progressions in the pocket.

    He plays smart football and has good arm strength along with very good mobility and elusiveness. He could bee the first quarterback drafted.

    Gabbert has a quick release and is a leader and a hard worker. He can trust his arm too much and take too many chances—he tends to gamble. He needs to work on touch passes over the middle and he doesn't throw an accurate deep ball.

    Not only will he need to learn a pro-style offense, some scouts notice he doesn't have a great feel for a pocket crumbling around him. This is someone who really shouldn't play until 2013 because he has so much work to do.

Cameron Newton

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Cameron Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers scrambles against the Oregon Ducks during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Peters
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Newton is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in draft history. He possesses a fast, sound release with enough arm strength to throw a deep out. He has excellent size and is a huge threat once he takes off running.

    But he ran a very simple offense in his college. He didn't make pro-style reads or go through progressions. His footwork needs a lot of refining and his accuracy is inconsistent. 

    Newton is a competitor and can be a vocal leader. He has character concerns as well as issues away from the field. He could be the first quarterback drafted because of his combination of height, strength and speed. 

    He doesn't give up and the ability to cover huge amounts of real estate by his arm or feet is very attractive. He does not always anticipate his receivers getting open and has a lot of work to do on his mechanics.

Jake Locker

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    EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 6: Injured quarterback Jake Locker #10 of the Washington Huskies watches the action from the bench in the third quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 6, 2010 in Eugene, Oregon. The Ducks won the g
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Locker hurt his draft stock by staying another year in college, and some scouts think he did little as a player to improve from last year.

    Specifically, NFLDraftScout.com said Locker "entered the year as the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick, but didn't make the improvement reading defenses or accurately placing passes evaluators anticipated he could."

    While he is a gifted athlete, he hasn't always produced to the expected level his talent is supposed to allow him to get to. He has good arm strength, but he can be very erratic with his accuracy.

    Some scouts question whether or not Locker will be a starting quarterback in the NFL, let alone a productive one. He has also been banged up a lot in college due to his style of play.

    Locker is tall and muscular to go with his athleticism. He is a fiery leader whose competitive streak has the admiration of all scouts. It is possible someone will gamble and draft him in the first round. 

    But whoever does draft him has a lot of work to do and will hope it pays off one day. 

Christian Ponder

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    TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 27:  Christian Ponder #7 of the Florida State Seminoles throws for a first down during a game against the Florida Gators at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Ponder seems to be a good fit for a West Coast scheme. He has good footwork and excels in the short passing game.

    He might be a starter one day if he is allowed to sit and learn for a few seasons. He is mobile and able to make plays out of the pocket. He is a tough guy who has decent arm strength.

    Ponder has been getting more notice lately, but he will probably get snagged in the second round. It is highly doubtful he will go earlier.

    He has sound technique and shows great leadership abilities with physical and mental toughness. But he makes poor decisions too often and he seems to lack awareness. He locks on his primary receiver too often, then forces the issue by attempting passes he shouldn't make.

    Ponder makes incorrect pre-snap reads too often and doesn't throw a good deep ball with much accuracy. His poor decision-making is frustrating to some, thus the reason he needs to sit and lean awhile. 

    He also has an injury history that is likely to concern any interested teams.