2011 NFL Mock Draft: Where Do Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert Fit in Top 10?

Matt KrummelCorrespondent IIApril 26, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft: Where Do Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert Fit in Top 10?

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    It’s official.

    I have now read more analysis, watched more footage and perused more NFL mock drafts than is normal or reasonable for someone not preparing to actually draft a player on Thursday.

    Such is the life of a diehard football fan.

    Much of the hype surrounding this year’s draft is centered on the quarterbacks that are likely to be drafted in the first round.

    Beyond the hype, most of the insanity is focused squarely on two young men: Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert.

    They are the anointed ones, the guys who will be drafted with the expectation that they will be the face of their new franchise for the next decade.

    I don’t envy them.

    Few QBs are ready to play as rookies in the NFL, and when they are thrown into the fire too early, the results are often disastrous.

    But here we are anyway, with two quarterbacks that played systems in college that didn’t exactly prepare them for the complexity of an NFL offense. Two quarterbacks that will need to improve drastically to be consistent starters. Two quarterbacks that will almost certainly be drafted in the top 10 and be given the keys to the kingdom in short order.

    Let’s mock our way through the top 10 in Thursday's first round and look at where Newton and Gabbert will land (and also where they would actually fit best).

     

    Note: The percentages on the following slides represent the likelihood that a team would draft Newton or Gabbert if either player was available. 

No. 1: Carolina Panthers

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Likelihood of Drafting Newton: 98 percent

    Likelihood of Drafting Gabbert: 1 percent

    By all accounts, Newton is the pick here.

    Carolina’s one-year experiment with Jimmy Clausen is over, and the Panthers apparently don’t think he is their QB of the future. That much I understand.

    Clausen was not good last season, and I think they are right to question his ability to turn into their franchise QB.

    If we assume that to be true though, why in the world would they then turn around and draft another project QB that might be two-three years away from consistent production? Doing so will force them to either shop for a veteran QB while they allow Newton to develop or  throw Newton out there next season with a limited playbook and hope for the best.

    I have a third option. Draft the best player available in Alabama DT Marcell Dareus (who by the way also fills a need for the Panthers), then go out and get one of the veteran QB’s on the market this offseason.

    I know it’s easy to look at Newton’s physical skills and see amazing potential, but remember, that’s the same thinking that led the Oakland Raiders to draft JaMarcus Russell.

    End of rant.

     

    Should Pick: Marcell Dareus

    Will Pick: Cam Newton

No. 2: Denver Broncos

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Likelihood of Drafting Newton: 15 percent

    Likelihood of Drafting Gabbert: 15.1 percent

    Carolina’s mistake may be the Broncos’ good fortune, as Marcell Dareus is likely to fall into their lap. Picking Dareus is the obvious choice here, as the Broncos’ defense ranked 31st in the NFL against the run last season (154.6 yard average per game).

    If Dareus somehow gets picked first though, an interesting scenario will arise.

    VP of football operations John Elway has two quarterbacks in Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton—neither of which he seems to be in love with.

    Most of what I’ve read suggests that if this scenario plays out, the Broncos would go with Newton, but I’m not so sure.

    Gabbert is the more polished passer, and I think Elway will value that higher than raw talent.

     

    Should Pick: Marcell Dareus

    Will Pick: Marcell Dareus

No. 3: Buffalo Bills

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Likelihood of Drafting Newton: 50 percent

    Likelihood of Drafting Gabbert: 50 percent

    The Buffalo Bills are, on paper, well positioned to take on a project QB. Ryan Fitzpatrick has proven to be a serviceable (if unspectacular) starting QB, and his presence would allow Newton or (more likely) Gabbert to spend a year or two on the bench learning the offense and becoming comfortable taking snaps under center.

    Assuming Newton is off the board (which is almost a certainty), I think it could be a coin flip between Gabbert and Texas A&M OLB Von Miller.

    Miller is the most elite pass-rusher in the draft and could step into a starting spot immediately. That said, though, this is the "Year of the Quarterback," and I think it will be tough for the Bills to pass up the opportunity to get perhaps the best QB in the draft.

    I might be arguing against myself a bit here, but I think ultimately the more pressing need at OLB will take precedence, and Miller will be the pick. He is the perfect fit for the Bills' 3-4 scheme.

     

    Should Pick: Von Miller

    Will Pick: Von Miller

No. 4: Cincinnati Bengals

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Likelihood of Drafting Newton: 25 percent

    Likelihood of Drafting Gabbert: 25 percent

    The QB situation in Cincinnati is constantly evolving, which puts both Newton and Gabbert on the radar if either is available to the Bengals. Carson Palmer obviously isn’t happy and probably not going to be the star QB he showed flashes of a few years ago.

    But I just don’t see the Bengals picking a QB here.

    There doesn’t seem to be any conventional wisdom about whom Cincy will select here, but I think the smart pick is LSU CB Patrick Peterson. He is a big, physical player that has the ability to be a shut-down corner from day one in the NFL. It’s tough to pass that up.

    WR A.J. Green is also a possibility here, but I think Peterson gives more value to the Bengals.

     

    Should Pick: Patrick Peterson

    Will Pick: Patrick Peterson

No. 5: Arizona Cardinals

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Likelihood of Drafting Newton: 90 percent

    Likelihood of Drafting Gabbert 95 percent

    Unless Newton free falls, I think the Cardinals take Blaine Gabbert here. Arizona is badly in need of an upgrade at QB, and Gabbert will be the best available option to fill that need.

    If Newton and Gabbert are both off the board, they could look at UNC DE/OLB Robert Quinn to fill a huge pass-rushing hole.

    I doubt they will be able to pass up a chance to draft Gabbert, but I think Quinn is the better selection for the Cardinals.

    If selected, Gabbert will be thrust into the starting role sometime next year—before he’s ready. Arizona would love to draft a franchise QB this year, but I just question whether Gabbert is the guy.

     

    Should Pick: Robert Quinn

    Will Pick: Blaine Gabbert

No. 6: Cleveland Browns

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Likelihood of Drafting Newton: 1 percent

    Likelihood of Drafting Gabbert: 1 percent

    Cleveland is the first team on the draft board that has no real need to look at a QB with their first pick. They have their QB of the future in Colt McCoy (who showed flashes in his first year), and will likely look at a WR or DE with this pick.

    Georgia WR A.J. Green would give the Browns' offense a go-to guy in the passing game, and with his rare combination of height and speed, he could turn into an All-Pro WR.

    If they want to add a pass-rushing DE/OLB, Robert Quinn would be an excellent pick here as well. He is an elite athlete, setting the mark for DE’s at the combine with a 4.62 second 40-yard dash.

    Either would be a great pick, but I think Holmgren will want to diversify his offensive weapons by adding Green.

     

    Should Pick: A.J. Green

    Will Pick: A.J. Green

No. 7: San Francisco 49ers

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Likelihood of Drafting Newton: 95 percent

    Likelihood of Drafting Gabbert: 95 percent

    If I were Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert, I would be praying that I fall to the 49ers.

    It’s very unlikely Newton will fall this far, but Gabbert could find himself on the board when the 49ers are on the clock. If he does, there is little doubt San Francisco will happily scoop him up.

    From a development standpoint, there is no better situation than San Francisco for Gabbert. Alex Smith will be the starter next season, so there won’t be any rush to push him on the field too soon, but it’s becoming crystal clear that Smith will never live up the hype that his No. 1 overall selection afforded him.

    That gives Gabbert a clear avenue to the starting job when he’s ready.

    If both Newton and Gabbert are off the board, look for them to draft either Robert Quinn or Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara. Last season the 49ers ranked 24th against the pass, and either Quinn or Amukamara would help beef up the pass-defense.

    I think Quinn is the pick here. He would be an excellent complement to Patrick Willis in the 49ers' 3-4 base defense and will give San Francisco a formidable front seven next season.

    If the 49ers really want a QB, they could package a couple picks and move up to get Gabbert; Cincinnati at No. 4 would be a strong possibility. They could also trade down in the round to select Washington QB Jake Locker.

     

    Should Pick: Robert Quinn (assuming Gabbert and Newton are gone)

    Will Pick: Robert Quinn

No. 8: Tennessee Titans

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Likelihood of Drafting Newton: 75 percent

    Likelihood of Drafting Gabbert: 75 percent

    With the Vince Young era over in Tennessee, the Titans have a clear need at the QB position. Kerry Collins is 38 years old and is now a serviceable QB at best.

    The problem for the Titans is that they are in a bit of a no-man’s land with the No. 8 pick. If Newton and Gabbert were off the board, it would be a major stretch to select another QB with this pick. That leaves two possibilities: trade down in the first round and select a QB later while stockpiling an extra pick or two, or draft a different position at No. 8 and look for a QB in Round 2 with the 39th pick.

    I could probably be persuaded that both are the right move, but I think they will stay put and draft Auburn DT Nick Fairley.

    Once upon a time, Fairley was at the top of many draft boards, and his upside potential is almost limitless. Questions about his maturity and work ethic have rubbed some of the shine off him, but that shouldn’t be enough to pass on who could be the best defensive lineman to come out of the 2011 draft.

     

    Should Pick: Nick Fairley

    Should Pick: Nick Fairley

No. 9: Dallas Cowboys

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    Jeff Golden/Getty Images

    Likelihood of Drafting Newton: 1 percent

    Likelihood of Drafting Gabbert: 1 percent

    Dallas is another team in the top 10 without the need for a QB. Returning starter Tony Romo is young, and the Cowboys have too much invested in him to go shopping for someone else.

    The most glaring hole Dallas needs to address is with their offensive line. Romo went down early last season with a broken collarbone, and protecting him has to be the top priority for the Cowboys this offseason.

    There has been a lot of talk about Dallas moving down in the first round, and I whole-heartedly agree with that sentiment. Dallas can still get a top OT later in the first round and would benefit greatly from extra picks.

    If they stay put, expect them to select USC OT Tyron Smith. Smith was the fastest OT at the combine (4.88 40-yard dash) and has the prototypical height and arm length for the position. He has some durability concerns, but is far and away the best offensive lineman on the board.

     

    Should Pick: Tyron Smith (if they don’t move down)

    Will Pick: Tyron Smith

No. 10: Washington Redskins

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Likelihood of Drafting Newton: 90 percent

    Likelihood of Drafting Gabbert: 90 percent

    Without Donovan McNabb, the Redskins are a team without a leader. I have yet to hear anyone argue that Rex Grossman is anything other than a stop-gap solution, and the Redskins will likely be looking to draft a QB this weekend.

    Like the Titans, however, the Redskins aren’t well-positioned to get value with a QB selection at No. 10. If they are dead-set on a QB in the first round, they will have to decide whether to move up for Newton or Gabbert, or down for Jake Locker, Andy Dalton or Ryan Mallett.

    If Washington stays in the No. 10 spot, they should draft either Alabama WR Julio Jones or Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt.

    Jones is an amazing athlete, running a 4.34 40-yard dash and posting a 38.5-inch vertical jump at the combine. He will need someone to throw him the ball, but could develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber WR almost immediately.

    Watt has the best motor I have ever seen at the collegiate level. He is absolutely relentless chasing down QBs and doesn’t give up on plays from the backside. He is an exceptional athlete, running a 4.81 40-yard dash and posting a best-in-class vertical jump of 37 inches at the combine.

    I doubt Washington will stay in this spot, but if they do, I think Jones is the pick. His upside potential is through the roof.

     

    Should Pick: Julio Jones

    Will Pick: Julio Jones