In the past 15 years, the NFL draft seems to have become a season unto itself. Even a cursory review of the information landscape reveals hundreds of magazines, sites and blogs dedicated solely to in-depth review of the prospects. We won’t pretend to be as comprehensive in our review, but we will give you our thoughts on guys we think can or will be fantasy factors.
This episode will focus on the top tier of QBs. Subsequent installments will cover tier II of QBs, RBs (Tiers I and II) and WRs (Tiers I and II).
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Cam Newton, Auburn
Saying I don’t like him would be too strong. Let’s say I don’t like him to lead my team to a Super Bowl win.
I understand he’s a physical specimen with a dynamic skill set that won just about every team and individual honor possible. I really do. I also can’t knock him too much for the off-the-field stuff, nor do I seriously downgrade him for the system he played in (one read and run) or the inconsistent mechanics.
So what’s not to like? My bottom line is that I don’t think this prototype translates to the NFL. Between Cunningham, McNair, Vick and the Youngs (Vince and Steve), you have a lot of awesome numbers but only one ring to show for it. Is this fair? Maybe not, but at some point NFL teams are going to have to stop overvaluing guys like this.
Prediction: Top-10 pick that we’ll look back on and call a great college player (for one year) and a mediocre pro.
Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
Gabbert has all the physical tools and has been rising up draft boards for the past month. He has a good pedigree and has produced, so this isn’t (solely) post-combine hype.
The knocks are that he didn’t play in a pro-stye offense and that he makes questionable decisions under pressure (i.e. his pick-six in the fourth quarter of the 2011 Insight Bowl). I think he’s a high-ceiling QB prospect in a schizophrenic group.
Prediction: Someone surprises and he’s gone before pick 15. Has a steady career but doesn’t reach his purported upside.
Jake Locker, Washington
Locker was pegged as a top-10 pick before the 2010 draft season, but instead decided to return to school. That didn’t work out too well, as he’s now projected to go anywhere from the late-first round to the middle of the third.
I feel for the kid because a floor of $30 million guaranteed to a ceiling of $4 million guaranteed is a tough swing (author’s admission: I used to be a guy that wanted players to stay in school to show character or something—stupid).
Physically, Jake has enough size and the right frame to make it in the pros. He’s also legitimately a great athlete with surprising mobility while his intangibles are at least solid. I will downgrade him slightly for playing in the Pac-10 where defense is optional.
Prediction: Locker gains late momentum and is gone by the end of the first round. His story has a nice ending as he becomes a very solid No. 1 guy somewhere.
Christian Ponder, Florida State
Ponder could grow up real fast in a West Coast offense because he’s smart with a somewhat limited arm. However, Mama’s worrying that he won’t last as injuries have hampered both his stock and development. He'll be a great pick if he’s still motoring in the late-second round.
Prediction: I’m not the only one to say he’ll be OK, but his career trajectory could be significantly affected by the team that selects him.
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