2011 NFL Draft: Which QB Is in the Best Position to Win?
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When asked, "What's the most important position in football?", many would instantly reply quarterback.
In a pass-happy league, teams have proven that without an elite signal-caller, you have very little chance at reaching the big game. Let alone win one.
For those reasons, there were many quarterbacks in this draft hopeful to show that they could be the next Sam Bradford. However, something that's almost as important as the quarterback's skills is the situation they are going into. It doesn't matter how good a quarterback is, if his receivers can't catch, has no running game and his O-line can't win in the trenches, then he might as well retire and find a new job.
So which QB is in the best position to even have a chance of becoming a franchise QB? Is it Cam Newton with the miserable Carolina Panthers? Christian Ponder with AP and the Vikings? Or could it be that Jake Locker was actually the big winner? Let's take a look at the quarterbacks taken in the first two rounds and their new homes.
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Cam Newton came in as the most electrifying quarterback in the draft, but also one of the riskiest.
What's worst is that he went to the worst team in the league. Dead-last in total and passing offense, the Panthers are also most likely losing DeAngelo Williams, so Cam doesn't even know who his running back will be. His new offensive line allowed 50 sacks last season, and his only consistent receiver is Steve Smith, who won't be around much longer either. Not to mention his defense isn't much better.
The only things Cam Newton has going for him is he will facing a very weak schedule, excluding having to face the Falcons, Saints and the Bucs in six of their 16 games. He will also not have to win that many games to win the town over. Simply going 3-13 or 4-12 his first year would be enough to satisfy the fans. He will also get the opportunity to start immediately, which could also be considered a bad thing. If that doesn't pan out though, Carolina will be at the top of the draft for at least one more year, where they can fill out other needs for the team. However, Cam Newton only has a few years to impress, and that may not be enough time to collect the talent needed for him to turn Carolina into a playoff team.
Overall, Cam Newton may be in the worst position as far as location, and seems doomed to become a bust regardless of his talent.
Location Grade: 5/10
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One of the biggest surprises of the draft, Jake Locker will be heading to Tennessee to try and revive a team in search of their next franchise QB.
Jake Locker will be heading to a team under new leadership and really underachieved last year. However, he may be in a much better spot than many think. They have decent receivers in Nate Washington and Kenny Gritt, and a good tight end in Bo Scaife. Not mention they have that Chris Johnson guy, who was pretty decent last I checked. Jake will also have Kerry Collins there to back him up and some him the ropes, which will greatly help his growth.
The problem is that their defense struggles to stop anyone, especially with the 29th pass defense in the league. However, with the addition of Akeem Ayers from UCLA to help rebuild that defensive line, and Courtland Finnegan in the secondary, the defense will slowly revive itself to the glory it had just three years ago. The true problem Jake has is the expectations he will be facing. Since he will be paid top-10 pick money, the Titans will be expecting top-10 pick performance, and he will be forced to start almost right away.
At the end of the day, Tennessee isn't actually a bad spot to land for Locker, but it may be too much to handle with the high expectations for him to instantly turn them into a winner.
Location Grade: 8.5/10
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Probably the most scrutinized pick of first round quarterbacks, Christian Ponder will be heading to the Minnesota Vikings where he'll be asked to start day one.
Picked far above his value level, pressure to succeed has increased for Ponder to maybe unrealistic proportions. He will be forced to take over a battered team that will most likely be losing two of their most prolific defensive linemen. He'll have to face the Bears and the Packers twice this season, and if they can stay healthy, the Lions could also prove to be a deadly force themselves. He'll also have to worry about throwing in the cold conditions of Soldier Field and Lambeau Field.
Ponder, however, has a few tools at his disposal. With Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin to throw to, along with Visanthe Shiancoe, will make getting into the game easier. Not to mention Ponder will have Adrian Peterson to hand the ball off to, who alone can actually win them some games himself. Being in a dome will also help with having to play in the cold often.
All and all, Ponder didn't land in the most horrible place on Earth, but he won't have it easy with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Culter torching a suspect defense and starting from day one with insane expectations.
Location Grade: 6/10
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Considered by many to be the best signal-caller in the draft, it was a little shocking to see Blaine Gabbert fall to the 10th, not to mention watching Jake Locker go before him. However, it might have been the best thing that could have happened to him, as Gabbert ended up in Jacksonville.
Unlike the first few QBs on this list, Gabbert won't have to deal with starting right away. He'll have the chance to sit behind David Garrard and have a chance to learn. He also won't have to deal with a strong division like some of the others will. With Maurice-Jones Drew as his running back, he'll have a reliable running game to fall back on just in case he gets thrusts into action early, and this organization also came close to winning the division last year as well.
However, Jacksonville failed to address needs on defense, especially problems with their pass defense that ranked 28th last season. This would make it so Gabbert may need to put up tons of points if forced to start, and without very good wide-outs and only Mercedes Lewis as a reliable target, this may become a problem.
Despite all this, Gabbert is in a much better position then most of the other six quarterbacks, but that doesn't mean he won't have his share of troubles.
Location Grade: 7.5/10
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With Carson Palmer all but gone from Cincinnati, Mike Brown had no choice but to draft a quarterback in this draft. However, instead of wasting a first-round pick on a quarterback from a very weak class, he chose to take Andy Dalton in the early second round.
As those of you who have read my first article know, I campaign for the Bengals to take Ryan Mallet much of the time leading to the draft, though this was due to the fact that I was sure that there was no way Andy Dalton would make it to us in the second round. Not only did he have great leadership skills, but he was a winner and class act, but playing for TCU and issues with his arm strength turned teams away.
Cincy though is a perfect fit for him. Dalton will be in a West Coast offense, one he is already used to, and will have a young cast of WRs and a great tight-end in Jermaine Gresham to throw to and grow connections with. He will also have Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott powering the run game, and Mike Zimmer commanding the Bengals defense. All this along with an extremely weak schedule outside their division, where the toughest team is the Kansas City Chiefs, and I don't think there will be very much pressure to come out the gates looking like Carson.
Thing is, Andy will have to deal with the cold weather of Cincinnati, and with weak arm concerns, will have trouble throwing the ball. Along with the lockout problems, Andy may not have many chances to get the playbook down and build chemistry with his receivers. Another problem is despite the fact that he won't be expected to come out looking like the best quarterback since Peyton Manning, Bengals fans are getting a little fed up, so he will have to be careful how he handles himself. And the biggest problem of all may be that his owner is Mike Brown. Do I need to continue?
In the end, Andy got a very nice deal in Cincinnati, with receivers like A.J. Green to throw to, a defense with great corners, and no need to be an instant star.
Location Grade: 8.5/10
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The Patriots went old school with this pick, and Mallett might just be the luckiest QB in the draft. He's going to a young team that just went 14-2 with very few holes, and will have zero pressure to start right away with Tom Brady leading the way.
However, this can also prove to be very harmful, as he will all but disappear for a while. By the time he actually starts, the other QBs will most likely all have at least a year of starting experience under their belt. Mallett could also be trade bait for a team worse off then any are currently. Also, should Brady fall, New England's offense isn't made to function without an elite quarterback pulling the trigger, and Tom Brady leaves some huge shoes to fill.
There's not much to say for this pick, other then Mallett will have a great chance to sit and learn from an elite trigger man, and has no pressure to succeed outside a huge injury to Brady. However should Brady fall, Mallett must take on what might be an impossible task in replacing a MVP, and will have no help outside of maybe Wes Welker.
Location Grade: 8.8/10
And the Winner Is.....
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Andy Dalton and Jake Locker both made a strong push, but Mallett just barely edged them. With a great program, an elite to learn the ropes from, great fanbase and very low immediate expectations, Mallett no doubt is in the best position to succeed.
In second place would have to be Andy Dalton. Despite not having a veteran there to coach him up, Andy will be playing in a friendly system with an potentially explosive offense and a decent defense. If it weren't for Mike Brown being his owner he might have won.
Despite this, it will still come down to the players' talents whether they succeed or not, but location can sometimes be the thing that pushes them over the top.