2011 NFL Draft Results: Predictions for Cam Newton and the Quarterback Class
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The 2011 NFL draft was supposed to produce a run on quarterbacks. As it turned out, that's exactly what happened.
A total of 12 QBs were selected, four of whom went within the first 12 picks.
Maybe not as many signal callers were chosen in the first round as had been predicted, but for the most part, the rookie QBs wound up in places where they were most likely to find success in the National Football League.
Newton is a high-risk, high-reward type player.
He has a very rare mix of size (6'5", 250 pounds), strength and speed—and you cannot question his heart or desire to succeed.
But his lack of experience is frightening when you consider the scope of the job in front of him.
Newton will compete (so we're told) with incumbent starter Jimmy Clausen for the starting spot, but I think we all know how that so-called battle will turn out.
This is Cam Newton's team now.
Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder
When you're chosen in the first round of the NFL draft, it is done with the intention that you will hopefully be the face of that franchise for a long time. I believe that's exactly what the other three first-rounders will eventually achieve.
Locker is one of the best pure athletes in this draft class, and he'll give Tennessee the option to roll out and use his legs and speed to beat defenses.
He worked extremely hard in his draft prep, and I don't expect him to slack off now that's he found an NFL home.
Gabbert also won't be expected to start right away. I believe that role still belongs to David Garrard. It's his job to lose more than it's Gabbert's to win. So Gabbert will have an opportunity to watch and learn from the veteran—unless, of course, things begin to unravel.
At that point, the inevitable Blaine Gabbert era in Jacksonville will commence.
Until then, Gabbert will have to improve with mental reps come game day—which is fine. A little time with a clipboard won't hurt him. In fact, the lack of pressure he'll experience during his rookie year will only serve to make him a better quarterback later on.
Ponder was widely considered a late first-round or maybe even a second-round pick, so it was a bit of a reach for the Vikes to take him at No. 12.
Nevertheless, an immediate team need was met, and it gives new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave a young QB to develop.
Ponder has all the intangibles necessary to be a starter in the NFL. I can see him initially thriving as a game manager in a Minnesota offense predicated on running the football with Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart.
Like Locker's situation in Tennessee, the Vikes might look for a veteran starter to lead the team until the rookie is ready. But I think Ponder has a better chance of starting on day one than Locker.
In head coach Leslie Frazier's perfect world, that's exactly what will happen.
Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick
For an organization that has made a lot of questionable decisions with its draft choices in the past, this was one of the best picks the Bengals ever made.
Dalton will be a leader and a winner in Cincinnati, just as he was at TCU. He'll also bring some much-needed stability to a locker room that has been open to questionable personalities over the years.
Of course, one player does not a locker room make, but it's a start.
The Bengals are adopting a new West Coast offense this season, and I expect Dalton to run it efficiently—and immediately. Incumbent starter Carson Palmer is all but retired from the Bengals, so this is Dalton's job from day one.
Certainly there will be growing pains, as with any rookie quarterback. Success may not come right away for the Bengals. But as a hopefully strong supporting case begins to form around Dalton, the Bengals should return to playoff form as a challenger in the difficult AFC North.
The story in San Francisco the past...well, since Jeff Garcia was in town, has been a kind of revolving door at the quarterback position. The Niners hope to have put an end to that with the selection of Kaepernick.
Alex Smith was supposed to have been the face of the franchise when he was drafted first overall back in 2005, but that hasn't worked out exactly as planned.
Smith is most likely still going to be the starter this season. After all, first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh won't be running the Pistol offense Kaepernick excelled with at Nevada. He'll need as much time to adjust to life in the NFL as Cam Newton—maybe more.
But you have to love the upside here. Kaepernick is an explosive dual threat with a cannon for an arm. Oh, the possibilities.
One of the biggest surprises of the 2011 NFL draft was the free fall of Ryan Mallett.
Once considered a first-round option—with unquestioned first-round talent—Mallet dropped all the way past quarterback-needy teams (some more than once) to the New England Patriots with the 10th pick in the third round.
Mallett's off-the-field issues and alleged flippant attitude during job interviews led to his demise. But it might be a blessing in disguise.
On one hand, Mallett won't face the pressure of being an immediate starter. Plus, he can watch and learn from one of the best quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady.
The only apparent negative is that Brady doesn't have any plans to give up his starting role any time soon—like the next 10 years.
But it's a good move for the Pats. They had a plethora of picks, so if this acquisition was considered taking a risk, it was probably worth it.
Mallett will be groomed under the tutelage of a future Hall of Famer. If he's not called into unexpected duty because of a Brady injury or retirement, the Pats will have a strong case for his value in a future trade.
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