NFL Draft 2011 Quarterback Edition: Grading Winners and Losers of the QB Draft
I previously wrote this article where I tried to match the QBs of the draft with their best possible landing spot.
Now the draft is over, and 12 QBs have found themselves a new home. Some found themselves in a better position than others and some teams got luckier than others.
Surprisingly, Pat Devlin and Scot Tolzien didn't find themselves a new home in the draft and the QB needing teams the Bills, the Dolphins, the 49ers, the Redskins, the Seahawks and the Cardinals left the draft with unfinished business.
The Carolina Panthers Select Cam Newton with the First Pick of the Draft
There seems to be a general consensus among professional commentators that the Carolina Panthers had no choice but to select Cam Newton with their first pick.
And there is the same general consensus that Newton is a high risk/high reward pick, if there ever was one.
I think the Panthers have put Newton in an almost impossible situation to succeed.
The Panthers are going to put an, although physically extremely gifted, but also very inexperienced QB:
- in a totally new offense,
- with an entirely new coaching staff
- in a lockout situation that could mean very little practice time
- behind a questionable offensive line,
- supply him with some mediocre receivers (with Steve Smith is on his way out)
- and although he is going to have a solid running
- ask him to carry the team on his shoulders as the savior of the franchise.
For any rookie QB this sounds like an absolutely lose-lose situation.
Add to this the scrutiny and at times horrible attacks on this kid's character and personality, and I think you have mixed a cocktail of explosive disaster.
I think the Panthers have made a horrible decision, not only for the franchise but also for Newton.
And this is not a knock on the man and football player Cam Newton. He has unlimited potential, and although he at times seems immature, he also comes across as a very likable young man with a passion to become a great football player.
The way the Panthers have handled the QB situation from releasing Jake Delhomme, to the pick of Jimmy Clausen and to selecting Newton has, in my mind, been absolutely horrible.
Now, if Newton shows that he can perform and lead the Panthers to anything better than the 2010 2-14 season, I will bow my head in respect.
How great it would be if this kid ends up as a success story in Carolina.
Grade D: Cam Newton is a boom or bust player if there ever was one. I think he landed in a pretty awful situation, on a team he has to carry on his back.
The Buffalo Bills Rewards Ryan Fitxpatrick with Trust, for Leading the Way
In the darkest hour of the Buffalo Bills Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped up, took the reigns and led the Bills. With Fitzpatrick, the Bills showed that they could at least be competitive and that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
I think the Bills did the right thing by not selecting a QB in the draft and instead focusing on the biggest areas of need.
The Bills will undoubtedly still be picking in the top 10 in the 2012 and 2013 draft, and they will soon be ready for the young franchise QB.
Grade B: I think the Bills did a great job of sticking with the guy, who came through for them when it counted the most. That's good management.
The Cincinnati Bengals and Andy Dalton, the Right Time and the Right Price
After a season where the Bengals should have tasted success late in the playoffs, they instead crashed and burned.
The three characters that should have provided the playoff spark: T.O., No. 85 and Carson Palmer failed miserably and are now history with the Bengals.
But the Bengals are still a very solid and competitive team that when healthy, can square off with the best.
If the Bengals can keep the core of the team together for the 2011 season, Andy Dalton is in a perfect situation to start his journey to become the Bengals next franchise QB.
Jay Gruden, the new OC of the Bengals, loves Andy Dalton, and it is not hard to envision Andy Dalton as perfect for the WCO that Gruden will implement.
Dalton will be behind a solid O-line, with a very good running game to support him and not least one of the youngest and most talented receiver groups in the NFL to throw to.
Grade B+: The Bengals did a good job of landing the guy they wanted all along, in a spot with good value for money. Dalton is a perfect fit for their WCO.
The Arizona Cardinals: The Veteran QB Is a Done Deal
After a season of disastrous QB play was over, the Cardinals asked Larry Fitzgerald who he wanted as QB in 2011. The answer was Kevin Kolb or Mark Bulger, probably in that order.
My guess is that, already before the draft, the Cardinals had come to an agreement with Mark Bulger on a one- to two-year contract. This will keep Fitz happy, so that he will sign a new contract in 2012.
That will buy the Cardinals time to develop Skelton into the starter they think he is going to be or buy them time to find the right guy in the draft or free agency.
The Cardinals realize that they don't need a great QB to win the division, they need a dependable guy that can lead the team downfield.
Grade B: When you have two talented youngsters, get a veteran to start and address other needs in the draft.
The San Francisco 49ers: The Master Gets His Apprentice
Jim Harbaugh has shown that he is a master in developing young QBs. So when he spends three picks moving up into the top of the second round to grab Colin Kaepernick, I think it is fair to say that Harbaugh sees something very special in Kaepernick, and that he really wanted him.
Now Harbaugh is smart, so he doesn't want his apprentice to start before he is ready and risk ruining him (are you listening over in Carolina?). So Harbaugh has done what he can to prove to Alex Smith that he doesn't have to leave the 49ers to revive his career.
Kaepernick must think that he has landed in the perfect situation. He is the practically the home-town kid, going to a franchise with all the right building blocks in place to bring in a young QB:
- A head coach who was a QB in the NFL himself, with a history of working with young QBs.
- An offense that is strong enough to protect an inexperienced young QB.
- A team that with decent QB has a good chance of winning the division.
- A fan base that believes in Harbough's skills to find the next franchise QB they are longing for
- An owner who is willing to invest long term.
And what does Kaepernick bring to the 49ers? Unlimited on-field potential that needs to be developed. He has all the intangibles to be a very good leader on and off the field. And if he doesn't pan out, it won't be a disaster for the 49ers. A well calculated risk.
Grade B-: Don't overreach for the QB you like, but when in reasonable range—go get him.
The Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker, a Better Version of Vince Young
Once the dust has settled from the 2011 draft, I think the Locker Shocker will prove to be a great pick for the Tennessee Titans franchise.
I think there are three important reasons why the Titans picked Jake Locker.
1. He fits their offense. He is similar in his tangibles to Vince Young, and this really is a kind of a plug-and-play situation. Run first, play action, stretch the field with the big arm.
2. Lockers intangibles are totally different than Young's. He is a hard worker, solid social background, a leader on the field and a winner who will do whatever it takes to win.
3. Finally, I think he fits the locker room perfectly, no pun intended, the Titans are a tough bunch of guys, who will respect Locker's toughness and his humble approach.
I think Jake Locker will flourish on a team where he will have proper protection, a great running game and some decent receivers. Then I think we will see a much improved accuracy and completion percentage from Locker.
Without the lockout, I think Locker would have been able to start from day one. But with the current situation, it would make a lot of sense for the Titans to bring back Kerry Collins to start at the beginning of the season and to mentor Locker.
There is of course a risk picking a QB this high, but like with Tim Tebow last year, I think we can be sure that there will be no one working harder than Locker and no one playing with a higher will to win than Locker.
Grade B+: When you see the perfect match, don't hesitate.
The Jacksonville Jaguars: Blaine Gabbert Taking the Jaguars to the Next Level.
The biggest surprise of the Jaguars selecting Blaine Gabbert was that the Redskins didn't select him. Some commentators even had the Redskins trading up for Gabbert with the Broncos prior to the draft.
If the Jaguars think that Gabbert is their future franchise QB, I think they made a great move. Gabbert is young and has all the tools and some good intangibles, but he also has a lot to learn about running a pro-style offense.
The Jaguars can ease Gabbert into the starting position behind David Garrard, not playing him before he is ready. And with the lockout that could be decisive for Gabberts success in Jacksonville.
Gabbert can do everything Garrard can on the field and has similar trends as a mobile QB who can throw on the run, so the Jaguars wont have to change that much in their playbook to adapt it to Gabbert.
Grade B+: For not hesitating at the opportunity to get the highest rated QB in the draft.
On a personal note though, I can't understand why the Jaguars didn't trade for Tebow in 2010 for their 2011 first-round pick, because they knew they would have to get a QB soon. But that's really another story.
The Houston Texans: Finding the Young Backup with All the Right Intangibles
With Matt Shaub, the Houston Texans are set at QB and also have experienced backups.
The selection of Yates signals that the Texans are keeping their eyes open to finding the unexpected talent. In that way, Yates could emerge as the next Matt Shaub.
Yates has proved that he can perform and be the leader on a North Carolina team with lots of turmoil off the field. He doesn't have very good arm and isn't very athletic, but he has done great with the talents he has.
Yates is a great example of what I think is a QBs most important assets—the right intangibles.
Yates is in the right position to earn himself a backup role, and maybe the professional training day in and day out, could improve his arm enough to make him a legitimate starter down the road. Don't bet against a guy who has constantly improves throughout his career and has proved that he can perform under pressure.
Grade B-: For getting the perfect backup to Matt Shaub and a smart one that will absorb and learn.
The Minnesota Vikings Had No Choise but to Reach for Ponder
The Vikings needed a QB who can step in right away, lead the team and be a QB they can build around for the future.
Christian Ponder is arguably the most pro-ready QB of the 2011 QB class. His skill set is a perfect match for the Vikings WCO, and he has all the intangibles that you look for in a franchise QB.
Was Ponder a reach at No. 12, yes definitely, but did the Vikings really have another choice if Ponder was the QB they wanted ? Ponder could very well have gone to the Redskins, the Dolphins and the Seahawks later in the first round and teams like the Bills, the 49ers and the Bengals could also have traded up for Ponder from the second round.
So if the Vikings hadn't selected Ponder at 12, they would have had to package a lot of picks to trade back up for him in late in the first round and they still wouldn't have been sure to get him. Just look at how much the 49ers had to give up to move up to get Colin Kaepernick in the second round.
Ponder is a smart QB, that can learn the system quickly and has the intangibles to step in as a leader on and off the field. He will enter an offense that is built to win now, with good protection, an excellent receiver group and an elite running game. In other words an excellent setting for a young QB.
Ponder will not have to carry the team, but he can be the game manager who follows the game plan and let the great playmakers around him do their magic.
It is being argued that the Vikings will make a move for McNabb to be the starter in 2011. With the lockout, that would make some sense. McNabb could also be the mentor for Ponder until he is ready to take over.
I think the Vikings made the right move for the future, and I really don't think they had a better option, if Ponder was the guy they wanted.
Grade B: For having the insight and courage. Knowing that if they wanted Ponder, it was a better deal to pick him at 12, than to trade up for him in the bottom of the first round.
The Miami Dolphins, with Little Room to Maneuver They Kept Cool.
Prior to the draft, there was a lot of debate about the Dolphins wanting to move on from QB Chad Henne.
Instead the Dolphins chose to do the smart thing in a lockout situation and stick with what they know.
Henne didn't have a horrible 2010 season, but he failed to prove that he can get the job done in the red zone and when the game is on the line.
So when none of the top QBs fell to them in the first round and without a second-round pick, the Dolphins elected to pick players who will improve Henne's chance of succeeding.
I hope, for Henne's sake, that Brian Dabol will do a better job with the Dolphins than he did for the Browns.
However, I think they could have taken a flier on Tyrod Taylor to push Henne. Taylor has shown that he can perform when it counts, both with his arm and with his feet. He reportedly would have loved to go to Miami. They could have selected Taylor in the sixth round instead of FB Charles Clay.
Grade C+: For making all that noise about getting a new starting QB and then do nothing about it.
The Washington Redskins: No QB Was a Big Surprise
While several commentators days before the draft reported that the Washington Redskins were looking to trade up for Blaine Gabbert, I was never in doubt that the guy Mike Shanahan really wanted was Jake Locker.
Well we will never know if Locker was the guy Shanahan wanted, but we for sure know that it wasn't Blaine Gabbert. When Gabbert fell to the Redskins at No. 10, it looked like a done deal. But the Redskins chose to trade down with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who selected Blaine Gabbert.
In the first round, Cam Newton and Locker went off the board before Shanahan could get his hands on them, Gabbert wasn't a fit and Christian Ponder went earlier than everybody predicted.
In the second round, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick were quickly of he board, and that left Shanahan with Ryan Mallet, who does not have the mobility that Shanahan likes and Ricky Stanzi, who wasn't a major improvement over John Beck.
The Redskins draft is a good example of what could have happened to the Minnesota Viking if they hadn't drafted Ponder at No. 12.
This leaves the Redskins with only John Beck on the roster. And although Shanahan claims that he really likes Beck and that Rex Grossman will probably be back, the Redskins are now heading into the 2011 season without a legitimate franchise QB—not a situation predicted by many before the draft.
Personally, I think Shanahan should have taken a shot drafting Tyrod Taylor with one of the Redskins two sixth-round picks. Taylor is mobile, a great athlete, has shown great production both with his arm and feet and except for his size, seems like a great fit for Shanahan's system.
It will be interesting to see how the Redskins will address the QB position in free agency, maybe Shanahan thinks he can straighten out Vince Young?
Grade B: When Shanahan couldn't get the QB he wanted (Locker), he converted the 10th pick to draft picks.
The New England Patriots: Is Ryan Mallet an Investment or a Pick for the Future?
Ryan Mallet's off-field issues must have scared a lot of teams since the by far best thrower in this year's draft could fall to the third round.
It didn't take long for Bill Belichick to see the value pick of grabbing Mallet in the third round. Not only does Mallet posses most of the same traits as Tom Brady in his on-field performance, but if the Patriots can develop this young man into a real man and straighten him out, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see Mallet take over from Brady, when that time comes.
A more likely scenario is probably, that Bill Belichick, in the preseason games will show Mallet off and lure some team to give up a first-rounder in 2012 for Mallet.
With out a doubt Mallet has landed in the perfect situation to prove everybody wrong. He can learn from his big idol and arguably the best QB in the history of the NFL. He is going to be in an organization that will protect him and help him to get over his off field issues.
Finally, he can be sure that teams will be watching him develop with the Patriots and that Belichick won't shy away from trading him if the right offer comes in.
The Patriots made a great deal by selecting Mallet. They made a small investment in what could turn out to be Tom Brady's heir or at the very amount in good trade. The risk of Mallet busting in the Patriots system, to me, seems remote. Mallet is young and immature, and the Patriots have a great track record of dealing with troublesome characters.
Grade A+: For taking the best passer in the draft, a Tom Brady fan and putting him in the best possible organization to deal with his off-field issues. Oh yes, and getting Mallet in the third round.
The Kansa City Chiefs: The Obvious Pick of Ricky Stanzi
The Chiefs have committed themselves to Matt Cassel, but they definitely need a qualified backup as was evident when Matt Cassel went down with injury in 2010.
The Chiefs went out and drafted Ricky Stanzi in the fifth round, in what could prove to be a great pick for the future. Stanzi has all the intangibles that the Bill Belichick scouting tree in Kansas City will be looking for. He has a lot of experience in a pro-style offense, skills that can be worked with and improved as he has done all through his career in college
Stanzi can sit for a couple of years behind Cassel and at the very least become a good backup, but I wouldn't bet against him taking over at some point.
Grade B+: For picking the right guy, at the right time, for the perfect offense, in the right organization.
The Seattle Seahawks: Do They Already Have a Deal in Place ?
The Seattle Seahawks were another team that was projected to come out of the 2011 draft with at least a developmental QB to play behind Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst.
And with Pete Carroll's great first draft in 2010, I for one had high expectations for the Seahawks ability to find a great prospect for the WCO.
Instead, the Seahawks left the 2011 draft without a QB and had a quite unspectacular draft.
The Seahawks seems to be in a very similar situation to the Redskins, with an unspectacular QB on their roster and a veteran on the down swing that might come back.
There have been rumors that the Seahawks have been in very close talks with the Eagles about a trade for Kevin Kolb. The Seahawks have been known to be aggressive in trading for players, and Kevin Kolb seems like a great fit for the Seahawks. A 2012 first-rounder should do the trick.
However, I'm surprised that the Seahawks didn't at least sign Pat Devlin who fell through the draft. Devlin's accuracy and good decision making would have been a nice fit for the Seahawks—well, in my mind.
Grade C: For not finding a place for a young QB in a terrible draft.
The Baltimore Ravens: Tyrod Taylor Complementing Joe Flacco
With Marc Bulger on his way to the Arizona Cardinals (or so it seems) the Baltimore Ravens had room for a young developmental QB on their roster.
With the selection of Tyrod Taylor in the sixth round, the Ravens got themselves a young, self confident QB, with the production to backup his confidence. The following stats from cbssports.com underlines that in his senior season, he threw for 2,521 yards and 23 touchdowns with just four interceptions on 172-of-284 passing. Has also rushed for 637 yards and five scores.
Except from being right-handed, Taylor has been labeled as the second coming of Michael Vick. But although there are many similar physical traits, Taylor has proven that he is much more of a passing QB than Michael Vick was when he came out of college.
The biggest knock on him is his size, 6'1'', and some have him projected more as a receiver or a wildcat QB. Taylor himself is very determined that he is going to be a QB in the NFL.
With the selection of Taylor the Ravens weren't looking for a QB with similar traits as Joe Flacco. Taylor, in many ways, is more of a complement to the rather stationary Flacco and his big arm. If there is going to be a place for Taylor in the Ravens offense, it could be as situational QB when the Ravens want to present a dual threat to opposing defenses.
Flacco or not, I actually think Taylor could be pretty good in the Ravens run-first offense, with Ray Rice and Taylor forming a pretty good dual-threat combo.
Grade C+: I'm not sure I get the picture unless the Raves actually intends to bring in Taylor in special packages.
The Chicago Bears: Mike Martz Fell in Love with Nathan Enderle at the Combine
Reportedly, Mike Martz stopped the first time he saw Nathan Enderle throw at the combine and noted that this was a special player. From the scouting report on Enderle, I think its easy to see why Martz liked him.
In Martz complicated offensive scheme, a player with Enderles compact and quick throwing motion, great accuracy and excellent pocket awareness would be an excellent fit. Enderle seems to have it all to make it in the NFL, except he only has average arm strength.
Nathan Enderle fits perfectly in the Chicago depth chart behind Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie, with Tod Collins the odd man out.
I'm not sure that Jay Cutler is a great fit for Martz offensive scheme, although I think Martz helped Cutler a lot, getting the ball out quickly. (Actually I think the Bears should trade Cutler to the Redskins and Shanahan for two first round picks)
Nathan Enderle will get a chance to learn and prove himself and maybe down the road get the chance to be the starter.
Grade B-: For giving talent a shot at developing, although there is a long way to becoming a starter.
The New York Jets: Greg McElroy, the Smart Gamemanager
Greg McElroy is a smart game-manager who with his intelligence and ability to take good care of the football will be at least a very good backup in the NFL.
McElroy probably won't go out and win games for your team, but he, in all likelihood, won't lose any games for you either. To become a starter, McElroy still has to work on his throwing motion and arm strength.
I think that McElroy is a perfect fit for the New York Jets run-first, pound the ball offense and Rex Ryan's philosophy of taking care of the football.
McElroy will be able to push Sanchez in the film room and on the board and could definitely be an asset holding the clipboard on game day.
Although Sanchez is the undisputed starter, I think McElroy will be able to push him going forward. And if Sanchez doesn't give Ryan the ball security and performance on the field, McElroy could get a shot down the road.
At the very least, McElroy will get a chance to prove to other teams that he can be a starter. For a team looking for that smart game manager, McElroy could very well be the guy behind center in two to four years.
Grade A: For finding the perfect backup, that fits the offensive strategy and philosophy.