NFL Draft 2011: Rookie QB Booms and Busts
A total of 12 quarterbacks were selected in the 2011 NFL draft, ranging from Cam Newton of Auburn being selected first overall to the Carolina Panthers to Greg McElroy being selected by the Jets at 208th overall.
NFL Scouts have one of the most cruel, yet rewarding professions in all of the world. They dedicate countless hours into each prospect. Going to pro days, organizing workouts, traveling to college games, scheduling meetings, and watching endless hours of film.
All of that blood, sweat, and tears boil down to three days of the year. Sometimes guys who the scouts like, fall and they get great value in a future superstar. At other times, guys they value and take high end up being nobodies and never see the field again.
Let's take a look at which QBs taken in the 2011 draft will end their careers as either a boom... or a bust.
BUST No. 1: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
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Andy Dalton, TCU
Drafted: Cincinnati Bengals | Round 2, Pick 35 Overall
The first strike against Andy Dalton is the fact that he got drafted by the Bengals. Cincinnati is a team that needs to completely rebuild its offense. The Bengals started that process this year in the draft by taking Georgia WR AJ Green and Dalton with their first two selections.
The Bengals seem completely content with starting Dalton from day one, which is a huge mistake. I would make Dalton sit with a full offseason of workouts, training camp and preseason. But with the NFL's current labor issues, Dalton will have limited time to learn his playbook, get familiar with his teammates and get that chemistry started.
To top it all off, Dalton is going to be forced into a leadership position form the get go, which is going to be an extremely difficult role to take on with the limited time with his teammates.
Dalton is a good athlete, as far as QB's go. He has the escapability that QB's such as Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger possess. He has the arm to make all the throws, and has pretty good accuracy as far as this draft class is concerned.
On the other side of things. Dalton is going to struggle identifying blitzes and recognizing his hot reads. Even if he does realize where he needs to get the ball, he gets antsy and overthrows. He will be blitzed like crazy in the NFL.
He also has a tendency to get off balance. The end result is similar to what Donovan McNabb does. Make off balance throws, and the ball finds itself in the dirt, 10 feet in front of his receiver.
Dalton will really struggle his rookie year, and I think that could mess with his psyche a little bit. At best, he might be a decent backup guy. But the scenario I find most likely is that he busts completely and finds himself without a team in five or so years.
BOOM No. 1: Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
Drafted: Jacksonville Jaguars | Round 1, 10th Overall
After the college football season ended, Blaine Gabbert came out of virtually nowhere and was often heralded as the best QB of this draft class. While I don't agree that he is the best QB of this class (and no, my vote wouldn't go to Newton either), he didn't jump all that way because he didn't have the talent.
I am a big believer in the philosophy that you take a QB in the draft. You sit him on the bench for a year or longer to just act as a sponge. Soak up all the information you possibly can. Come back in your second season, work hard and get ready to take the league by storm. Blaine Gabbert will be able to do exactly that, riding pine to David Garrard for a year.
And that isn't to say guys can't succeed from day one, because there is certainly precedent for that. But it certainly isn't the norm. Starting rookie QBs usually has disastrous results. Most people have begun to think otherwise with recent draft selections like Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco.
Gabbert has a great arm and has the ability to make any throw on the football field. He is going to struggle some, taking snaps from under center, but that is something you can learn and get better at. He has all the intangibles that scouts look for.
He is a football savvy QB with above-average athletic ability. One of his strongest assets is his ability to "feel" pressure, and he knows when he has to get he ball out quick.
Gabbert has a lot of potential, and I am confident that a year on the bench will do him wonders. He will end up being the Jaguars' franchise QB.
BUST No. 2: Ryan Mallett, New England Patriots
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Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
Drafted: New England Patriots | Round 3, 74th Overall
Two words: Ryan Leaf.
There is no doubt in my mind that Ryan Mallett will be a bust in the NFL. It is a true sign of how far the league has come, seeing Ryan Mallett drop into the third round of the NFL draft.
Ryan Mallett is Ryan Leaf incarnate. He has all of the physical tools and intangibles on the college level. He has the arm, the build and pocket prowess to, theoretically, dominate the NFL. Mallett is a great collegiate QB, without a doubt.
However, his amazing ability to find trouble will end up being a major contributing factor in his development as an NFL quarterback. Just watching him conduct interviews, you can tell he has a God Complex. I can't imagine him being a noble teammate on or off the field. He will battle adversity and respond negatively. An implosion, if you will.
Opposing teams are licking their chops at the thought of getting to and sacking Mallett. He can't decipher the blitz, he isn't very athletic and really can't move very well. If defensive coordinators can get into Ryan Mallett's head, they have the game won.
With that said, if there is any team out there that even has a remote chance at rehabilitating Mallett and molding him into an NFL QB, it's The Hoodie and the Patriots.
BOOM No. 2: Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
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Jake Locker, Washington
Drafted: Tennessee Titans | Round 1, 8th Overall
I will start by saying that I definitely think the Titans reached by selecting Locker eighth overall, but obviously I am not sure how highly other teams around the league ranked him.
Locker has the physique, intangibles and skill set NFL teams look for in a franchise QB. He has the arm, the athleticism, the game-day savvy. Everything. He can sit in the pocket and shred defenses. If he is feeling pressure, he can escape it, bootleg and make a big play.
He is a a big, physical QB. And while toughness is something you look for in football players, it is also one of Locker's weaknesses in some sense. Watching game tape of Locker, he will put run through the line, lower his shoulder and deliver the boom to collegiate linebackers and safeties. The results were usually to the tune of fireworks for Locker and Washington, but if he cherishes his NFL career, he is going to have to learn to hit the sideline or slide.
My biggest knack on Locker, and most of this draft class of quarterbacks, is that he simply isn't ready yet. He and his talents are very raw. Ideally, he would be able to take a year or more sitting on the bench in Tennessee refining his skill set.
Unfortunately, I am not sure how likely that scenario is. Locker will have more success in his rookie year than other QB's from this class, but he would absolutely benefit from sitting.
Jake Locker will be a great QB, and will leave the others of this class in his dust.
BUST No. 3: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
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Cam Newton, Auburn
Drafted: Carolina Panthers | Round 1, 1st Overall
Let me preface this by saying that I don't think Cam Newton winds up as a downright awful player in the NFL. I think he will be an adequate QB who has the ability to lead the Panthers to some wins, and even the playoffs.
Now through the eyes of many, that wouldn't qualify as a "bust." But you have to realize the weight of this situation. You don't take average players with the first overall selection in the draft. You don't take a quarterback first overall to go to the playoffs. You don't fork over, probably, close to $50 million guaranteed to a mediocre quarterback.
Newton is one of the most athletically gifted quarterbacks in draft history. Add to the fact that he isn't too bad in the pocket, and you have a winning recipe. Speaking of winning, it's all Cam Newton knows. The kid wins, one way or another.
What really concerns me is Newton's ability to grasp a large amount of information at once and then being able to dictate that information to others.
While watching Jon Gruden's QB camp on ESPN, Newton was asked to recall a play from Auburn's playbook. He looked lost, confused and out of his league. He couldn't even muster a half answer before Gruden chimed in, effectively saving him from further embarrassment.
Now add the fact that the Panthers' new offense has a playbook that is, get this, 900 pages. There is no way that Cam Newton is going to be able soak up that playbook and run the Panthers offense effectively.
For Newton to be successful, he is going to need a lot of consistency. Getting a new coordinator or head coach every couple years will have him running down the train to bustdom.
BOOM No. 3: Ricky Stanzi, Kansas City Chiefs
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Ricky Stanzi, Iowa
Drafted: Kansas City Chiefs | Round 5, 135th Overall
Ricky Stanzi is nowhere ready to sit under center and lead a football team in the NFL. But his potential is immense.
Stanzi is very raw, and he has struggled with consistency during his time as Iowa's starting quarterback. He has the size that scouts drool over and the arm that leaves them in awe to go with it. He is extremely athletic and is able to escape pressure and make big-time plays.
Another quality that you have to love in Stanzi is that he is a team-oriented guy. He loves his teammates, and they love him back. He commands his offense not with egotism, but with authority and respect. He's a leader, and a guy who would have been great for any locker room, as a starter or bench player.
The Kansas City Chiefs got amazing value by selecting Stanzi in the fifth round. And mark my words, he will be their starting quarterback in time. He will have the ability to sit behind Matt Cassel for two or three years and soak up all information needed to succeed.
As he grows and matures as a quarterback, so will the Chiefs' chances of winning football games. As I see it, in a few years, there will be a quarterback battle between Stanzi and Cassel, with Stanzi coming out victorious.
Now, don't get ahead of me. If Stanzi were unfortunate enough to be in the position of an Andy Dalton or a Cam Newton—a situation in which he was thrown into the fire, and start from day one—his NFL career would go up in flames.
Luckily for Stanzi, he has a luxury that many do not have.
The Best...and Worst of the Rest
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There you have it, my biggest booms and busts of the 2011 NFL draft QB class. The order in which I ranked the quarterbacks has no relationship to how big of a boom or bust I expect them to be, mind you. For example, just because I put Andy Dalton as Bust No. 1 doesn't necessarily mean that he will be a bigger bust than the other QB's listed.
Agree? Disagree? Any names that should have been listed that you didn't see?
Now it's time for a very quick glance at he rest of the class to see how they will fare.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
NEUTRAL: I think he will end up being a decent quarterback as long as the new Harbaugh in town knows how to utilize his talents. He won't be taking the league by storm, however.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
BOOMish: Ponder is the most NFL-ready QB of this class. I hate the Vikings, but love the selection. He will be a Rookie of the Year candidate, but will need to stay healthy to have a career worth talking about.
Tyrod Taylor, Baltimore Ravens
BUST: I just don't have any reason to think otherwise. He will be buried on the Ravens roster. And in the end, they will probably try molding him into a gimmick QB.
Nathan Enderle, Chicago Bears
NEUTRAL: Enderle has a ton of upside. He will be sitting behind Jay Cutler, which should help him develop as long as he doesn't inherit the JAY BOMB (wild duck of a deep ball that will obviously get picked). Holding him back is the fact that the Bears have a lot of capable talent at the QB position on their roster right now. If given the opportunity, down the road, he could be pretty good.
Greg McElroy, New York Jets
BOOM: Steal by the Jets front office. I am not impressed by Mark Sanchez or his body of work thus far. Rex Ryan doesn't need a Tom Brady under center. McElroy will turn out to be the game manager that Rex wants and needs to get to the Super Bowl. McElroy, in my opinion, will unseat Sanchez as the Jets starter in a couple years.
Taylor Yates, Houston Texans
BUST: I see Yates as a long-term project. He has some ability, but it's going to take a lot of coaching to unleash. He could be one of those edge-starter, career-backup types.