The 2011 NFL Draft gets closer every passing day, and the pressure is building on both the teams and players in a multitude of different ways. Quarterback is always a hot topic in the draft, and this year the debate's on what player is the best quarterback in the draft rage on.
The general consensus is that the quarterback race comes down to Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert, and Auburn’s Cam Newton.
Now, the question that we are trying to address here is which one of those two quarterbacks is going to get drafted first. It’s a question that is as complicated as it is unknown, but I think that there are a few factors to look at that will give us some solid ground to stand on.
The first and most obvious thing to take into account is the actual teams that will be drafting.
It would be safe to assume that either Newton and Gabbert will go in the top five, and it is almost guaranteed that both will be gone in the first ten picks of the draft.
The team that plays the biggest factor right now is the Carolina Panthers and their No. 1 overall pick. Carolina is a team that has more than one gaping hole to fill on their roster, so the directions that they could go in this draft are almost unpredictable.
The Panthers drafted former Fighting Irish quarterback, Jimmy Clausen, in the 2010 draft though, and they also signed Matt Moore in 2007. As tempting as drafting a quarterback would be, I would have to speculate that they will use their pick to fill a more immediate need.
Denver is next on the board. The Broncos are set at the quarterback position for now, so it is not unfathomable for them to draft one of the big defensive names on the board.
Next up is Buffalo, and this is where it really get’s interesting for our quarterbacks.
The Bills are another team with many needs, but the opportunity to upgrade on current quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, is going to be way too good to pass up on.
I believe that the Bills are going to be the first team to pull the trigger on a quarterback, but now the questions becomes which one.
In order to determine that we have to take a deeper look at both of the quarterbacks and what they will bring to an organization.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Blaine Gabbert is that he is your typical All-American quarterback prospect. He was named a first team Academic All-Big 12 selection, and showed great on and off the field leadership during his time at Missouri.
At 6'4", 234 pounds, he has great size for a quarterback, but he also has above-average speed, and can make his way out of the pocket when pressured.
As a quarterback he displayed great confidence and understanding of the game from a spread system. He didn’t get much time under center, which many see as a detriment for a pro quarterback, but one would assume that a guy with his football IQ could make an easy transition.
He is an accurate passer with his feet planted, but can make throws when off-balance or on the run. He doesn’t have cannon for an arm, but he throws with good velocity and can make any deep throw you ask him to.
Overall, Gabbert is not an overwhelmingly athletic or freakishly skilled quarterback, but he displays the solid fundamentals and mindset that you are looking for in a solid NFL starting quarterback.
Cam Newton on the other hand is a shockingly dynamic player both on and off the field. One could easily say that he is almost the antithesis of Blaine Gabbert.
Newton is the big name in the draft, and is definitely the “sexy pick.”
He led Auburn to the 2010 NCAA National Championship this past year despite being surrounded by controversy and drama.
He throws the ball with a zip and has a very quick release. He has great arm strength and throws a tight deep ball, but he lacks the pin point accuracy you would hope for in a quarterback of his caliber. Newton has been criticized for holding onto the ball in the pocket for too long, and needs to learn how to make better reads.
What Newton lacks in fundamentals he makes up for in raw athletic ability though.
He is a constant threat to run the ball when a play breaks down, and he can run with the type of fluidity and power that would make most NFL running backs jealous. He is very elusive in the open field, but can also use his size and strength to his advantage when running the ball.
Newton possess the type of athleticism that you can’t teach in a quarterback, so if a team is able to get him comfortable as a pocket passer, they might be able to trot out one of the most dangerous weapons this league has ever seen at the quarterback position.
Now, obviously both of these quarterbacks have tremendous upside, and the flaws that they have in their games can definitely be worked on.
In the end of the day the choice is going to come to the preference of a team, and what the organization feels is best for their franchise and city.
My guess is that Buffalo is going to be the team that makes the first run at one of these quarterbacks, but even if Carolina made the choice at No. 1, I think that it would be the same.
In my opinion, Cam Newton is going to go higher than Blaine Gabbert, and no matter where he is picked he will be the first quarterback off the board.
Gabbert is an extremely fundamental quarterback and he will make an excellent professional, but I truly believe the Newton possesses the type of raw athleticism and play-making ability that doesn’t come around too often in a quarterback.
Newton will not only bring his abilities to your team, but he is also going to sell tickets. For an organization that is looking for a boost not only on the field, but also off the field, that becomes a valuable asset.
Both quarterbacks are going to be great in the league, and both would be a solid choice, but I believe that Cam Newton will be drafted higher than Blaine Gabbert.