Lack of consensus is the trademark of the 2011 Quarterback class (part 2)

The only thing more remarkable than Gabbert's sudden rise to the top this offseason is how little he's been talked about while doing it.

Posted by Kip Earlywine

In 2010, Sam Bradford was selected #1 overall.  The next quarterback didn’t leave the board until Denver shocked the world 24 picks later with Tim Tebow.   The consensus #2 quarterback Jimmy Clausen?  He fell into the second half of round two.  In 2009, Stafford went 1st, Sanchez 5th, and Freeman 17th, all of whom were drafted pretty much exactly where draft experts expected them to and in the consensus order they were ranked.  In 2008, Matt Ryan went 3rd and Flacco 18th.   The year before that, Jamarcus Russell went #1, but the Oakland Raiders owned the top pick that year, and no one would argue with you if you thought Al Davis was insane.

I could keep doing this but I’ll stop there- the picture should be coming into focus at this point.  Generally speaking, the draft process is precise enough to order the quarterbacks into clear tiers of talent.  It wasn’t hard for teams to figure out that there was a gulf that separated Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, or Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow.

This year is different.  Among anonymously interviewed NFL front offices, its basically split 50/50 as to who is the top QB between Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert and Auburn’s Cam Newton.  And among top draftniks Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, and Mike Mayock, they can’t even agree on that.  Both Mayock and McShay have Washington’s Jake Locker #2 behind Blaine Gabbert and ahead of Cam Newton.   So who’s the 3rd best QB?  Well depending on who you ask, its usually Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett, but some teams have reportedly put Christian Ponder and Colin Kaepernick as high as 3rd on their QB board.  Mallett in particular is amazingly polarizing, being seen as a top 15 talent by some but ranked as low as the 7th best quarterback by others.  It goes without saying that as you look at the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th best quarterbacks, opinions become even more divided leaving a muddled and confusing mess.  More than a few prognosticators even have TCU’s Andy Dalton ahead of guys like Locker and Mallett.

While its true that “it just takes one team” to make a guy like Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker a top 15 pick, remember that this same logic applies to Christian Ponder and Colin Kaepernick.   I’ve seen more than a few mocks now that have Ponder going in the first round, and people are starting to talk about Kaepernick as a fringe first rounder now as well.  In the SBN authors mock Dan Kelly participated in, the writer for the Jaguars site Big Cat Country selected Christian Ponder with the 16th overall pick, with both Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett still on the board.  And while a fan mock is not going to be a perfect indicator by any means, I think its probably safe to assume that a guy who covers the Jaguars every day wouldn’t be terribly far off on his team’s interests, and it makes for a good example that sometimes players are picked sooner than they are expected to be and some are picked later- just like Tim Tebow and Jimmy Clausen last year.

In truth, we can say with a decent amount of confidence that Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert will probably be top 10 picks.  But after that, it basically becomes a QB raffle.  For example, Washington might like Locker a lot, but what if they like Kaepernick almost as much?  That would allow for the Redskins to draft an elite talent- like Alabama’s Julio Jones, and gamble that one of those two mobile QBs will still be there in the late 1st where trading up would not be terribly costly as teams in that area historically favor moving down.    Minnesota, Tennessee, and Jacksonville all figure to be in the hunt for a quarterback, but who do they like and how much do they like them?

In essence, we should prepare ourselves for the unexpected this draft day, because every single NFL front office thinks at least a little bit differently than the rest, and that is especially meaningful in such a muddy quarterback class.  It would probably be prudent to prepare yourself even for the painful-to-think-about possibility of Christian Ponder becoming a Seahawk with the 25th pick.  Almost everything about him screams John Schneider quarterback, if we use guys like Charlie Whitehurst, JP Losman, and Zac Robinson as the palette.

The remarkable unpredictability of this quarterback class has the potential to either save this franchise or doom it.  And because of that, this could end up being one of the more exciting and gut-wrenching first rounds we’ve had to sit through in quite some time.


  1. Ben H

    Christian Ponder at 25 scares the hell out of me. He would certainly make for an interesting training camp competition with Whitehurst though. I’m starting to come around on Ponder but hope we’d have the good sense to trade down if we want him. Picking at 25 might get pretty tough if Locker, Mallett, Smith, Liuget, and Pouncey are off the board (along with everyone else expected to be gone). Wilkerson has to be the back-up plan but after that… It’s really tough to say. Ponder doesn’t seem so crazy but I’m at least hoping he remains behind guys like Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard on the PC/JS big board.

    Could Locker possibly fall past the Vikings? Could we have a shot at him without trading up too far?

  2. kevin mullen

    Reminds me of the QB class of 2004, that one had above average to elite class QB’s, where this one has more of an average to above average class. Interesting with Pat’s hosting Locker for a couple of days…

    • Kip

      Certainly, this is one of the deepest QB drafts I can ever remember following. People will always remember 1983 and 2004 for the great QBs who came out of those classes, but the next time a deep QB class comes about, I’m sure the 2011 class will be one people will harken to.

      • kevin mullen

        I agree you, depth from this class rivals the 2004 draft. I meant that compared to the 2004 draft, this class has a bunch of C+ to B+ type QB’s.

        In 2004, four QB’s went in the 1st round. Here, we might have 5 to 6 go.

  3. akki

    What you’ve got here is a set of QBs that all have 1 or 2 different flaws (weak arm, lack of mobility, accuracy issues, offensive system, injury prone, character questions), different coaching philosophies on what can/can’t be corrected, and a variety of different offensive systems. It’s no surprise this leads to a lack of consensus.

    Among fans, I feel like there’s certainly a grass-is-greener bias at play. From our point of view, we’ve followed a Seahawks team that in recent years has been led by a qb that runs the offense well, but is one of the least threatening in the league in terms of making a big play with either his arm or legs. We’re ready to add guys who can raise the national profile of the team by making regular appearances on the highlight reels. It’s unsurprising that “poor-man’s Hasselbeck” types like Ponder and Dalton aren’t too popular around here. A Vikings fan I know is high on Ponder and freaked out by the prospect of taking Locker. They’ve already got a big name in Adrian Peterson and he really values a good game manager after going through inconsistent qbs in Favre (save for 2009) and Jackson. And I know a Raiders fan who wouldn’t touch Cam Newton, admitting that he’s loath to taking anyone that has a chance of being a character/chemistry problem no matter the upside, after going through the king of knuckleheads in Jamarcus Russell. You’ve got to think that GMs go through the same thoughts.

    • Kip

      Here’s an article that links Locker to the Vikings:

      Quote: ” “If you polled all 32 teams,” said an AFC personnel executive who has studied this year’s quarterbacks closely, “I bet you the next group of three to five quarterbacks — the Malletts, the Lockers, the Kaepernicks, the Ponders — the grade differential would probably be all over the bottom of the first (round) to the second to the top of the third.

      “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You’ve just got to find the guy that you think that you want and you target him.” “

  4. seasalt

    In mock contest’s I have mocked Ponder to Seattle at #25. I think he is a very underrated QB. I haven’t seen a QB come out that reminded me so much of Joe Montana. Whom I saw a lot of when he played at Notre Dame. If his shoulder hold’s up he is a steal at #25.

    • Rob

      I would disagree strongly, seasalt. In fact, I believe Ponder is vastly over rated.

      For starters – the last sentence really sums it up. “If” his shoulder holds up. How can you justify taking a guy in round one who played (and struggled) throughout 2010 with this issue? He was deemed healthy enough to start after all, it’s not like Sam Bradford where he had the surgery and missed pretty much every minute of his final season at Oklahoma. If the tape doesn’t put you off drafting Ponder in round one, the fact he has such an extensive injury history to his arm should do.

      Secondly, I see absolutely nothing from Ponder’s game to warrant a R1 grade. He locks onto hot reads and consistently throws blind to that receiver without even making an initial read, let alone progressing to a second option. His deep ball is appalling and lacks velocity and placement. His intermediate accuracy is inconsistent. There are too many head scratching moments when he’s made a big mistake, then repeated the same thing moments later. People quote intelligence as a positive and nobody can deny he’s a bright guy off the field and very personable and humble. He doesn’t have a great football IQ though.

      His 2010 season was generally a mess – and reported as such at the time. Only 3/11 times did he throw 200+ yards. People use injuries as an excuse, I use it as a red flag. He had two games against Oklahoma and Boston College that for me were on par with Jake Locker vs Nebraska – yet Locker was playing a much stronger defense with a much weaker supporting cast.

      I stand by my grade on Ponder – career backup at best and a R4/5 grade although I’d only take him in that range if I had a solid starter in place already and was in search of the next Billy Volek. Seattle should avoid Ponder… and Dalton too for that matter. If they want a later option at QB they should wait until the 2nd pick in round four and draft Ricky Stanzi.

  5. woofu

    The Pat’s apparent interest in Locker could be real but given their penchant to think out of the box, that pick is ready made to disrupt things over the next 30 something picks.

  6. seasalt

    I am not that high on Dalton either. I agree on Stanzi in the 4th.That would be a good selection, as the Hawks have many needs. I would prefer a defensive selection in the 1st.

    • seasalt

      Give Whitehurst another year. look out for the 49ers and Ram’s. I think we will be selecting a lot higher next year. A better QB class?

  7. Brandon Adams

    Unexpected picks will happen, but one thing many people are unanimously wrong on are how many QB’s will go in the first round. Most people say two or three. I’m bracing myself for five and praying that Seattle will not be the fifth, reaching for second-tier talent.

    • Matt

      Completely agree. I sincerely hope we pass on the Dalton/Ponder train. Not eager to get Hasselbeck 2.0 where there’s no consistent intermediate threat thanks to no arm strength (or velocity) in the passing game.

      I’d rather take a mid round flier on a Stanzi or Enderle or Portis with little to no expectation, but with a much higher upside than the second tier guys (excluding Kaepernick, who is extremely raw, big project).

      I agree with some of the other posters. If we don’t get “our” guy this year, just let Charlie Whitehurst start and see what you got. Not that I am expecting Tom Brady, but we will get a definitive answer on what he can do. Either way, end up with a high pick and get a top notch guy next year, or Whitehurst is pretty good and you got something. Either way, I am not dying to eek out a 7 win season and screwing ourselves yet again in the QB market.

  8. Dude


    Last year it looked like four QBs would go in the first two rounds. Bradford and Clausen in the first and Tebow and McCoy in the Second. Only three of them made it in those rounds and not in the order most had projected.

    I would like to know what you think of the prospects this year compared to last years top four.

    There obviously is no Bradford here, but Locker and Mallet seem like better prospects then Tebow and Clausen.

    • Kip

      Thanks for the question.

      I haven’t scouted ANY of the QBs yet and probably won’t until Seattle selects one. But, as was the case last year, I generally find that my initial impression is about 70% accurate compared to when I dive in and go more in depth grading a player from game tape. My opinions will probably change slightly, but I don’t expect many 180s.

      So with that disclaimer out of the way, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being 1983, I’d probably give last year’s QB class a 3 and this year’s a 6 or a 7.

      We knew even at the time that last year’s QB class was pretty rotten. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Sam Bradford and still do as a prospect. But he came from a non-under-center system, had a terrible final season on a loaded team, had two throwing shoulder injuries, and generally only played well when he had basically all day to throw. He was also only a 3 star QB recruit out of high school- an overachiever. And this was, by far, the best QB available last year. Tim Tebow wasn’t even viewed as a QB by many people, and he went second. Jimmy Clausen wasn’t making NFL throws even though he played in an NFL offense and lacked leadership. Colt McCoy went in the 3rd. He should have gone in the 7th. I know this is controversial, but I still firmly believe that if Jake Locker had gone out last year after his 2009 season he would have been a top 10 lock and potentially gone #1- it was that weak of a QB class.

      If Sam Bradford was available in 2011, I’d probably rank him 2nd or 3rd. Blaine Gabbert isn’t a Matt Ryan “perfect” prospect, but I don’t think the Aaron Rodgers comps are too flattering- not saying Gabbert will be as successful as Rodgers (the team Rodgers went to had a lot to do with that), but in terms of the critical things- field general ability, accuracy, release, mobility, Gabbert gets very high marks in all those critical areas. He’s got everything he needs to be a top 5 NFL QB, he just needs to go out and do it. I’m cooling on Cam Newton for many reasons, but he’s a freak of nature prospect with maybe the highest ceiling I’ve ever seen in a QB prospect.

      I really like Ryan Mallett. I worry slightly that he might lose a locker room like Jimmy Clausen did, but Jimmy Clausen played for the worst team in the NFL and was a rookie. Nothing else about Mallett bugs me. He’s going to be a pure pocket passer who can’t run much, and that’s going to be uncomfortable for PC, but it wouldn’t be the first time that PC or Bevell have adapted to a less than mobile QB. Mallett has a sensational arm and incredible field general skills with vastly improved accuracy. It would be a disaster if he reaches #25 and Seattle doesn’t take him. If he goes to a decent team, he’s going to be pretty good and it won’t take very long.

      Jake Locker is the one QB I could write a scouting report on right now- I watched all but 2 of his games his entire career. I think Locker deserves fringe consideration at #25. Locker’s tools give him a high ceiling, but his status as a “mechanical” or learned QB probably limit him to being average, even after working out his flaws. Not that he’s similar to Joe Flacco, but I think Joe Flacco’s non-glamorous efficiency year in and year out probably represents Locker’s true ceiling.

      I’m not a fan of Ponder and its for reasons nobody talks about- his inability to read a defense is worse than Locker’s. Its really silly how Locker gets crucified for this but Ponder gets a free pass, even though Ponder is worse.

      I’m a big fan of Colin Kaepernick, but I feel very uneasy about taking him at #25. I’d much rather trade a future 1st and get Gabbert than settle for Kaepernick at #25- because if we draft Kaepernick, you can pretty much bet we’ll be spending even more picks for Palmer later on. Kaepernick needs a few years, he’s super talented but the least NFL ready.

      • Russ


        Bradford had a terrible final season? He got hurt in the 1st half of the 1st game of the season, in his last full season he won the Heisman. As for only playing well when he had all day to throw just check the stats and you can see he is one of the best in the NFL on rollouts. Just because you know that the NFC West will now go through St. Louis don’t be a hater. Oh and good luck with those bums you have playing QB.

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