The quarterback market – status check

Andrew Luck’s decision not to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft has left the quarterback class one prospect lighter.

It’s time to take a status check on the market.

I’ll run through each of the four prospects I consider to be in first round contention.






Cam Newton (Auburn)

Status check: Newton will compete for the BCS Championship on Monday when Auburn take on Oregon in Arizona. Expect an announcement shortly after on the quarterback’s intentions to declare. Controversy based around his recruitment by Auburn and an unexpected winning season have eliminated any doubt that Newton will be part of the 2011 draft.

Draft stock: With Andrew Luck out of contention, Newton and Blaine Gabbert will gain greater focus. A lot of attention has been spent looking at Luck and talking about him as the #1 pick and nobody else has really been considered. Both Newton and Gabbert could be the first overall pick this year. Newton’s abilities on the field (rare athleticism given his size, sound throwing motion/arm strength, more capable as a passer than some believe) make him a prime candidate to go first overall.

His stock will be defined by team meetings during the combine and leading up to April’s draft. There are two main concerns in my opinion. Firstly – with everything proving so easy in college football due to his undoubted talent, how is he going to respond when life becomes more difficult in the pro’s? Is he going to be the ‘last out of the building’ type who can dedicate himself to tape? Will he struggle and lose interest and attempt to live off his athletic qualities?

Secondly, a story surfaced in November reporting that Newton was facing expulsion for academic cheating during his time with the Florida Gators. It needs to be distinguished whether this story is in fact true and whether it leads to any concerns about Newton’s ability to diagnose information. He’ll need to master a substantially larger playbook in the NFL than the one he’s used at Florida, Blinn and Auburn. Of course, the story may be true and justified in other ways – lack of academic interest for example (which may have since been rectified). It needs to be checked out though to justify the first overall selection.

It’s impossible to speculate whether any of this will affect Newton’s stock because unlike NFL teams – we have such little access to information and background checks. We won’t be able to meet with Newton regularly leading up to the draft like GM’s and coaches.

Talent wise he’s more than capable of being the first overall pick. If these issues prove enough of a concern to put teams off, you wonder if he will fall on draft day. I believe Newton has greater potential than Vince Young. In 2006, Young reportedly scored just six on the wonderlic but still went third overall. On-field talent can sometimes dwarf off-the-field concerns and that could also be the case for Newton.

Interested teams: With all four of the quarterbacks it’s still too early to accurately project who will be definitely interested. Teams will sign free agents, make trades or consider other needs that suggest they’ll avoid drafting a quarterback in round one. Even so – I would suggest seven of the teams in the top ten picks are very likely to consider the position early in the draft. Carolina (2-14) with the #1 pick have to consider Newton – who is a far superior talent to Jimmy Clausen. If he gets past the #1 pick then Buffalo or Cincinnati may keep him in the first round.

Even in a worst case scenario it’s hard to imagine Newton falling past Tennessee at #8, Minnesota at #12 or Miami at #15. He’s a top-15 lock who could easily go first overall.






Blaine Gabbert (Missouri)

Status check: Gabbert confirmed he would declare for the 2011 NFL draft earlier this week. The decision was made after a largely positive outing in the Insight Bowl against Iowa – although his interception return cost Missouri the game.

Draft stock: He lingered in the back of most minds throughout the 2010 college football season. Consensus opinion believed he would return to Missouri for another year, but it became increasingly clear over the last month that Gabbert was seriously considering the NFL. Despite losing the game with his pick-six, the Insight Bowl showed off his talents as a big-bodied, strong-armed quarterback capable of making NFL throws.

There’s a lot to like about his game – specifically how he understands when to take some velocity off the ball and make touch passes. Against Iowa he consistently flashed ability to thread the ball into a tight window with inch-perfect accuracy. NFL scouts will look at the arm, the size, the mobility and see major potential.

You’ll very rarely find a faultless prospect coming out of college – particularly at such a scrutinised position like quarterback. Gabbert is no different. The spread offense at Missouri had a lot of scripted or one-read passes which aren’t a great demand for a young passer as talented as this. Like Newton, he’ll have to learn the complexities of the pro-game to maximise his talent. The investment is in potential here that he could be the complete package. It’s whether he’s prepared to work – as Sam Bradford has done this year – to make the most of his physical talents.

All reports suggest Gabbert is a leader with good character and work ethic. There’s no reason to believe he won’t work on the things he needs to develop.

The other main issue is Gabbert’s occassional reckless decision making. He takes risks and sometimes needs to realise when a play is broken and it’s more important to live for another down. He isn’t the greatest throwing on the run – a similar issue to Ryan Mallett (see below) but these are coachable problems that don’t compare to the positives Gabbert will bring to a team.

With so many clubs needing a quarterback this year, it’s hard to imagine a guy like Gabbert making it out of the top-ten. There’s every chance he could be drafted first overall by Carolina. Right now his stock is firmly placed in the top-ten range and I see very little that can change that between now and April.

Interested teams:I look at the seven teams I’ve identified in the top-ten as likely to consider drafting a quarterback and it’s improbable to think none will take this guy. If he gets past the first wave of teams (Carolina, Buffalo, Cincinnati), there’s no way he’ll get past Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee or Washington. If someone wants Gabbert bad enough they’ll have to trade up – but I can’t see him on the board when the 11th overall pick is called.






Ryan Mallett (Arkansas)

Status check: It was confirmed yesterday that Mallett will enter the 2011 NFL Draft. This was a forgone conclusion after coming close to declaring for the 2010 event. After transferring from Michigan to Arkansas, this was always expected to be the year he went pro.

Draft stock: Mallett made major strides this year – positives that are too often ignored to concentrate on the negatives. He’s improved his completion percentage from 56% to 65% this season. One of the biggest complaints about him was the poor record Arkansas had on the road in 2009 – something that improved in 2010 with key victories over Georgia, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Mississippi State. Overall he’s looked a much more polished prospect who always had incredible physical tools (amazing arm and size).

But aside from the physical qualities the biggest compliment you can give Mallett is his ability to dissect a defense, go through his progressions and open up the offense. He’s not just a big-arm who resorts to a series of long-bombs and some underneath stuff. He’ll go to a third or fourth option when he’s given time and in that sense, he might be more developed than any of the other prospects available in this class.

The problems really start and end with his footwork. This was no more emphasised during the Sugar Bowl – when Ohio State created constant pressure and didn’t allow Mallett to settle into the pocket. Although suggestions Mallett is a ‘statue’ are way off the mark (he’s more than capable of avoiding pressure when he needs to) he struggles to re-set his feet. Against the Buckeye’s he was constantly being asked to step into/out of the pocket and throw downfield. When he can’t re-adjust and needs to get the ball out – he loses the technique and mistakes happen.

Arkansas lost the game against Ohio State because of such an error – throwing straight to a defender when put under pressure. It was a similar story against Alabama earlier in the year – when he threw one pick trying to get the ball out of bounds (technique wobbled, ball thrown poorly) and another where he wasn’t able to plant his back foot and lobbed an awkward looking pass into double coverage.

What you’re left with is a weapon that could be capable of big numbers in the NFL. It’s hard not to think of a Jay Cutler/Ben Roethlisberger type QB when you see Mallett in terms of the potential for extreme quality but also erratic play and mistakes. The fades he threw against OSU were incredible, but he should’ve won the game for Arkansas at the end.

There are lingering concerns about his attitude, character and work ethic – as emphasised by this tweet from the NFP’s Wes Bunting. As with Newton, it’s something teams will have to do their homework on.

Interested teams: Mallett’s stock is the most debatable at this point. The need at quarterback and positives to his game could easily keep him amongst the top-15 picks. Tennessee at #8 have been prepared to ignore character time and time again (despite the recent decision to move on from Vince Young). It’s unlikely – in my opinion – that he would go as high as #5 to Arizona or be a Jim Harbaugh pick at #7, but his stock could fall between the Titans at #8 and Miami at #15. What about Jacksonville at #17? It really all depends on the character issues and if they’re addressed. I could see Mallett in the top-15 and I can see him falling into round two.






Jake Locker (Washington)

Status check: As the only senior in this quartet we already knew Locker would be part of the 2011 NFL Draft. Despite a limited performance statistically, Locker played his part in Washington’s upset victory over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.

Draft stock: Locker started the year amongst the top listed prospects for the 2011 draft. Some wondered whether he was a candidate to go first overall or even win the Heisman Trophy. It’s important to remember that the draft committee gave Locker a grade in the round two or three range last year. There was some speculation that he almost reversed his decision to return to Washington at the last minute.

It’s difficult to look at Locker’s 2010 season without some mixed feelings. The Huskies achieved a 6-6 record and made a Bowl game – before upsetting Nebraska in San Diego. For that reason it’s hard to question the decision to return – Locker achieved what he set out to do at the start of the year and his final game for Washington should be remembered fondly.

At the same time, he failed to improve on a 2009 campaign that put him on the national agenda. Scouts maintain concerns about his accuracy and decision making – he failed to become a more polished pocket passer. Disappointing performances against Nebraska (regular season), Stanford and Washington were of particular concern. Big games against USC and Oregon State were largely glossed over in comparison.

A lot of teams won’t regard Locker as a first round pick. I’ve read items that suggest teams don’t even consider him to be Washington’s best senior. That’s how negative some reviews have been – and clearly there are teams in the NFL who won’t be thinking Locker is worth the big investment.

However – there will be some that believe they are capable of turning him into a pro-level quarterback. Mike Shanahan is a fan of Locker’s and Washington own the 10th overall pick. I would be surprised if Seattle’s Pete Carroll didn’t share that enthusiasm. Although Locker’s stock will be defined by the team you’re speaking about – he will have admirers early in round one.

Interested teams: I would be very surprised if Locker lasts beyond the 10th overall pick and Washington. Shanahan will draft a quarterback and he’s a big Locker-fan. The question is for me – would someone take him earlier than that or trade up ahead of Washington? San Francisco are a possibility, what about Arizona and Tennessee? Would Minnesota or maybe even Seattle trade up above Washington? Even though I personally wouldn’t grade Locker that high – I think he will very likely be taken in the top 10-15.


  1. plyka

    You know more about this stuff than I do, but there is no way that either of them will go as the #1 pick overall. They both have enough question marks, not to mention that Carolina has already picked a QB prospect last year and they have plenty of other holes.

    But the most important reason is that they don’t have to. If you want a Gabbert for instance, why take him #1 when you can trade down and he will be there at #10 or even later? Luck was obviously worth a #1 overall pick, the other two seem to have enough questions, and there is enough talent elsewhere, that I can’t see either going #1. I know CBs don’t go #1, but I would take Patrick Peterson, he seems to be the uber talent in the draft at the position i regard the 2nd most important on the field, CB.

    • Rob

      Nearly every QB prospect that ends up going first overall has question marks. Bradford – spread system, injury. Stafford – consistently throwing into double coverage, trusting his arm too much, touch, fragile. That’s the last two – but look down the list and see while QB’s have consistently gone first overall – they weren’t perfect prospects by any means. Carolina drafted Clausen unaware that they’d be in this situation today. For example… if they were at 7-9 or whatever right now… they’d be picking down the board, Clausen may not have even started and the plan is in place. Things change quickly in the NFL. Simply put – they are a bad football team and Clausen will not lead them out of this hole and neither will a Bowers, Green, Peterson or Fairley. A good quarterback can do. They cannot afford to pass on a Newton or Gabbert for Clausen’s sake. It’s no comparison in terms of quality. I wouldn’t rule out them going in a different direction, but it would be a huge mistake not to go QB IMO.

      I also don’t think there’s any chance Gabbert will be there at #10 or later. He’ll be long gone. Peterson is a talented guy, but so are Newton and Gabbert and the position they play has a significant edge.

      • Meat

        I don’t see Carolina passing up on Newton or Gabbert-only because of what they are playing with now. The only other option I can see them doing is trading their number one pick and gaining additional draft picks, and it doesn’t seem like Clausen is their QB of the future, but they have so many other needs that perhaps additional picks in the draft will benefit them more than the number one pick. I would hate to see either one of those QB’s in a Panthers uniform, but I also didn’t want to see Harbough coaching the Niners.

        • Meat

          Oh, and I they hype train is here, and I won’t be surprised to see the QB positions all go early, way before Seattle gets their pick. If Seattle doesn’t trade up, and the rare talents are gone at QB, CB for example, would you think trading down would gain more for Seattle than sticking with a 21st pick?

          • Rob

            It depends on what they’d be passing on at #21 I suppose. There are prospects at that position I’d hate to pass on just to move down 4-5 spots for a later round pick.

      • plyka

        We will see. My main point, though, is why pick gabbert at #1 when all draft “experts” have him going closer to 20 than 1. Find someone willing to trade up from the middle of round 1, switch with them while taking their 2nd and 4th, then wait to see which one falls to you. The only one I could even imagine going first overall is newton, and even that’s a huge stretch. You mentioned that newton is better than vince young, and if you meant as potential NFL qb, maybe, but in college there really is no comparison, as VC was easily the better qb.

        • ChavaC

          No way he goes 20. Besides, almost all the teams looking at QBs are drafting in the top 15. Or maybe a better way to say that almost all the teams in the top 15 need quarterbacks (I count ten). He’s too good to get passed on ten times, and it’s way to big of a risk to hope that he will be. It would not surprise me in the least if all four of these guys are off the board at 10, as was the case in Rob’s last mock.

          IMO QB is one of the (if not the) only positions where you have to bite the bullet and take what you can when you can. We saw it with Bradford, Stafford, and Ryan where guys with solid potential were “overdrafted” per mock drafts.

        • Blake

          Haha name a draft expert who has him going at #20. Walterfootball is way higher even though walter hates him as a prospect. Kiper has him as a top 10 prospect while McShay has him slated as the favorite to go #5 to AZ. Oh really VC was the better college QB? Newton leads the nation in pass efficiency with little other talent on the team. There will likely only be 1 other player on that offense who gets drafted, and its the tackle Lee Ziemba in the middle rounds. VY didn’t even win the Heisman, while Newton won it by almost the highest margin in history. I believe he received the most 1st place votes ever. Newton has a superior arm, better size, significantly better mechanics, and is actually slightly more accurate. His athletesism is a notch below VYs, but considering how much bigger he is you could argue that he is on par with VY relative to their size. VY also played in a slightly more pro style system, but not by a lot. Also even though Newton has his character concerns, they are nowhere near the concerns that VY had about his work ethic and intelligence coming out of UT. He scored a 6 his first try on the Wonderlic…an effing 6. Its considered a slight flag if a QB scores in the high teens and low 20s.

          • Alex

            IMHO, the arm and size difference is nearly non-existent from an eye-balls view. You’re right about the slightly better mechanics and accuracy part.

            As for the work ethic, we have no idea what his work ethic is. As for his intelligence, there has been no issue of VY needing to cheat in class. If the reports are true, seriously? Cheating? You have no idea how much help these college athletes get.
            As for the Wonderlic score, Newton has yet to take it so we can’t judge it from there, but some such as Walters have mentioned that he would be probably score a single digit.

            Considering what I’m reading, I’m seriously concerned about the intelligence part.


            • Rob

              We can’t comment too much on the cheating report Alex – mainly because we don’t know how true it is. If it proved true then I would look at it two ways: Is it a case of not being capable of learning to the point where you needed to cheat – or was it a matter of willing? We’re talking about a supreme athlete here at a major school. Did he ignore his studies? It may be an attitude thing as a young man that has since been completely rectified. Right now it’d harsh to show any defining concern, we need to find out more and we almost certainly will by the time the combine rolls around.

        • Rob

          A lot of draft ‘experts’ barely mentioned Gabbert at all this year. If they want to project him at #20 – that’s their choice. I wouldn’t take it on face value though because I fully expect he’ll go much higher than that and for me – he’s a top ten lock. My comment on Newto/Young is based on pro-potential and it’s not that much of a stretch at all to suggest he’ll go first overall. Again – many of the ‘experts’ haven’t looked at anyone other than Luck at #1 so far and now they’re not sure what will happen. There’s a substantial chance Newton goes at #1… or Gabbert. Neither – IMO – have any chance what so ever of making it out of the top ten.

  2. Blake

    Dude Rob when are you coming out with a Seattle relative prospect board. Will it atleast be before the combine?

    • Rob

      I’ll make one when they’re out of the playoffs and we can confirm where they will pick in the draft.

  3. Dave

    If the Panthers draft a QB is Clausen gone? I know you think he’s a very limited player, but how do you think he’d fit in Seattle?

    • Rob

      He wasn’t on Seattle’s draft board – I would imagine due to his limitations and the fact he’s a poor scheme fit. He’s not mobile enough and he isn’t that downfield passer that they want. I could see Carolina starting Clausen next year and sitting the #1 pick. That way they can try to improve Clausen’s stock before a potential trade (his stock is worth nothing at the moment) and not rush the rookie in. I doubt any team would take him for more than a late round flier right now.

  4. Morgan

    What about coaches that need QB’s (or could potentially need a QB) but are long-tenured? Those teams seem less likely to look to a rookie to run their offense. I’m thinking Marvin Lewis in Cincy, Jeff Fisher with the Titans, even Ken Whisenhunt in AZ seems less likely to start over with a rookie.

    That leaves Carolina, San Fran, Washington, and maybe Minn and Miami. I think Leslie Frazier still wants a look at Jackson and maybe even a developing Webb at QB, and with Sporano given a stay of execution he too may look for a more veteran QB than to again tie his shaky future to a rookie signalcaller. I think that barring trades, its possible one of these four prospects slides into the twenties.

    • Rob

      Leslie Frazier named his #1 priority was to find a long term starter at QB. I think he also said that while he liked Jackson – it was time to move forward. We’ll know more when we see if teams bring in veterans. If there’s a lock out FA or trades wont happen – which leaves only the draft. This is a very real prospect and why we may also see QB’s leave the board very quickly.

  5. Matt

    I just think it’s hilarious that Hass gets every excuse in the book and no one says a word about short dump offs. Infuriating.

    • T-Town

      So far this game is everything I feared it would be which is why I thought we shouldnt go to the playoffs this year.

      1. Hasselbeck is done. He makes terrible reads which result in massive mistakes. He has been bad for 3 years now.

      2. We are getting out coached. Especially on the defensive side of the ball. That 3rd and 2 on the goal line where JJ scored looked awful. .

      3. We cant get pressure on Brees without sending a LB or two on a blitz and even then it doesnt seem to do much. Clemons and Brock are good against bad OL’s only. This team needs a pro bowl caliber pass rusher which the other team’s OC has to sweat over and plan double teams for.

      Also Tatupu looks lost out there way to often.

      Positives= our OL looks decent today I guess. RB’s look good too I suppose. TE/WR looks great.Also Cameron Morrah is going to be our TE of the future. Carrol should look at more 2 TE sets. Carlson+Morrah.

    • ChavaC

      I could totally see Whitehurst playing this well against the Saints. It would require handfuls of mushrooms and pills, but I’m pretty sure I could do it.

      • T-Town

        I may have to eat my share of crow after this game.

        Hasselbeck played great today after the first 2 series. It doesnt excuse this season or the 2 before it however. Put a better QB on this Seahawks team and they could easily have won 9 or 10 games this year.

        Clemmons has been shut down all day.

        Brock played great though. I will admit that.

        • Blake

          Give the pass rush a rest. Those guys have 20 sacks combined, tied for third in the league. Our d line smothered them today. It looks like Rob is right that we could use a new WR as much as any other posiition. I have maintained that 5 tech, QB, CB, and WR are the strength of the draft in that order. I wouldn’t argue with spending a top pick on any of the latter 3 positions, and if value presented itself, the first position could afford to be addressed as well. I have also maintained that the second round appears to be flush with big corners, but if we are picking closer to 60 that may not be the case.

          Looks like our offensive line is average w/o Stacy Andrews, but terrible with him. We can pass protect consitently fine, and we looked pretty solid opening up holes for the run game on the right side again today. Investing in the middle rounds and free agency seems like a solid idea still, but I can see us being fine next year with Unger and/or Ray Willis back. Not sure Locklear will be retained despite his last two games being his best of his season. I wonder how much of our recent success has to do with opponents, 5 guys finally getting continuity, 5 guys being healthy, and no Andrews on the line.

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