The NFL Draft is only a week away so we bring back our "In the Trenches" blog and we will start with the breakdown of some of the available QB's in this year's class. There has been much talk about how many will be drafted in the 1st round but it remains to be seen what happens. I will breakdown my thoughts on each of the top rated QB's. There are two guys at the QB position who have the possibility of going #1 overall in Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert as well as some other possible first round picks in Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett. I will breakdown some of the pros and cons and do some comparisons to some current NFL QB's.
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Cam Newton is probably the most physically gifted QB to come out of the draft since Michael Vick. Newton has both incredible arm strength and athletic ability which is a great fit for the speed of the NFL game. The problem is that he is technically only a 1-year wonder just like Akili Smith was who was a highly touted 3rd overall pick by the Bengals drafted out of Oregon. To Newton’s defense, he was far more dominant in college than Smith even was. My biggest concern with Newton however is that he has not really ever had to read a defense and go through his progressions that are required at the pro level. I have not even touched on his alleged character issues and ego. This all being said a guy of his ability is going to be extremely hard to pass up and Newton will be drafted #1 overall. He has the talent to be a great QB but someone will need to teach him how to carry himself and the fine details of being a NFL QB or he will have bust written all over.
Some experts have Blaine Gabbert ranked as the 1st QB ahead of Newton on their rankings. Gabbert has a strong arm, showed some elusiveness and was highly successful in college. His production did drop in his last season after losing NFL draftee in Donario Alexander. He is inconsistent and struggled on 3rd downs. Gabbert is another spread attack QB so he will have plenty of learning to do in the NFL. He did not play the best against the better teams and put up video games numbers vs. bad teams. I can't justify any team taking him as a 1st round pick let alone early in the 1st. Gabbert has Alex Smith written all over him.
Jake Locker is another possible 1st round pick who actually hurt is stock by staying in school another year. Locker did not make the improvement he was hoping for and is proof that when you are projected to go the 1st rd that you leave school. Depending on how the draft shakes out, he is still possibly a 1st rounder but could easily fall into the 2nd round. Next to Newton, Locker has the most athleticism of any incoming QB and possesses a nice arm as well. Locker is an outstanding athlete that could always turn to baseball since he was drafted by the Angels if the football does not work out which I see as a real possibility. He is far too inaccurrate to succeed in the NFL. There is no excuse in the current state of college football to only complete 55.4% of your passes as a fourth year starter. The best defense he played all year he managed just 9 of 36 for 127 yards in two games vs. Nebraska which is something I can’t get past. He could possibly go as early as 10 to Washington as he has been compared to Jake Plummer but that would be a big mistake.
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My sleeper pick of the draft if he lands in a good situation is Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick would be a perfect fit in Buffalo. He is also a product of a spread offense using a unique formation called the pistol which is also the new wave of both college and the NFL. The first pro coach to use the pistol was Chan Gailey who was the offensive co-coordinator in Kansas City when Tyler Thigpen was turning the fantasy world on fire. Gailey is now the coach in Buffalo who turned Ryan Fitzpatrick into a fantasy relevant player last year so imagine a scenario where Kaepernick runs the same offense as he did in college. Kaepernick has impressed scouts since the end of the season with his work at the combine and bowl games but played in a smaller conference and could struggle adapting to a regular NFL offense. He runs the ball well as a QB but is a little thin so it will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy if he does see the field. Kapernick is likely a 2nd or 3rd round pick.
Ryan Mallett is best pure passer in the draft. He has great size and a cannon for an arm. Mallett was able to show improvement in his 2nd season at Arkansas in both accuracy and reading a defense. Bobby Petrino has always developed college QB's and put them in a position to succeed. The negative is that they have never had much success in the pro ranks. Mallet has some of his own issues with a lack of mobility and questions about his character. His 40 time was terrible at 5.38 which is slower than most all defensive lineman that will be chasing him so getting away from pressure will be a real problem. Mallett compares best with Kerry Collins who is a strong-armed QB who is slow of feet as well. Behind a great offensive line, Mallett has a chance to be a decent pro but it will take a perfect situation.
The last potential 1st rounder in the draft is Christian Ponder out of Florida State. Ponder could be the most NFL ready of the bunch but does not possess the stereotypical arm strength. He is extremely smart and showed decent accuracy in college with good mobility. Ponder has one intangible that can't be taught which is pocket presence. He did however have a problem staying healthy in college where he was banged up on a regular basis. His college offense was more of a pro-style which will help with the transition but he will need to adjust to the speed of the game. Ponder is likely to go in the second or third round but should be worth the wait. I would compare him to Tony Romo just a little more ready than Romo out of college.
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