Right now, the 2011 NFL Draft is shaping up to be a dosey for the quarterback position. With teams in desperate need of an offensive leader, there could be as many as five quarterbacks taken in the top 12 picks. Scouts and fans were waiting for the bowl games, to see how these top prospect would play under the spotlights. So far, they have not disappointed.
Luck had an average first half in the Orange Bowl, but came out blazing in the second half. He finished the game with 287 yards passing, 4 touchdowns, and a completion percentage of 78.3%. In the Holiday Bowl, Jake Locker didn’t put up nearly the numbers that Luck did, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Locker showed great poise and leadership in his bowl game. His receivers were not getting separation and dropping balls all night. So what did Locker do? He remained calm and under control, and took over the game with his legs. I was impressed, and i’m sure the scouts were as well. The newly popular guy, Blaine Gabbert had one heck of a bowl game as well. He threw darts all over the field. Even though he could not lead the Tigers to a Insight Bowl victory, he was highly impressive. Ryan Mallet is playing tonight in the Sugar Bowl, and is doing the opposite of what critics are saying about him. He is showing good accuracy (in the 1st quarter). Cam Newton has yet to play, but he is poised to have a good game in the National Championship.
Quarterbacks are very important to a teams success. The majority of the teams picking in the top 12 are leader-less. Lets take the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers for example. Both teams have talent on both sides of the ball, but endured a quarterback carousel in 2010. The NFC West is incredibly weak and was up for grabs all the way until week 17. The Seattle Seahawks won the division and made the postseason with a record of 7-9. Had the Cardinals and 49ers had adequate quarterback play, one of them would have surely won the division. Look at what Sam Bradford did for the St. Louis Rams. In his rookie year, he takes a 1-15 team and turns them into a 7-9 team, that was one win away from a division win and playoff birth.
I fully expect the Cardinals, 49ers, and other quarterback-less teams to look towards the Rams and Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, as an example.. If you land a franchise quarterback, then your team always has a chance at winning. Now, there may be a few quality quarterbacks available via trade or free agent market. The ones that immediately come to mind are Donavan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Kyle Orton. If one of these quarterback hungry teams can land one of these guys, then great. If not, then I would urge these teams to take a risk, and try to fill their biggest need in the April NFL Draft.
In my latest mock draft, I have the top 5 quarterbacks shaking down like this:
#1 Carolina Panthers – Andrew Luck
#5 Arizona Cardinals – Blaine Gabbert
#7 San Francisco 49ers – Ryan Mallet
#10 Washington Redskins – Jake Locker
#12 Minesotta Vikings – Cam Newton