By Ron Jumper
I’m trying to figure out where to even start…
The 2011 NFL draft quarterback class has been a wild roller coaster ride all season long. It just seems like every week a new quarterback would emerge in the top 5 and the guys that I view as the actual quarterback prospects get pushed further and further back. Never have I been more confused, granted I’ve only seriously covered the NFL draft for 6 years, but the fact still remains my mind has officially been blown.
I’m going to give a very simple analogy, look at all the top quarterbacks in the NFL: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Rothleisberger, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Michael Vick, Joe Flacco, and Matt Schaub. Even look at the young guns like Sam Bradford, Mathew Stafford, and Josh Freeman. Now, of all those guys, only ONE relies on his legs and that is Michael Vick. Can Aaron Rodgers or Josh Freeman take off when they need to? Yes, but let’s not get carried away and call them scramblers. To be a successful NFL quarterback, it is obvious there is a pretty clear cut prototype. They need to be able to play under center, stay in the pocket, dissect the defense pre-snap, and deliver the ball quickly in tight windows to the correct read.
Now, with that prototype in mind, who fits the mold in this draft class? Let’s take a look at the latest quarterback the “experts” have anointed as the top prospect in this draft: Blaine Gabbert. I just don’t see it. While he has nice size (6’5 240), nothing else about him says franchise quarterback. Look at the numbers, Gabbert only had 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. More importantly, his yards per attempt was 6.7 (which ranked just 78th in the country) and his QB rating was 127 (good for 64th nationally), both of which are very mediocre. Andrew Luck, Ryan Mallett, and Cam Newton were all in the top 10 in both of those categories, not to mention they also all three had at least 30 touchdown passes. When you consider all of this took place in a quarterback friendly system at Missouri in a conference like the Big 12 that, other than Nebraska, doesn’t believe in defense it doesn’t sound too impressive. Honestly tell me if you are a Bills, Panthers, or Cardinals fan that you will be drooling with anticipation over this guy come draft day? Give me a break…
Then there is Cam Newton. Think it through, while he is big and fast, what does that matter in the NFL? He hasn’t played under center and hasn’t had to learn how to read defenses since every pass play was one-read due to eight guys being in the box on defense. Don’t be an amateur and say defenses will have to do that in the NFL to stop him because I got news for you…they won’t. It is a complete leap of faith thinking he can become an NFL QB. At best, we can label him a “project” that will need several years of seasoning before we know what we are getting (think Vince Young).
Now, based on the criteria we’ve discussed, who best fits the mold? Who has great size? Who has outstanding numbers (yards, touchdowns, yard per attempt, QB rating)? Who has played in a pro-style offense against elite defenses? In my opinion, there is only one choice: Ryan Mallett.