NFL draft looks to be unpredictable for QBs

With the 2011 NFL season still up in the air, this year’s draft gives football fans something to quench their thirst for the boys of fall.

This year has been touted as the year of the quarterback, but where these top QBs end up is still a point of discussion. Most NFL analysts can’t even agree on who should be the number one quarterback off the board. Almost all of the analysts who have made a mock draft have Cam Newton (Auburn), Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), Ryan Mallett (Arkansas), and Jake Locker (Washington) all going in the first round, but they can’t all agree on who will be first and which teams they will end up with.

Cam Newton won the Heisman Trophy and led his Auburn Tigers to the National Championship at the end of the 2010 season and Newton has been touted as one of the best college quarterbacks in history, but there have been some doubts about his moral standing and whether or not he can thrive under center in an NFL system. Both ESPN draft guys, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr., have Cam Newton going number one overall to the Carolina Panthers, but they have both made it clear that they don’t think he is the top player in the draft, he just seems to be what Carolina is looking for.

“The Panthers need to keep up with their division,” McShay said on NFL Live on ESPN. “Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans all have mobile quarterbacks (Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman, and Drew Brees, respectively) and that’s the reason they have done as well as they have. Carolina needs to jump on the bandwagon.”

Next off the board appears to be Blaine Gabbert, and he could either go at number three to the Buffalo Bills or at five to the Arizona Cardinals, most analysts don’t have him falling any farther than that. Gabbert has been touted as the most talented and safest quarterback pick in the draft and either team would be lucky to have him. The majority of the draft guys have him going to the Cardinals and no one will be more excited about this pick than Larry Fitzgerald, the number one receiver in Arizona, who’s numbers fell drastically last season as the Cardinals played musical quarterbacks after Kurt Warner’s retirement.

“Gabbert has it all physically, but has a long way to go before he’s ready to lead an NFL offense,” Kiper Jr. said. “He played in a spread offense and will have to learn to take snaps under center and make progressions in the pocket. However, he is a smart football player that seems to understand coverages and he has the arm strength to fit the ball into tight windows.”

Ryan Mallett may be the biggest wild card of the draft and where he goes, it seems no one can really decide. He can drive the ball down field and hit the deep out and shows the ability to stick the ball into tiny windows. Also, he has played in pro-style systems and understands reads and progressions but Mallet is still prone to taking some risks. He may exhibit leadership qualities on the field but front offices want to further investigate his character and ability to take coaching.

Mallett’s a really enticing package and will likely come off the board in round one, but it’s a mystery what team will pick him up. Some people are saying he will be picked up by the Patriots at the number 28 spot, but many analysts, including NFL.com’s Pat Kerwan, believe it is highly unlikely the Patriots will keep both first round picks and Kerwan believes that Cincinnati will trade up and take Mallett in this spot to go with wide receiver A.J. Green, who they will draft in the number four spot.

Most NFL analysts believe Jake Locker also has first round talent, but if these other three quarterbacks go in the first round its hard to say where Locker could end up. Locker is number 26 on ESPN’s “Big Board,” which puts draft prospects in order simply by talent and not by what teams could choose them, but McShay believes that Locker will unfortunately fall to the second round.

“I just don’t know where to put him,” McShay said. “Its not like the sky is falling with Jake Locker, it’s just where do you put him? Everyone talks about Jacksonville at pick 16 as maybe the last team to take him in the first round, but they’re not taking quarterbacks this early. When you look at the teams in the second half of the first round, they’re there for a reason because they already have good solid quarterbacks and good teams.”

Overall, the first round of this year’s draft could be one of the most unpredictable, especially when it come to the quarterbacks, but one thing is for sure, unlike the 2011 NFL season, the 2011 draft is going to happen and fans at least have that to look forward to. The first round of the draft airs tonight, April 28, on ESPN at 7 p.m. Don’t miss what is sure to be an unpredicatble and surprise-filled event.

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