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Draft King Analysis

April 22, 2011
Lou Pickney,

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Crunch time in here for those involved with the NFL Draft, with less than one week remaining before Commissioner Roger Goodell reads the first pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. Even with the start of the draft being just around the corner, there is still a great deal that is unknown about what teams plan to do.

It's rare at this time of year that high profile journalists speak in absolute terms related to the NFL Draft. So this post by Peter King this afternoon surprised me, with a simple but unwavering message: "There will be at least one 2012 first-round pick traded next week." Sounds like King knows something there.

There are as many as eight quarterbacks who may be drafted in the first two rounds. Albert Breer of wrote that as many as six quarterbacks could go in the 32 picks of the first round. Here's how it's likely to play out as of what is known as this point:

Cam Newton, Auburn: Projected by most prognosticators to be the #1 overall pick on Thursday night by the Carolina Panthers. Talk out of Charlotte has indicated that Newton is the only QB being considered for the top spot, in the mix with Georgia WR A.J. Green and LSU CB Patrick Peterson. With no talk of any defensive linemen being considered for the top spot, Newton has become the top projection for Carolina, whose brass has in general spoken very highly about Newton in the past weeks nad months. Stanford QB Andrew Luck would have been the likely #1 pick had he left school early, but with him opting to return to college for 2011 it appears that Newton is running the show.

Blaine Gabbert, Missouri: A likely top ten pick, perhaps as high as Buffalo at #3 or Arizona at #5. There's a chance that Cincinnati at #4 might take him to replace incumbent QB Carson Palmer, who claims he will retire rather than return as the Bengals signal-caller. Gabbert may also be considered if he's on the board for San Francisco at #7, Tennessee at #8, and Washington at #10. Gabbert ran the spread at Missouri and I'm not particularly sold on him as a strong NFL prospect, though he has the prototype height/build. It would be surprising to see Gabbert leapfrogged as the #2 QB to go in the draft.

Andy Dalton, TCU: Shh, don't look now, but Dalton is making a late run toward being potentially the third QB to go in the draft. I'm expecting a bit of a lull between Newton/Gabbert in the top ten and then the next run on QBs, but Dalton could sneak in there. Dalton, much like Florida State's Christian Ponder, is slightly undersized for the position at 6'2" (after being billed by some as 6'3"), but the guy is a winner. It's easy to forget now, but TCU went unbeaten in 2010 and capped their season by beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, with Dalton passing. Dalton finshed 2010 with a 66.1% completion rate and, also impressively, threw 27 TDs against just six interceptions. What's more, from the UNLV game on, Dalton threw 13 TDs against just one pick to end the season.

Colin Kaepernick, Nevada: Kaepernick is 6'4" 220, good height for a QB, though he ran a Pistol offense at Nevada. Much like Dalton, Kaepernick improved his completion percentage dramatically in 2010, going from no season with a percentage above 59% to 64.9% for 2010. I'd think that the Colts might have interest in Dalton and/or Kaepernick with their first-round pick if they believe that drafting an heir apparent for Peyton Manning would be wise. Manning has started every game since his rookie debut in 1998, but Manning is also 35 years old now, and he carried an injury-plagued Colts team on his back last season which went oft-overlooked.

Jake Locker, Washington: I've made no secret about the fact that I'm much less optimistic about Locker's NFL chances than many, many other NFL Draft prognosticators are. Locker has great speed and elusiveness in the pocket, but his horrid 4-for-20 performance against Nebraska at home on 9/18/2010 exposed him tremendously. His completion percentage for 2010 was an abysmal 55.4%. But, in the right system (such as Cincinnati's new west coast offense being brought in by Jay Gruden), Locker could be effective.

I see Locker as a high second round pick as far as value and potential goes, though a team like the Bengals or Redskins might slide up into the end of round one to snag him if he falls there. It's also possible that Washington could snag him at #10, which in my estimation would be a very foolish move by the Redskins, but it's not outside the realm of possibility.

Christian Ponder, Florida State: Much like TCU's Andy Dalton, Ponder is a 6'2" guy who was billed as 6'3" in college. I'm 6'2" and I can attest first-hand that being that height is just about perfect for a guy, but it's different when you're a QB since those extra couple of inches can impact everything from seeing downfield a little bit better to making it less likely for defensive linemen to be able to bat down your passes.

After a fantastic 2009 season where he threw for 68.8%, he regressed to 61.5% for 2010, though that in part can be attributed to him fighting through injuries. Ponder looked great in some games (such as his 3 TD/0 INT performance in FSU's win over Florida on 11/27/2010) while appearing less-than-impressive in others (2 TD/3 INT game against Boston College).

My friend Bill, who I've known since high school, is a big-time FSU fan and has been singing Ponder's praises to me for quite some time now. Ponder could easily be in the mix for teams looking to trade into the bottom of round one for a QB or he could end up as a viable option for Cincinnati toward the top of round two. Dalton, Kaepernick, and Ponder all fall into an interesting category of guys who are relatively similar in many ways. For teams looking for QB help, it will come down to individual evaluations in all likelihood in the order those three players end up going in the draft.

Ryan Mallett, Arkansas: Much as I don't think as highly of Jake Locker as many NFL Draft gurus, Mallett is a player I like as a pro prospect. Talk of drug use has plagued him, though from what I've heard Mallett was forthcoming about his drug past in chatting with teams. It's not fair to compare guys simply because they played the same position at the same school, but with Matt Jones having been busted for cocaine in 2008 there will likely be concerns about Mallett and coke, fair or not.

Perhaps no top prospect showed more year-to-year accuracy improvement than Mallett, who threw for 64.7% in 2010, up considerably from 55.8% in 2009. Mallett is 6'7" and has a rocket arm, and if he can adjust to the mental aspect of the game on the NFL level he could develop into a solid NFL quarterback.

Ricky Stanzi: He may be more of a round 3-4 type prospect, but the 6'4" 225 pounder has a great mind for the game from all indications. Physically there are questions about his ability to throw accurately on intermediate-to-long depth passes, but particularly for a team running the west coast offense, Stanzi could be tempting to draft and develop as a prospect.


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