Who are the top quarterback prospects available in the 2011 NFL draft? This question has been asked more and more frequently since the somewhat surprising announcement from Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck that he would return to college for his senior season. Despite Andrew Luck’s decision not to enter the draft, there are still some talented quarterbacks available, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see three to four drafted in the first round.
Here’s a profile of the top quarterbacks that we know will be available in the 2011 NFL draft, in ranked order. If you’re curious about whether or not I foresee any of them drafted at the beginning of the first round, you can take a look at my latest mock draft here (which was made after Luck’s decision and after the final draft order was known).
Also, make sure to check out the profiles of the best running backs and the best wide receivers in the 2011 NFL draft.
#1. Blaine Gabbert – QB – University of Missouri
Barring some unforeseen developments or a disastrous showing at the combine and pre-draft workouts, Blaine Gabbert will be the first quarterback selected in the 2011 NFL draft. There are serious questions surrounding all the other potential first round quarterback selections, but not so much with Gabbert.
At 6’5” and 235 lbs, Blaine Gabbert has excellent size for the quarterback position in the NFL. He had strong production his senior year at Missouri, passing for 16 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions, and completing 63% of his passes. These stats were actually a step down from his sophomore campaign, where he passed for 24 TDs and 9 interceptions. Nonetheless, draft experts feel Gabbert has all the requirements to be a strong quarterback at the next level.
Draft projection: First round, top 10
#2. Jake Locker – QB – University of Washington
After Gabbert, how you rank the available quarterbacks becomes rather controversial. You could make the case that there’s some consensus the next three are Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, and Cam Newton. But in what order you rank them and where you project them being drafted is highly variable. It’s my expectation that Locker and Mallett will be drafted in the mid to late first round, while Cam Newton will slip in to the second round.
The smallest measure of separation may be between Locker and Mallett. I give the edge to Locker because I believe that his maturity and his decision making skills are above Mallett’s. Jake Locker was the one shining star at a rather weak University of Washington program. At 6’3” and 230 lbs, he has good size. His senior year was a step down from his junior year. Of course, the same is true of Gabbert. Once he’s surrounded by a greater level of talent, I expect Locker will surprise some of his detractors.
Draft projection: First round, top 20
#3. Ryan Mallett – QB – University of Arkansas
Ryan Mallett put up some truly amazing numbers during the last two years at Arkansas, passing for 30 touchdowns or more in each of the last two years. He made noticeable improvement in his completion percentage between his sophomore and junior seasons, going from 56% to 65%. He also rare size for the quarterback position–6’6” and 240 lbs.
Nonetheless, questions do persist about Mallett’s decision making ability. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him drafted ahead of Locker, and I’m probably a bit of a contrarian ranking Locker higher than Mallett. He may wow people in the weeks before the draft and slip in to the top ten being drafted by a team like the 49ers or the Redskins, who both are strongly in need of a quarterback.
Draft projection: First round, top 20
#4. Cam Newton – QB – Auburn University
Cam Newton is this year’s Tim Tebow. He had an amazing career at the collegiate level and he’s an outstanding athlete, but people are going to wonder about whether or not his game translates well to the next level at the quarterback position. But unlike Tim Tebow, Cam Newton doesn’t have all those “intangibles,” nor has he managed to establish the cult of personality that Tebow has. For those reasons, I don’t foresee a team reaching on Cam Newton in the first round.
But despite all that, 30 TDs, 66% pass completion, great rushing stats and amazing size at 6’6” and 250 lbs will be too much for most NFL personnel execs to pass up, and he won’t slip that far. GMs and coaches still fantasize far too much about dual threat quarterbacks.
Draft projection: Second round, 30-45
#5. Patrick Devlin – QB – University of Delaware
You can call Pat Devlin my quarterback sleeper for the 2011 NFL draft, though he’s been getting an increasing amount of buzz and may not end up as much of a sleeper at all. Coming from the University of Delaware, an FCS school, the main knock on Devlin is the competition level that he faced in college. Nonetheless, the stats that Devlin compiled last season were very impressive: 22 touchdowns, just 3 interceptions, and a completion percentage of 68%.
Devlin also has prototypical size for an NFL quarterback, 6’3” and around 220 lbs. He could be just the kind of sleeper that delights an NFL team in the second round of the draft, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if a quarterback hungry team like the 49ers took him toward the end of the first day.
Draft projection: Second round, 45-60