This Thursday could be the start of a golden age for rookie quarterbacks. There could be as many as eight teams at the top of the NFL draft looking for a quarterback. Or this could be the beginning of an age of disappointment. Who are these NFL quarterbacks of the future?
When I began looking at the quarterback prospects coming into the April draft, I came away unimpressed. It could have been a lot better if Stanford’s Andrew Luck hadn’t announced he’d be returning to college. I really can’t gush enough about him because he’s showed the ability to react to defenses and throw accurately whether in the pocket or on the run. He’ll be the best player available whenever he decides to enter the NFL.
Without Luck, the mantle of best quarterback available fell to Auburn’s Cam Newton. While he had a great 2010 season on the field, he played in an offense that appeared to hide any of his deficiencies as a passer, and it was designed to take advantage of his outstanding athleticism. Once he enters the NFL, his superior size and speed will be greatly diminished, and he’ll be forced to rely on his ability to throw the ball. Plus, he had a terrible season off the field after an NCAA investigation looked into whether he or his father were paid for him to play at Auburn.
Next, or maybe tied with Newton, is Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert. He has the size and arm strength to become a franchise NFL quarterback. But he struggles with his accuracy, and he played in a spread offense which is rarely used in the NFL.
After those top two, it’s onto Washington’s Jake Locker, who could go as early as number 10 overall to the Washington Redskins. It’s been quite the roller coaster for Locker, who was once seen as a possible first overall selection. But after a poor senior season, he seemed to have fallen out of the first round, before a strong performance at the NFL combine re-established him as a first-round prospect.
TCU’s Andy Dalton is a player who excelled as a four-year starter in college, but he doesn’t do anything particularly well. He might be a little too short or have too little arm strength. Or maybe he has too much red hair. Or maybe he’ll overcome it all to have a solid NFL career.
Other quarterbacks of note are Ryan Mallett from Arkansas, who might be too immobile for the NFL, and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, who played in the old school pistol offense which no NFL team utilizes.
In total, that group makes six quarterbacks who all come with potential and question marks. And all six of those quarterbacks may be drafted in the first round, which would set a new record. But based on the history of the NFL draft, not all these teams and players will succeed. And in a weak year, where some quarterback-desperate team might be forced to reach for one in the first round, there are certain to be some failures.