NFL Draft 2011: Will Cam Newton Have Most Successful Career of All Rookie QBs?
In the downtime until the NFL and the players decide to start talking to each other again, we can fill the time with idle speculation, like how big of a bust Cam Newton is going to be.
Newton was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, so he is fair game to take shots at. He very well could go on to have a Hall of Fame career, but we will not know until they play the game.
There are the other quarterbacks to consider, as well, like Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett. Plus the low-round picks like Tyrod Taylor and Greg McElroy.
We will run down all the quarterbacks drafted and make bold predictions about how their careers will turn out.
1. Cam Newton
If the measure to judge prospects by was purely on talent, Cam Newton would be a lock for the Hall of Fame—he is that good.
However, talent is not the only thing to determine the direction of a player's career.
Newton has serious red flags when it comes to his character and football background. He has made poor choices throughout his college career that are well-documented. This is not anyone making anything up; these are documented bonehead mistakes.
Auburn runs an offense about as simplistic as you can make an offense, and Newton was visibly lost when Jon Gruden began quizzing him about pro-style play-calling.
For Newton to be successful in the NFL, he needs a team who does not need a starting quarterback this year and who has the patience to develop him properly.
That team drafted Ryan Mallett.
I foresee Newton playing three or four years in Carolina with little success and a lot of controversy before being traded or cut. He will finish his career as a backup and enter the list of "Quarterback Busts."
2. Jake Locker
Jake Locker finds himself in a surprisingly good situation. A gifted athlete already with a good reputation when it comes to leadership and intangibles, the Titans are a good fit for Locker.
There are questions about his accuracy, but a study of game film has shown his receivers were terrible and he spent a lot of time throwing on the run.
Locker's only real red flag were his accuracy numbers, which I believe will go up in the NFL with better receivers and better coverage around him.
Locker does not appear to be enamored of the glitz that comes along with being a first-round draft pick like Newton was, and his brief appearances leading up to the draft showed a young man ready to move on to the next level.
The Titans still need to tinker, and Locker will have an adjustment period, but he will end up being the face of the Titans' franchise for the next decade at least and have a solid career.
3. Blaine Gabbert
Blaine Gabbert ended up with the Jacksonville Jaguars. This gives him an opportunity to learn and grow that he might not have gotten had Arizona, Carolina or Cincinnati drafted him.
While David Garrard is going to end the year sitting on the bench if you follow the logical progression of things in this business, the fact Garrard probably will start the year on the field will help give Gabbert an edge.
Standing on the sidelines learning, even for a few weeks, helps Gabbert make the transition to the pros easier.
Jack Del Rio is a good coach, and the Jaguars are a solid organization. Gabbert can become an effective starting quarterback in their system. I expect him to have a good career in Jacksonville and be there for the next 10 or 12 years.
4. Christian Ponder
Christian Ponder ended up in Minnesota, much to a lot of people's surprise. He is considered an underdog in this draft, and his potential for success is much higher than a lot of draftniks gave him in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Ponder has all the skills and talent you look for in a first-round prospect as well as the leadership skills and intangibles.
He was overlooked in favor of Newton, Gabbert, Locker and Mallett in all the pre-draft hype, but Ponder may end up having the best career of all four of them.
Look for Ponder to have a very long, successful career, with the Vikings never regretting this pick once.
5. Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton has the skills and intangibles to be a successful quarterback. At one point, it was being rumored the Colts were interested in drafting him as a potential successor to Peyton Manning.
The problem with Dalton is the team he will be playing for. The Bengals have gone through more first-round quarterbacks than just about any other team in the past 20 years, and Carson Palmer is the only one who even remotely worked out for them.
Palmer is so disgusted with the team he's threatening retirement.
Dalton's future is in his hands, but he has to be wary the Bengals do not ruin his career.
I see two possibilities for Dalton. First, he develops quickly, the Bengals do not change and Dalton bolts at the first taste of free agency.
Or, Dalton follows the same path as Palmer (hopefully without the injuries), and is trying to get traded out of Cincinnati in seven or eight years.
6. Colin Kaepernick
Under Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick has the chance to start building the next Bill Walsh or Mike Holmgren.
Harbaugh is considered a quarterbacks guy, and Kaepernick is in need of development.
Kaepernick comes from a Pistol offense, and you just do not transition to the pro game from that type of offense overnight.
With Alex Smith rumored to be coming back, Kaepernick will get time to develop.
Assuming injuries do not force Kaepernick on to the field sooner than expected, I also believe Kaepernick can have a successful career under Jim Harbaugh.
7. Ryan Mallett
For Ryan Mallett to drop into the third round and be overlooked by every team needing a quarterback at least once, if not twice, there has to be some truth to the allegations of attitude problems and character issues.
While the Internet blogs and mainstream media may run with the story to fill space or air time, teams usually ignore that stuff if there really is no truth or merit to the stories.
Since Mallett was not drafted until the middle of the third round, that tells that me where there is smoke, there is fire.
Mallett did end up in one of the best situations he could possibly hope for, though. Under Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, he can learn the game and nobody will expect anything out of him this year.
Unless Mallett decides he has been "wronged" and throws temper tantrums and refuses to listen to the coaches.
Mallett will be a nobody in the Patriots locker room, so he either grows from the experience and proves all his critics wrong in a few years, or he takes his ball and goes home at some point.
Those are the only outcomes I see in his future.
8. Ricky Stanzi
Ricky Stanzi has "career backup" written all over him. This does not mean he will not be successful; it just means at some point he will be thrust into the starter's role, excel for a few weeks until opposing defenses adjust to him, and then everyone realizes he is better as a backup coming off the bench.
9. Taylor Yates
T.J. Yates comes in as a backup to Matt Schaub. As a result, he will get plenty of time to learn the game.
Yates is a solid prospect who has good upside, but he is far from ready to be a starting quarterback.
He most likely ends up as a career backup, but he will be a backup you can depend on.
10. Nathan Enderle
Nathan Enderle now plays for the Bears, and he will be battling for the second spot on the depth chart with Caleb Hanie.
If he wins that battle, expect to see him on the field at some point because Jay Cutler will not last the full season in Chicago. Cutler's days are numbered because of the NFC Championship Game debacle with his knee.
At the first sign of weakness, the crowd will pounce on him, and I do not think Cutler has the mental fortitude to handle it.
Enderle will get one shot to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. If he does well, expect him to hang around for several years. If he blows it, he will be out of the league within five years.
11. Tyrod Taylor
Tyrod Taylor has a long road to becoming a starting quarterback in the NFL with Joe Flacco leading the Ravens.
Taylor's career is going to come down to a combination of skill and luck. He will have to show the people in charge he is skilled enough to be a starting quarterback, and he will have to be lucky enough to have an opportunity open up for him.
Taylor is extremely athletic and has a great arm, so the talent is there.
If he gets an opportunity, I see Taylor going far and becoming a sleeper draft boom for the Ravens, or wherever he might end up.
12. Greg McElroy
When you play in New York, anything is possible. McElroy could be the starting quarterback by the end of the season in the crazy world that is the NFL.
That is not to say Mark Sanchez is going anywhere, but the Jets have been lucky the last few years with Sanchez.
McElroy was the smartest guy at the Combine, according to many reports, and he will be an effective backup for Sanchez, probably creating a quarterback controversy at some point.
This was an interesting year for quarterbacks, and we will see who stays and who goes in the course of time.