As the 2010 college football season winds down, we finally get a realistic look at some 2011 draft prospects, and how they could fit into the NFL next year. Of course, factoring in Juniors can be difficult, as some may decide to return for their final year of elligibility at their respective colleges, in hopes of improving their draft stock. Eithe way, 2011 is loaded with top end talent, and no position is more stocked than quarterback.
There are 3 to 4 quarterbacks who could end up going in the first round in the 2011 NFL Draft. There are also pleanty of NFL teams who could use an upgrade, or an infusion of youth at the quarterback position. For some of these teams, this could be a match made in heaven. The Buffalo Bills, for example, are likely to be picking in the top 5 come April, and one name that has to be on the radar is Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Some other teams who could be looking to draft a quarterback in 2011 are the Jaguars, Cardinals, Vikings, 49ers and Redskins.
Most draft experts have Andrew Luck from Stanford rated as the number one overall prospect in the 2011 draft, and for good reason. At 6-4 and 235 pounds, Luck posseses all the intangibles that NFL scout salivate over. He has improved his completion percentage from 56.3 in 2009, to 69.6 in 2010. Luck has already thrown for over 2500 yards, with 13 touchdowns, verses only 4 ints. He has the ability to make all the NFL throws, and shows great touch on short to intermediate routs. He is a good leader both on and of the field.
The second prospect in the 2011 draft, that should also go within the top 10, is Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. Standing at an opposing 6-6 and 238 pounds, Mallett easily has the strongest arm in college football. He started as a true freshmen for Michigan, but wasn't a good fit for the spread that Rich Rod brought in. He transfered to Arkansas, and sat out a full season, before becoming the starter in 2009. Besided the incredible arm strength, what impresses me most about Mallett, is the improvement he has made in completion percentage. He posted a 55.8 completion percentage in 2009, while throwing for 3627 yards and 30 touchdowns, with only 7 interceptions. So far through 2010, he has bettered his completion percentage to 67.3, and has already accounted for 24 touchdowns, with only 8 interceptions. Mallett is also very mobile for his size, and his leadership on the field has improved from last season. He is only a junior, so he may opt to return to Arkansas for his senior season, but will he be able to pass up millions from a willing NFL team?
Cam Newton has burst onto the scene in his first season as a starter for undefeated Auburn. Coming out of high school, Newton was ranked as the number one quarterback prospect in the country, and originally signed with the Florida Gators, but after some off-field issues, an injury that forced him to miss 2008, and the return of Tim Tebow for the 2009 season, Newton decided to transfer to Blinn College in Texas. After leading Blinn to the 2009 National Junior College Championship, Newton decided to take his talents to Auburn. He has posted 2038 yards passing so far this season, with a 68.2 percent completion percentage, while throwing for 21 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions. Newton has also accounted for 1297 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Newton is another Junior who could decide to return for his senior season at Auburn, but given the recent controversy surrounding his recruitment to Auburn, and the possibility of a National Title shot for the Tigers, Newton may decide to bolt for NFL dollars and fame.
Jake Locker has not had the type of year he had hoped for after deciding to return for his senior season at Washington. Locker, who was almost assured to be a top 10 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, returned to the Pacific Northwest, in hopes of refining his game. Unfortunately for Locker, his numbers have dropped this season. His completion percentage, which has been his knock, has fallen from 58.2 percent in 2009, to 55.4 this season. He has accounted for 1746(over 1000 yards less than his 2009 total of 2800) passing yards, with 14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. His struggles are not all his fault, and he is surrounded with very little talent at UW. Still, Locker should hear his name called in the first half of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Ricki Stanzi is my wild card quarterback in the 2011 draft. The 6-4 230 signal caller from Iowa has shown vast improvement form what one would consider a successful 2009 season where he accounted for 2417 yards, and 17 touchdowns, with 15 interceptions. The most noticeable improvement in Stanzi's game has come in completion percentage. He completed 56.3 percent of his passes in 2009, but has improved that number to 66.4 in 2010. He has also lowed his interceptions from 15 in 09' to just 4 this season. So far, he ahs thrown for 2482 yards and 22 touchdowns. Stanzie has ideal size for the position, has above average arm strength, and shows great leadership abilities. He has also been a three year starter for the Hawkeyes, and has been tutored under one of college footballs best coaches in Ferentz.
Other quarterbacks who could be taken within the first three rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft are Blaine Gabbert(JR) from Missouri, Pat Devlin(SR) from Deleware, and Christian Ponder(SR) fron Florida State.