2011 NFL Draft Predictions: the Quarterbacks
by Alan Matthews - 4/22/2011
Water is wet. The sky is blue. And quarterbacks are the story of every NFL Draft.
Yes, there is nothing different about the 2011 NFL Draft, which begins next Thursday with a prime-time first round. As usual, the quarterbacks are the story of the first round. True, left tackles and cornerbacks have become elite positions in the NFL, but you simply can’t win without a good quarterback in this pass-heavy era of pro football.
Seriously, look at the Super Bowl winners since, say, the turn of the century. That 2000 Super Bowl between the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans really helped turn the NFL into the pass-crazy league that it is thanks to Kurt Warner and the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ winning the title in that terrific Super Bowl XXXV over the Tennessee Titans. Since that game, there are probably only two quarterbacks to win Super Bowls whom you would consider non-stars: Trent Dilfer of the Ravens and Brad Johnson of the Buccaneers – a case could be made of the Giants’ Eli Manning, I suppose, but he’s a Pro Bowler.
But even if you throw out Eli, here are the names of the past seven Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. That’s probably four Hall of Famers with Rodgers perhaps on the way.
With that said, the NFL Draft props are starting to roll out, and Sportsbook.com has odds on the ‘over/under’ of quarterbacks going in this year’s first round: 3.5. There are probably nine teams that desperately need a starting quarterback: Carolina, Buffalo, Cincinnati (presuming the Bengals believe Carson Palmer won’t be back), Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee, Washington, Minnesota and Seattle. Some would throw the Miami Dolphins in there, although it seems early to give up on young Chad Henne. Obviously there aren’t going to be 8-9 quarterbacks taken in the first round. Most draft experts believe there are only four with a first-round grade: Auburn’s Cam Newton, Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert, Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and Washington’s Jake Locker.
Newton and Gabbert are lock Top-10 picks. In fact, you can also bet on a prop for where each guy goes. Newton is at ‘over/under’ 1.5 with Gabbert at ‘over/under’ 4.5. Every mock draft on the planet now has Newton going to the Panthers even though they took Jimmy Clausen out of Notre Dame with their second-round pick last year. So the ‘under’ is a good bet there even though it’s at -160. Gabbert is a tougher call. He absolutely will not get past the Arizona Cardinals at No. 5, so you can see why this number is at 4.5. It seems the Bills at No. 3 aren’t super high on him as they already have Ryan Fitzpatrick and, thus can possibly wait for the second round for a QB. That leaves the Bengals at No. 4. Do they call Palmer’s bluff and perhaps take Georgia WR A.J. Green? Two former Bengals who are now NFL analysts, Boomer Esiason and Cris Collinsworth, both say the Bengals will take Gabbert. And my NFL Draft predictions state they are right. The ‘under’ on him is actually a -105 underdog.
So back to the 3.5 total quarterbacks in Round 1. It seems a few teams have Locker rocketing up their draft boards, and it’s unlikely he gets past the hometown Seahawks at No. 25 if perhaps not going earlier to the Minnesota Vikings. Thus, it’s up to Mallett, unless by some miracle TCU’s Andy Dalton slips into Round 1. Mallett’s stock is sliding right now amid rumors he missed meetings with the Panthers because he was hungover – his agent says he was just ill. And Mallett, who right away probably would have the best arm in the NFL, reportedly admitted in a team interview that he previously used drugs. Still, some NFL GM will be enamored by his arm and stature (6-foot-7). So take the ‘over’ 3.5, which is a -105 underdog.
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