This being a Dolphins blog, it's about the quarterback here. Always. About. Quarterbacks.
I would tell you that 2011 could be remembered as the Year of the Quarterback because there are no less than 15 that might be selected in the coming draft. This could also very easily be the Year of the Quarterback Busts.
The reason I say that this year more than any other is that there is not one absolute, sure-fire, can't-miss quarterback that will be ready to go in the 2011 season opener. And there is no certain future starter here, either.
I wouldn't be surprised if we get half-a-dozen starters. I wouldn't be surprised if we get none. Based on the scouts I speak with and taking their grades into account, I have only nine QBs with grades worthy of picking these players as high as the third round -- two in the first round, four in the second round,, and three in the third round.
Beyond that? Doesn't matter. Tom Brady comes along in the sixth round once per generation. And a generation hasn't passed yet so forget that.
This quarterback draft if freaky that way. Maybe it has something to do with the fact most of these guys are coming out of a spread attack that makes them strangers to the Pro set. Colin Kaepernick comes out of the Pistol offense that makes him a total stranger to NFL brand offense.
All these guys have warts. There are no John Elways in this draft, folks.
Blaine Gabbert: The rumor around the league is there are teams considering trading up to No. 2 overall to pluck Gabbert. I can understand it because although he is not the best physical speciman QB in this draft, he is the most start-ready QB in this draft. That means he is more ready to start as a rookie than any other QB. This kid has the best footwork of any quarterback in the draft. I did not say good footwork. The best. That's important. There are questions about his ability to complete long and even intermediate passes. His completion rate on those was quite low in college. I believe that can bee addressed with solid coaching. I do know that Gabbert is very good at understanding how using his eyes can help him move safeties. It says a lot that this kid already has that figured out.
Cam Newton: Great kid. Great attitude. Driven. Contagious enthusiasm, which is one of the most important intangibles a QB can have because it infects the entire huddle. He's headed to Hollywood if he wants. But, unfortunately, there's a little detail about having to be a good quarterback involved in that. And he's just not ready to contend with NFL defenses at this point. Just isn't. He will be confused more often than not when he faces the defenses if he plays as a rookie. Period. Of course, Newton doesn't feel that way. "If I don't believe in myself, who else is going to believe in me?" Newton said. Someone will believe in Newton, perhaps may Carolina at No. 1. But ... He's a project. He's not ready to start right away. He needs to learn to call plays. He must improve his footwork. His technique is not the best, which sometimes affects his accuracy. But his arm is beyond question. He can make every throw. Despite the technical glitches, his accuracy was still pretty good. And he can extend plays like nobody's business. He won't do it as often in the NFL as he did in the SEC. He better not if he wants to stay healthy. But that ability to run is a big, big plus. I worry about the fact Newton has very little experience, having only one season as a starter under his belt. But if a team has two years to work with this kid before starting him, I think he's going to be great starting in 2013.
Andy Dalton: Brilliant football mind. Killer instinct. Not fast or quick in space, but he has good pocket mobility. He can step up well and evade the rush. He has tons of experience, having played in 50 games with 34-3 record over the last three years including victories over outstanding teams such as Oklahoma and Boise State. His arm is good but not great. He takes coaching very well. He picks it up quickly. His release is very good in that it is quick and off good technique. Nice stroke. This player has all the intangibles.
Christian Ponder: This kid deserves to be a value pick for a West Coast offense, in my opinion. His arm is not strong enough to produce bigtime results outside the West Coast. Ponder also has a history of being injured and fighting shoulder problems. Those are pretty much Ponder's only problems. He is quick, he is mobile, he has 10.2'' hands, which are enormous. Newton, by contrast, has 9.699'' hands and they are considered average. Gabbert has big hands at 10.0''. The prototype is 9.4''. Why am I bringing this up? Big-handed QBs can be more effective in bad weather. They can grip better in the rain. They are almost tailor made for playing in outdoor, Northeast stadiums like Foxboro.
Ryan Mallet: Perhaps the best arm in the entire draft. That's important considering the position is built around the player's throwing arm. Mallett can throw the deep ball. He can throw the in-cut and deep out and seam pass that are must-haves for a quarterback to succeed in today's NFL. But playing quarterback is not always about the arm. Ryan Leaf had the arm. Jim Drunkenmiller had the arm. And they sucked. Here is the worry on Mallett: He is a target in the pocket and one that doesn't move all that well. He didn't recognize blitzes very well in college. That tells me the first year he's playing, he's going to be blitzed and hit and teams are going to try to make a coward of him. We shall see at that point what he is really made of. He seems to move slow in my opinion. That means he doesn't get out from under center and in a throwing position quick enough. I also question his conditioning. One scout told me he seems to tire in games and he seems to tire after long practices.
Jake Locker: Hard worker. Loyal, which I love. Great arm. Has speed to burn, having run a 4.52 at the Indianapolis Combine. Are you kidding me? Questionable accuracy. He played behind a less-than-stellar offensive line last year. He played hurt. But he apparently has issues getting comfortable in the pocket. His instincts tell him to scramble, to move out of the pocket, to get away from the hit. I guess that happens when your offensive line isn't great and you can run like the dickens. He has to get away from that stuff.
Ricky Stanzi: He was coached by an NFL caliber staff so that matters. He's ready for what he is likely to face in the NFL meeting rooms and when he opens a playbook. He has a nice delivery in that it is quicker than average. But the arm is adequate. It doesn't take your breath away. He knows how to read defenses. He knows how to go through his progession. Again, he's been coached great. There are worries that Stanzi lacks the killer instinct that is so obvious in a guy such as Dalton. I worry about that because the NFL is dog eat dog.
Patrick Devlin: He's got prototype size (height, weight). He's been durable but he is kind of lean and did suffer a concussion last season, which is important these days. He has a compact release, he comes over the top and therefore doesn't get many passes batted. Dolphins fans recognize Chad Henne gets a ton of passes batted at the line of scrimmage. He's neither exceedingly fast or quick but he's not Mallettlike immobile. Intangibles? I worry about this kid's stick-to-it nature. He commited to the University of Miami out of high school and backed out. That torqued me off right away. He then went to Penn State but eventually left there as well when he couldn't win the starting job. That kinda, sorta bugs me because what? Is he going to ask for a trade if things don't go well in the pros? He's by all accounts a bright individual, an honor student in fact. That has shown in that Devlin is excellent at recognizing defenses, particularly blitzes. Obviously, you have to wonder about his level of competition. It didn't hurt Joe Flacco.
Colin Kaepernick: Arguably the second-strongest arm in the draft, tied with Newton and just behind Mallett. Smallish hands, and has only recently bulked up from 216 to 233 pounds. Kaepernick can make all the throws. He stood at that Senior Bowl practices and was good enough during the game. He can run. He's a winner. He is big enough for the big stage despite playing at small Nevada. But coming out of the Pistol offense worries me. It's going to take him a while. He's never seen the kind of defensive trickery he's likely to see in the NFL. He doesn't have the building blocks in reading defenses and going through progressions that Stanzi has. He's a project. But he is a value pick in the third round and can be a factor in two or three years.
That's it. There are no other quarterbacks worthy of going in the first three rounds according to the scouts and personnel people I speak with.
So if you want the Dolphins to draft a quarterback, you can forget about them reaching for a QB in the first round. They don't have a second round pick. If it is going to happen, barring a trade down, it will have to happen in the third round.