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The perennial position on any NFL team is the man under center, the quarterback of course. With the draft approaching and a lack of elite quarterback prospects, teams will have to decide whether they should go for broke, drafting a quarterback high, or play it safe and take a position where busts are less likely. Virtually every team in the top five has a need at quarterback but exactly what type of talents are they looking at and how urgent are their needs?
The Panthers at No. 1 took a chance on Jimmy Clausen last season but it looks as if they have lost interest in the young quarterback. The problem though is that this is one of the weaker quarterback classes when it comes to star power. Giving Clausen another season to develop may be the best option for the Panthers who could draft a beast like Auburn Defensive Lineman Nick Fairley instead. If the Panthers do decide to draft a quarterback though to try to make a splash and please the fans the decision of who may, not be an easy one to make. In years past the No. 1 pick overall was already known well before the draft began, but not this year.
The Broncos at No. 2 might be glancing at the quarterback position out of the corner of their eye, but John Elway realizes no one in this draft will replicate him and the Broncos could stay pat with Kyle Orton and their investment in Tim Tebow. It wouldn’t be shocking though to see a quarterback taken especially if Elway likes a quarterback enough to develop behind Orton, trusting Tebow is not the long-term solution.
The Bills seem to be a favorite every year to take a quarterback in the first round to build their franchise around, but every pick has seemed to falter. As the third pick, the Bills will have to see what happens in front of them as to whether another quarterback gamble will pay off or not. Ryan Fitzpatrick did prove to be capable last season and seems like he could hold down this position for now.
The Bengals are on the verge of rebuilding or staying competitive. It looks like Carson Palmer will not be their quarterback next season and, with no replacement in sight, the Bengals will likely look to fill the void through the draft. Carson’s brother Jordan and Dan LeFevour are the only other options for the Bengals, and the Bengals likely won’t put their future behind either of their arms.
The Cardinals hold the fifth pick in the draft and they too have needs at the quarterback position. Matt Leinart never panned out and John Skelton started their last four games of the season but was unimpressive, totaling only two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 62.3. Their other quarterbacks Max Hall and Derek Anderson, who played the bulk of the games, also had miserable seasons and are not the future for the Cardinals.
Blaine Gabbert: This quarterback from Missouri has skyrocketed up the draft board for most experts. He has great size at 6-5, and NFL-ready accuracy and arm strength. Gabbert is described as a great leader with the intangibles and his toughness is unmatched. He did however play in a spread offense, and could have difficulty adjusting to being under center for the majority of his NFL snaps.
Cam Newton: The reigning Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn has a dynamic combination of speed and arm strength. He also has great size at 6-5, and with a 250 lb. frame he makes it difficult for defenders to bring him down. Newton, like Gabbert, played in a spread offense in college and the adjustment to an NFL system may be a difficult transition. There have also been questions about what type of a person Newton is, and the fact that he has only played at a high level for one year could scare some potential drafters away.
Ryan Mallett: Another quarterback who decided to leave early for the draft, Mallett, from Arkansas, has great size at 6-7, and can make all the NFL throws. He is more suited to make the transition to an NFL offense, and does a good job reading defenses. Mallett lacks mobility and is strictly a pocket-passer which could scare teams who are trying to revamp or rebuild their offensive lines. His mental toughness and attitude are two of the things that have lowered his draft stock, but his potential is through the roof.
Jake Locker: A senior from Washington, Locker is smaller than the other top prospects at his position. Locker, at 6-2, has worked in an NFL-style offense and has a ton of experience. He has an NFL-capable arm, good speed, and leadership abilities. The knock on Locker has been his steady decline in performance, his accuracy problems, and problems with his mechanics. He did have a shaky line at Washington though, and as a top prospect in 2010, he does have all the capabilities for an NFL team willing to give him a shot.
Christian Ponder: This senior quarterback from Florida State has decent size at 6-3, and is an accurate passer and intelligent player. He has the ability to run with the ball and does a good job of reading his progressions. He doesn’t have a great arm though, which is something that really awes teams. Ponder is a solid quarterback, however, and could be a good, safe pick for a team that needs a franchise quarterback.
The potential is there, although unlikely that all of the top five teams could take a quarterback to fulfill their needs. With so many teams in need, this could be an interesting draft full of tough decisions for NFL teams already facing a difficult future.