Baalke breaks down the Big Four at QB

Will the 49ers land their quarterback of the future in the 2011 NFL draft? There are four top prospects – all of them featuring different dynamics and styles – universally considered first-rounders, and the 49ers could jump at any of them. Here, Niners GM Trent Baalke gives his takes on the draft's top four QBs and how they might fit with the 49ers, and we rate the team's interest in each.

As the first-round of the draft approaches Thursday, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Auburn's Cam Newton, Washington's Jake Locker and Arkansas Ryan Mallett have climbed to the top of most draft boards at quarterback.

That is quite a smorgasbord of top prospects for the 49ers to consider.

"You're dealing with four totally different players," Baalke said.

Here's Baalke's breakdown of those four:

Cam Newton, Auburn

Baalke's take: "You're dealing with Cam Newton from a spread offense, who has, as coach (Jim Harbaugh) said, a lot of physical talent. He's got arm strength, he's got athleticism, he's got Ben Roethlisberger-type stature in the pocket. He's a piece of clay that needs to be molded. The mental part of the game with the system that he's in No. 1, he hasn't played at that level for a long time. That's going to be a work in progress, but he should get it."
49ers pre-draft interest: Warm

Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

Baalke's take: "You look at Gabbert, he comes from a spread-style system as well. He has rare passing talent, very good arm strength, accuracy, but he's been in a spread system and he's coming out early – another junior who has decided to come out early."
49ers pre-draft interest: Considerable

Jake Locker, Washington

Baalke's take: "You go to Locker, he's more of a pro-style quarterback in the system but has functioned much better outside the pocket running, scrambling throughout his career making plays than he has actually working in the pocket. So there's going to be an adjustment for him to get comfortable in the pocket."
49ers pre-draft interest: High

Ryan Mallett, Arkansas

Baalke's take: "You're looking at Mallett, who might have the best arm talent in the draft, more of a pocket passer. He's admittedly said he's not going to win any 40-yard dash or any relay race or anything like that, but he's a pure pocket passer. Probably mentally along with Locker he's played in a system more closely related to the pro game."
49ers pre-draft interest: Fair

So where does that leave the 49ers regarding each of these prospects? On that take, Baalke isn't letting on.

"You're dealing with a bunch of different elements here," he said. "They're not going to fit everybody's offense. It's up to the evaluators to decide who fits the system they want to run the best."


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