A look at the 2011 NFL Draft's Top Passers

Dave-Te Thomas and The NFL Draft Report Present A Pro-spective Look at the 2011 NFL Draft's Top Passers

Six quarterbacks have generated the most attention by NFL teams looking for a passer in the first few rounds. Gazing into my "crystal ball," I take a look at each of these athletes based on their pro potential and not from where they will be selected on draft day.

While most of the early first-round talk has been where Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert will call home next season, there are few talent evaluators that will argue with the fact that Colin Kaepernick might be the best overall athlete among this year's quarterback crop.

Ryan Mallett might possess one of the most powerful arms in the game, but it was Kaepernick that set passing velocity marks at the NFL Scouting Combine. The Nevada passer is the first player in the history of college football to throw for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards in a career.

Jake Locker might have been better served leaving Washington after the 2009 season, as he was projected as a top-five draft selection prior to his senior season. A less-than-inspiring 2010 campaign could see him leave a lot of money behind, as he is now targeted as a late first-round/early second-round choice.

Christian Ponder struggled through two injury-plagues seasons and underwent multiple surgeries that prevent him from matching the lofty figures that Kaepernick and Newton generated in 2010. Still, his solid performance throughout the week of practices prior to the Senior Bowl might have been enough to see the Seminole move into the tail end of round one.

Here are the in-depth scouting reports of the "Big Six" who should all hear their names called by the second round at the end of April.


COLIN KAEPERNICK-University of Nevada
Kaepernick started 47 of 51 games at Nevada, completing 740 of 1,271 passes (58.22%) for 10,098 yards, 82 touchdowns and just 24 interceptions…Caught one pass for a 6-yard score and rushed 600 times for 4,112 yards (6.85 ypc) with 59 touchdowns…Responsible for 142 touchdowns, as he gained 14,210 yards in total offense on 1,871 offensive plays (278.63 ypg/7.59 ypa)…Scored 362 points…Threw for over 200 yards 19 times, including six 300-yard performances and a 400-yard effort…Had at least two touchdown passes in 25 games, registering at least three scoring strikes 11 times (including two four-touchdown and one five-touchdown performances)…Did not throw an interception in 31 of his 47 starting assignments…Ran for over 100 yards 16 times during his career, twice going over the 200-yard mark on the ground…Became just the sixth player in NCAA annals to throw for over 2,000 yards (2,849 in 2008, 2,052 in 2009 and 3,022 in 2010) and run for over 1,000 yards (1,130 in 2008, 1,183 in 2009 and 1,206 in 2010) in a campaign and is the only quarterback in college annals to accomplish that feat in three consecutive seasons…Also the 10th college quarterback to run for over 1,000 yards in consecutive campaigns, becoming just the third in Western Athletic Conference history, joining Beau Morgan of Air Force (1,285 in 1995 and 1,494 in 1996) and Dee Dowis of Air Force (1,286 in 1987 and 1,315 in 1987)…Became the 13th player in the NCAA Division I ranks to amass over 2,000 yards rushing and 4,000 yards passing in a career…Became the NCAA's eighth quarterback to tally 3,000 yards rushing and 3,000 yards passing in a career, and is one of four to throw for over 8,000 yards and rush for over 3,000 yards in a career, joining an elite group that includes Antwaan Randle El of Indiana (3,895 rushing and 7,469 passing, 1998-2001), Joshua Cribbs of Kent State (3,670 rushing and 7,169 passing, 2001-04) and Brad Smith of Missouri (4,289 rushing, 8,799 passing, 2002-05)…His 10,098 aerial yards and 4,112 yards on the ground saw him become just the second quarterback in Western Athletic Conference history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for over 3,000 yards in a career (Beau Morgan-Air Force, 1994-96 is the only QB to accomplish that feat).

Compares To: Donovan McNabb-Washington-Kaepernick is an athletic "stallion" in the mold of McNabb during Donovan's prime. He added needed bulk to his frame to absorb punishment at the next level and has made steady progress in undergoing some mechanical refinement (wind-up and low release point). I challenge anyone to find another quarterback eligible for the 2011 draft that has his arm strength, running ability and quickness. His arm rivals that of Joe Flacco's, his ability to avoid the rush reminds me of Vince Young and his swagger is favorably compared to that of Matt Ryan's. He was just not utilized to his best assets by the Nevada coaches, as he should be in a pro-style offense, rather than be confined to a "pistol" type of scheme.



As a collegian, Newton appeared in a total of 32 games, starting all 14 contests for Auburn and all 12 clashes while attending Blinn College (played in six other games at Florida)…For his collegiate career, the quarterback completed 395 of 628 passes (62.90%) for 5,741 yards, 52 touchdowns and twelve interceptions…Added 2,241 yards with 40 more scores on 393 carries (5.70 ypc), as he also recorded one solo tackle, punted once for 22 yards and caught two passes for 42 yards, including one touchdown…Amassed 9,003 yards in total offense on 1,021 plays, an average of 281.34 yards per game and 8.82 yards per attempt…Despite playing just one season at Auburn, Newton had enough pass attempts (minimum of 150) to qualify for several career records, as his pass completion percentage of .6607 in 2010 broke the old school annual record of .646 by Jason Campbell (2001-04)…His 30 touchdown passes as a junior broke the Auburn season-record of 22, set in 2009 by Chris Todd…Completed 66.07% of his pass attempts in 2010, the third-best pass completion percentage by a Tigers hurler in a campaign, ranking behind Ben Leard (.707; 1999) and Jason Campbell (.696; 2004)…Newton's 1,473 yards rushing in 2010 shattered Jimmy Siddle's Auburn and Southeastern Conference record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,006; 1963)…That rushing yardage ranks 12th overall on the SEC's season-record chart and third all-time at Auburn among all ball carriers, and is surpassed only by Bo Jackson (1,786; 1985) and Rudi Johnson (1,567; 2000)…His 20 rushing touch-downs in 2010 topped the school's previous annual record of 17 by Jackson in 1985 and Carnell Williams in 2003 and ranks second in SEC annals by a quarterback in a season, surpassed by Tim Tebow of Florida (23; 2007).

Compares To: Daunte Culpepper-ex Minnesota…From a football athletic standpoint, Newton is strikingly similar to Culpepper, but he does not have the experience of playing in a pro-style system coming out of college like Culpepper did. He could easily be the next "JaMarcus Russell," especially with his lack of maturity and history of off-field issues. He needs to tone down his opinion of himself, as his "icon" opinion is annoying. He's strictly boom or bust, but with his coy attitude, he's more self-absorbent and could turn off coaches.



During his collegiate career, Mallett appeared in a total of 37 games (11 at Michigan and 26 at Arkansas, Starting all 27 contests he appeared in at Arkansas and three at Michigan…
He concluded his college career with 8,385 yards, 69 touchdowns and 24 interceptions, completing 552 of 955 passes (57.80%), as he also recorded minus 141 yards with seven scores on 135 carries (-1.04 ypc)…Joined Clint Stoerner (1996-99) as the only Arkansas quarterbacks to throw for 7,000 yards in a career and became just the fourth passer in Southeastern Conference history with 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons…As a Razorback, Mallett completed 491 of 814 attempts (60.32%) for 7,493 yards, 62 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, finishing with 7,390 yards in total offense on 916 plays (8.07 avg), averaging 284.23 yards per game…301 of 491 pass completions (61.30%) went for first downs, converting 76 of 193 third-down passes (39.38%)…279 of his pass completions (56.82%) went for gains of at least 10 yards, including 114 that went for 20 yards or more (23.22%)…151 of 814 pass attempts (18.55%) resulted in either a sack, interception or pass deflection…His 7,793 aerial yards broke Stoerner's all-time Arkansas record of 7,422 and rank 20th in Southeastern Conference annals…Set a school season-record with 3,869 aerial yards in 2010, shattering Stoerner's previous mark of 2,629 in 1998, as that mark also places fourth on the SEC's record chart.

Compares To: Carson Palmer-Cincinnati…There is no question that Mallett's arm strength is on par with that of Baltimore's Joe Flacco. He towers over defenders and has great size, but he's slow-footed and with that long stride of his, he's never going to be able to escape pressure with any consistency. Whoever drafts him will need to make sure they have an outstanding offensive line to protect him, as he will never be a threat throwing on the move. While his passing ability is likened to Palmer's, some of his poor decisions and inability to keep his cool under pressure have other evaluators seeing a bit of Derek Anderson (Arizona) in his game.



Gabbert started 26 of 31 games at Missouri, completing 568 of 933 passes (60.88%) for 6,822 yards, 40 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, adding eight touchdowns on 221 carries for 458 yards (2.07 ypc)…Led his teams to an 18-8 record as a starter…Holds a career passer efficiency rating of 132.59…Generated 7,280 yards in total offense on 1,154 plays (6.31 avg), averaging 234.84 yards per game…Gabbert ranks third all-time at Missouri with 6,822 passing yards, as that mark is topped only by Chase Daniel (12,515; 2005-08) and Brad Smith (8,799; 2002-05)…His 3,593 passing yards in 2009 are surpassed only by Daniel (4,335 in 2008; 4,306 in 2007) on the school's season-record list…Ranks fifth in Missouri season annals with 3,186 passing yards in 2010…His 468 passing yards vs. Baylor in 2009 place second to Jeff Handy's record (480 vs. Oklahoma State in 1992) on the school's game-record list…Has three 400-yard passing performances in his career, just one shy of Chase Daniel's school record…Gabbert's pass efficiency rating of 132.59 is topped only by Daniel (148.9) in Missouri annals… Posted a passer efficiency rating of 140.45 in 2009, ranking sixth on the school's single-season record chart…Rank third all-time at Missouri with 7,280 yards in total offense behind Chase Daniel (13,485) and Brad Smith (13,088)… Generated 3,797 yards in total offense in 2009, placing fourth on the school's season-record chart behind Daniel (4,616 in 2008; 4,559 in 2007; 3,906 in 2006)…His 3,418 yards in total offense in 2010 place sixth on the school's season-record chart.

Compares To: Jay Cutler-Chicago…Gabbert has a pro-caliber arm, but with that three-quarter release, lots of his attempts end up being deflected (45 in 2010). He is a well-built athlete, but even with his solid work ethic, a quick adjustment from the spread to a pro-style offense is not going to happen.



Ponder started 24 of 37 games at Florida State, completing 596 of 965 passes (61.76%) for 6,872 yards, 49 touchdowns ands 30 interceptions…Carried 296 times for 833 yards (2.81 ypc) and 10 scores…Generated 7,705 yards in total offense on 1,261 plays, an average of 208.24 yards per game…Also recorded a pair of solo tackles…His pass completion percentage of .6176 ranked third in school history behind Charlie Ward (62.32%, 473 of 759, 1989-93) and Danny Kanell (62.16%, 529 of 851, 1992-95)…Became just the fourth player in school history to throw for over 6,500 yards in a career, joining Chris Weinke (9,839; 1997-2000), Chris Rix (8,390; 2001-04) and Drew Weatherford (7,567; 2005-08)…Only Chris Weinke (650) and Drew Weatherford (644) completed more passes for the Seminoles than Ponder's 596…His 49 touchdown passes tied Charlie Ward for fifth in FSU annals, topped by Chris Weinke (79), Chris Rix (63), Danny Kanell (57) and Gary Huff (52; 1970-72)…His 227 pass completions in 2009 tied Danny Kanell (1994) for seventh on the school season-record list…Ponder's 20 touchdown passes in 2010 tied Peter Tom Willis (1989) for 13th place on the FSU annual record chart.
2009 Season: Missed the final four games vs. Wake Forest, Maryland, Florida and West Virginia after Ponder suffered a grade-three separated right shoulder during the Seminoles' 40-24 loss at Clemson. The quarterback suffered the injury late in the fourth quarter when he attempted to make a tackle after throwing his fourth interception. He underwent surgery to repair his shoulder two weeks later. It was not until March 29th, 2010, that Ponder would begin throwing again, taking part in spring camp.
2010 Season: Suffered a right elbow strain vs. Oklahoma that forced the quarterback to wear a protective sleeve over the length of his arm during the Brigham Young clash. Ponder's throwing was affected vs. the Cougars, as he was also dealing with a triceps bruise on his throwing arm vs. BYU. In the clash vs. Boston College, the issue with Ponder's health, specifically his arm strength, was causing alterations in the playbook. He described the latest ailment as a bursa sac injury to his right elbow. It happened on a scrambling run, the quarterback said. "I hit the ground and I must have just hit it right," Ponder noted. "There's that little sac in your elbow and I came right down on my elbow on the ground and it swelled up." On November 6th, Ponder was still troubled with an elbow injury on his throwing arm. He missed his weekly media session leading up to the North Carolina game to visit with doctors about soreness and swelling in the elbow. The ruptured bursa sac created a large amount of swelling and discomfort. After the North Carolina clash, Ponder's right elbow was so swollen that doctors removed 500 cc's of built-up fluid. To put that in perspective, that's the equivalent of two cups – or one-fourth of a 2-liter bottle of soda.

Compares To: TONY ROMO-Dallas…Like Romo, Ponder is not blessed with ideal football size. Like Romo, injuries have played a major part in his inconsistent performances the last two years. He looks like he will capitalize on his Senior Bowl and pre-draft performances to go earlier in the draft than where he was rated in December, but while he can be a playoff caliber passer, there is not enough in his total package to feel that he will ever lead his team to the "promised land."


JAKE LOCKER-Washington

Locker started all 40 games at Washington, completing 619 of 1,148 passes (53.92%) for 7,639 yards, 53 touchdowns and 35 interceptions, holding a career passer rating of 118.95…Scored 29 times on 454 carries for 1,939 yards (4.27 ypc)…Amassed 9,578 yards in total offense on 1,602 plays (5.98 avg), averaging 239.45 yards per game…Among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision active players, Locker ranks 12th for pass attempts, 17th for pass completions, 16th for yards passing, tied for 18th for touchdown tosses, tenth for interceptions, seventh for total plays participated in, ninth for total offensive yardage and tied for eighth for touchdowns responsible for (82)…His 1,148 pass attempts rank second only to Cody Pickett (1,429; 1999-2003) on Washington's career-record list…His 619 completions are also topped only by Pickett (821) in school annals…His 7,639 passing yards place second all-time at Washington behind Pickett's 10,220 and 26th in Pac-10 Conference history…Passed for 200 yards or more 20 times, the second most in school history to Pickett's 29…Tied Brock Huard (1996-98) for second in school annals with 53 touchdown passes, as that mark is just shy of Pickett's school record (55) and ranks 26th in Pac-10 Conference history…Accumulated 9,578 yards in total offense, ranking second on the school's record list behind only Pickett (10,103) and 11th in Pac-10 Conference history…His 1,602 total offensive attempts are also the second most in school history behind Pickett (1,685)…His .0305 interception percentage is the third-lowest in school annals, topped only by Isaiah Stanback (.0229; 2003-06) and Mark Brunell (.0302; 1989-92).

Compares To: J.P. LOSMAN-Oakland…Locker can also be compared to the Bears' Jay Cutler and the 49ers' David Carr, as he is blessed with tremendous athleticism, but there seems to be that one missing ingredient – putting it all together. He is the type of athlete that can buy time with his feet, and he has more than enough strength and the quick release to get the ball out much quicker than he showed in 2010. He played behind a terrible line, and as a result, he rarely stepped into his throws and often unleashed the ball off his back foot. I'm just not sold on Locker even getting to Cutler's rank, feeling he's more Losman/Carr than teams realize.

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