Of the 12 quarterbacks I projected to be drafted, all but Delaware's Pat Devlin were selected during the 2011 draft. Tennessee, Jacksonville and Minnesota swung for the fences in the first round for three players that are either seeking employment elsewhere or on the verge of seeing their roster spot, much less their starting opportunities, all but disappear by the time 2014 training camp concludes.
All three of those franchises are regretting playing it safe on draft day, as San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick has proven to be yet another steal for the 49ers. Cincinnati's Andy Dalton is another second-rounder who has emerged as a viable starter, even though he will be on a short leash after 2014 if he does not advance the Bengals further into the playoffs than their recent first-round losses.
New England might have held onto its cards too long with Ryan Mallett, as rampant rumors had the 2015 free agent-to-be on his way to Houston via a draft-day trade. With the Pats selecting Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round last month, Mallett could still find his way out of Foxboro with a training camp trade, but will more likely bolt the team as a free agent after the 2014 campaign.
Based on the order they were selected, here is a look at the quarterbacks teams were hoping would develop into their long-term solutions:
THE 2011 DRAFT CLASS
|Jacksonville||1||10||10||*Blaine Gabbert||Missouri||(From Redskins)|
|Minnesota||1||12||12||Christian Ponder||Florida State|
|San Francisco||2||4||36||Colin Kaepernick||Nevada||(From Broncos)|
|New England||3||10||74||*Ryan Mallett||Arkansas||(From Minnesota for WR Randy Moss)|
|Kansas City||5||4||135||Ricky Stanzi||Iowa||(From Denver for two 2010 seventh-round picks, through Tampa Bay for DT Alex Magee)|
|Houston||5||21||152||T.J. Yates||North Carolina||(From Redskins through Colts)|
|Baltimore||6||15||180||Tyrod Taylor||Virginia Tech||(From St. Louis for WR Mark Clayton)|
|New York Jets||7||5||208||Greg McElroy||Alabama||(From Arizona for FS Kerry Rhodes)|
* Denotes underclassman
CAM NEWTON, Auburn (6:05.0-248-4.60)
Since the inception of the draft in 1936, 32 quarterbacks were taken with the first selection. From 1936 through 1969, 11 passers earned that distinction, while the drafts held from 1970 through 1999 saw an additional 10 signal-callers earn that distinction. Since the turn of the century, 10 of the next 15 overall top picks were quarterbacks.
Newton has more than lived up to that top billing, along with the Colts' top choice in 2012, Andrew Luck, and Detroit found its starting quarterback with Matthew Stafford in 2009, but the other seven quarterbacks selected first since 2000 have not performed as expected.
Michael Vick has bounced around from Atlanta, to jail, back to the Falcons before spending most of his Philadelphia career nursing various wounds that led to him again looking for another home as a new member of the Jets in 2014. David Carr's flame soon went out at Houston and the 2002 top choice is hoping that his last stop with the Giants does not spell the end to his career as a backup.
Extending that string of seeing a quarterback taken first overall, the 2003 draft featured Carson Palmer going to the Bengals, Eli Manning being taken by the Giants in 2004 and Alex Smith joining San Francisco in 2005. Palmer (Cardinals) and Smith (Chiefs) have since moved on and, if you listen to New York fans, most are hoping that Manning will do likewise in the near future.
Perhaps the biggest bust in the history of the draft came in 2007 when the Raiders foolishly took uninspired JaMarcus Russell. Two years later, Stafford found his way to Detroit and, in 2010, the Rams selected Sam Bradford, whose injury issues prevented him from playing most of his final season at Oklahoma and the injury bug has continued to plague him since he stepped on to the NFL playing field.
In three seasons at the helm, Newton has generated 11,299 passing yards, hitting on 882-of-1,475 passes (59.8 percent) with 64 touchdowns. He added 2,032 yards and 28 scores on 364 carries (5.6 ypc). In 48 games for the Panthers, the team compiled a 25-23-0 record, as Newton saw Carolina go 6-10 during his rookie campaign, 7-9 while experiencing a bit of a sophomore slump in 2012, followed by a 12-4 mark and NFC South title in 2013.
Newton is likely to earn a long-term deal, but recently had the fifth-year option of his contract picked up. He's still a work in progress, especially with his penchant for forcing his throws into a crowd, resulting in 42 interceptions as a professional. Ball-security issues have led to 18 fumbles, turning the ball over six times, but he also recovered seven of his own flubs. In his third season, he coughed up the ball just three times, a marked improvement over his 10 fumbles in 2012.
Newton has made the Pro Bowl twice during three seasons in the NFL, but has lost virtually his entire receiving unit from 2013, whether via free agency or through salary cap issues. The Panthers might have had a 12-4 regular-season record in 2013, but they ranked 18th in the league in points scored (22.9 ppg), 26th in total yards (316.8 ypg), 29th in passing (190.2 ypg) and 11th in rushing (126.6 ypg).
Newton seemed to have matured quite a bit during his third season, but one area of concern was his long-distance throws. Having compiled 65 completions for at least 20 yards in 2011, followed by 57 more in 2012, he managed just 33 of those successful throws in 2013. His long-distance running skills seemed to have also suffered, gaining at least 20 yards on only two carries in 2013 after recording nine such carries in 2012 and six more as a rookie.
With his big frame, Newton has managed to keep all of his "body parts," but with lots of new faces on their offensive line, he is a candidate for more punishment. In 48 games, he's been sacked 114 times, including a career-high 43 times in 2013.
The Verdict: Carolina has found its franchise quarterback and Newton has shown the leadership and maturity that most scouts feared he would never develop. He is still prone to making foolish decisions with the ball, but seems to be in sync with what the coaches want him to do — move the chains rather than try to hit a "home run" with still unrefined setup/release skills. He clearly has the athleticism to handle dropping back from center, but has to be more decisive when making multiple reads of the defense — something he wasn't often asked to do at Auburn. Most of his deep-ball problems occur when he fails to step into his throws, especially when on the move, as he will stop his feet and will shot-put throws, leading to passes fluttering and coming up short. He is still a work in progress when trying to read defenses, but at least he showed better patience in 2013. In 2011 and 2012, he would just tuck the ball and run with it when pressured, but in 2013, he seemed to have a better ability in making those reads in a timely fashion.
Draft Redo: Of the eight draft choices by Carolina, it is safe to assume that they will be backing up the Brinks truck for Newton's next contract talks. Without a second-round pick (traded to New England for a 2010 second-rounder), the Panthers needed to shore up their defensive line, using both third-round choices on Terrell McClain and Sione Fua. Neither panned out. In fact, outside of fifth-rounder Kealoha Pilares, none of the other draft picks are with Carolina any more.
Pilares has just two catches for 42 yards and a 25.2-yard average on 32 kickoff returns to show for three seasons with the Panthers. Still, even though he would have been used mostly as a blocker, one of the best fullbacks in the NFL was available and Anthony Sherman (136th selection by Arizona) would have been a much better choice than the Hawaii receiver.
With the choice they used on McClain, perhaps hindsight would have led them to take who their scouting coordinator Don Gregory was pushing for — outside linebacker Justin Houston (70th pick to Kansas City). Carolina could have addressed strong safety issues with Da'Norris Searcy (Buffalo at 100) and then taken tight end Jordan Cameron (102nd choice by Cleveland), but instead selected instant flame-outs in Fua and Hogan.
JAKE LOCKER, Washington (6:02.4-231-4.58)
Since the 1990 draft, the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans have selected just seven quarterbacks. Two of those players, Reggie Slack-Auburn (12th round in 1990) and Kevin Daft-Cal-Davis (fifth round in 1999) never stepped behind center to complete a pass for the team. Two others, Bucky Richardson-Texas A&M (eighth round in 1992) and Rusty Smith-Florida Atlantic (sixth round in 2010) combined for 19 appearances and five starts while each played three seasons in the organization, as the duo totaled six touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Outside of 1995 first-round choice (third overall) Steve McNair, the team has not gotten much return for the three first-round quarterbacks it had on its roster. McNair compiled a 91-62 record, hitting on 2,733-of-4,544 passes for 31,304 yards, 174 touchdowns and 119 interceptions, scoring 37 more times on 669 carries from 1995 until he was unceremoniously dumped after the 2007 season.
McNair's departure was the result of order from owner Bud Adams, who had anointed 2006 first-round bust Vince Young as the new face of the franchise. Young's tenure would last until the 2011 campaign, as he went 31-19 in 50 starting assignments while appearing in 61 games. He had more interceptions than touchdowns (51 thefts, 46 scores) on 755-of-1,304 attempts for 8,964 yards, in addition to running for 12 more scores.
Much like what happened with McNair, another first-rounder taken a year earlier would lead to Young's departure. Jake Locker was selected with the eighth pick of the 2011 draft and has started 18-of-32 games for the Titans, but has managed just eight victories at the helm. He has hit on only 57.19 percent of his passes (322-of-563) for 3,974 yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, adding four more scores on 73 carries.
In three seasons, whether due to a severe case of "rookie-itis" or injuries, Locker has never completed a full season, limited to five appearances as a rookie, before earning 11 starts in 2012 and seven more in 2013. During a Nov. 10, 2013, loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Locker sustained a Lisfranc injury to his right foot, ending his season.
Locker has at least the 2014 training camp to regain his status as the Titans' top signal-caller, but even before his injury woes cropped up again in 2013, scouts had wondered if his body had taken a beating during his college days at Washington, especially in an option-heavy offense early in his career. He started all 12 games during redshirt junior season in 2009 but, in 2008, he suffered a season-ending broken thumb in Week 4 and, in 2007, he sat out the California game after suffering a neck injury during a helmet-to-helmet collision the previous week at Oregon State.
Locker's athleticism is his strongest asset, as the dual-threat quarterback plays faster due to his vision, and his long strides in the open field are deceptive. He has some wiggle to make defenders miss and seems to enjoy the physical aspect of the game, but most of his injuries occur due to his penchant for dropping his shoulder and taking on the defender for additional yardage as a ball carrier.
Locker can be a dangerous thrower on the move, demonstrating good velocity and improving accuracy when rolling to his right or left, but he has a tendency to forget his mechanics when throwing on the move, leading to some of his passes drifting high or wide of his intended target.
With an expected blue-chip crop of quarterbacks in the 2015 draft that will rival the 1983 draft class, Locker will need to show vast improvement as a passer. He drives the ball on short and intermediate routes and has to learn how to be more consistent throwing with touch for shorter routes, as he too often zips passes through his targets' hands.
The Verdict: Locker might get a one-year reprieve as Tennessee's starting quarterback. Many had thought the Titans would dip into the 2014 draft class, but when Blake Bortles was off the board, the team decided to take Taylor Lewan with the 11th pick, even though they had established offensive tackles in Michael Roos and recently signed Mike Oher. A better choice than Lewan might have been Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, but he was rated just fifth on their draft board, with Bortles, Lewan, Justin Gilbert and Anthony Barr occupying the top four slots.
Locker heads into training camp with less-than-stellar Charlie Whitehurst, a proven bust from his San Diego days, and Tyler Wilson, an Oakland Raiders reject, as veterans behind him on the depth chart. Neither are expected to mount any sort of a challenge, except to see who gets to stand next to 2014 sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger on the sideline holding the clipboard.
Do not discount a training camp trade, with New England possibly dangling Ryan Mallett as the carrot before the horse to try to entice Tennessee to fork over a package of draft choices for what might be a one-year rental. If Tennessee decides to stay the course with the crop of passers they have entering camp, the 2015 draft could see the team go early for their next quarterback — with Bryce Petty-Baylor, Marcus Mariota-Oregon and Brett Hundley-UCLA all looking like solid first-round targets.
Draft Redo: The Titans rolled the dice with Locker, taking the Washington product with the eighth pick, but one could only imagine where the team would be today if it took defensive end J.J. Watt (11th pick to Houston) instead. The Titans still would have had to search for a quarterback, as they would have missed out on Colin Kaepernick (36th pick to 49ers) and Andy Dalton (35th choice to Cincinnati). They could have opted for Mallett (74th pick, third round to New England) in Round 2 over linebacker Akeem Ayers (39th overall pick), but most teams were hesitant to take the Arkansas passer due to off-field concerns.
Fourth-round linebacker Colin McCarthy had a rash of injuries that cost him the starting job he claimed as a rookie and another fourth-rounder, tailback Jamie Harper, is no longer in the organization. Those choices could have been better utilized for a much-needed cornerback like Cortez Allen (Pittsburgh with the 128th pick), followed by taking another corner like Davon House (131st to Green Bay).
BLAINE GABBERT, Missouri (6:04.30-234-4.66)
Since joining the league in 1995, the Jaguars have posted a 144-160-0 record. Prior to using the third overall pick in the 2014 draft to select Blake Bortles, the Jags twice dipped into the quarterback pool during the opening round, taking Gabbert with the 10th pick in 2011 and Byron Leftwich with the seventh choice in 2003. Including Bortles, a total of six passers have been selected in the draft by Jacksonville.
Gabbert soon wore out his welcome, having been traded to San Francisco for basically a used jock strap during the offseason, becoming yet another number in a long line of failed first round "franchise quarterbacks" that featured 10 passers in the last 15 years be taken with the top pick. Now, Gabbert joins yet another long line of backup quarterbacks to wear a 49ers uniform for Jim Harbaugh. With the coach also inking one of his college quarterbacks from his days at San Diego University — Josh Johnson, Gabbert finds himself in a fierce battle to even hold on to the No. 2 job behind fellow 2011 draftee, Colin Kaepernick.
Outside of 2002 fourth-round selection, David Garrard, none of the quarterbacks the Jaguars drafted boast a winning record as a starter for the team. Garrard went 39-37-0 while throwing for 89 touchdowns against 54 interceptions, hitting on 61.64 percent of his attempts (1,406-of-2,281) for 16,003 yards. The first quarterback ever selected by the team, Rob Johnson (1995 fourth round) won 12 of 29 games at Jacksonville with thirty scoring strikes before heading to journeyman duty.
Next was Jonathan Quinn (third round in 1998), but he started just six of 17 games before losing out to Garrard in 2002. Garrard would back up Leftwich beginning in 2003, as the Marshall first-rounder compiled a 24-26-0 record as a starter. Leftwich stood with the Jags until 2012, completing 930-of-1,605 passes for 10,632 yards, 58 touchdowns and 42 interceptions, joining Garrard as the only 10,000-yard passers in Jags history.
Gabbert was thrown to the wolves during his 28-game career at Jacksonville, starting 27 of those contests, but managed just five victories as a member of the first unit. He never embraced being a pro-style quarterback, coming from the spread at Missouri, and managed to connect on 414-of-777 attempts for 4,357 yards and 22 touchdowns. He was picked off 24 times, losing the ball eight times on 21 fumbles that included 14 from his rookie campaign.
Gabbert threw for a career-high 260 passing yards in the Jaguars' 2012 regular-season opener against the Vikings along with two touchdowns and a career-best 96.1 quarterback rating. Despite his performance, the Jaguars lost 26–23 in overtime. He then struggled in the following weeks, including a loss to the Bears in which he threw two interceptions and fumbled once. Both interceptions were returned for touchdowns and the Jaguars lost 41-3. Against the Raiders, Gabbert tore his labrum in his non-throwing shoulder and was replaced by Chad Henne.
Gabbert was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 21, 2012. He returned for the 2013 season but played only three games, with just one touchdown and seven interceptions. He was traded to San Francisco in March for a sixth-round draft pick.
The Verdict: While Gabbert looks impressive with his athletic 6:04.3 frame, boasting 4.66 speed with very good foot quickness and above-average agility for size, he has problems when stepping up in the pocket to escape edge pressure. While he has the strength to ward off defenders and keep the play alive, he appears uncoordinated in the pocket with his footwork.
You can see that Gabbert struggles to keep a consistently compact and balanced base and too often gets too wide with his footwork when trying to throw the football and transfer his weight from his back foot to his front. He just does not look real comfortable getting the ball out on time, even from the shotgun formation, and the Jags' coaching staff felt that he would never be effective taking snaps and dropping from center.
Gabbert demonstrates quite a bit of wasted motion in his delivery and, when trying to get the ball out on time in the short passing game, he displays a slight wind-up. Throughout his Jacksonville career, he struggled with his accuracy/timing because of deficiencies working underneath.
Gabbert also has problems reading defenses and is not the type who routinely is able to scan his way across the entire field and find secondary options. He has a tendency to read one side and, if nothing is on, he automatically looks to flush himself from the pocket the other way, drops his eye level and limits his ability to get rid of the football.
Draft Redo: With five draft selections in 2011, the Jaguars have just two of those players remaining on their roster — receiver Cecil Shorts, who scored three times on 66 catches last year and has 123 grabs for 1,786 yards and 11 touchdowns in three seasons after being taken in the fourth round. The other survivor is backup free safety Chris Prosinski, taken seven picks after Shorts with the Jags' second fourth-rounder.
Third-round choice Will Rackley is now with Baltimore. The offensive guard resided on injured reserve in each of his last two seasons before the Jags finally cut him loose after the 2014 draft. Fifth-round cornerback Rod Isaac was a 2011 camp cut.
Jacksonville could have opted for a coveted pass rusher in either defensive ends J.J. Watt (11th overall to Houston) or Robert Quinn (14th to the Rams) in the opening round. In the third round, the front office wanted Rackley out of Lehigh, but the coaches were pushing heavily for LSU lineman Joe Barksdale, who went with the 92nd pick to Oakland. Barksdale starts at right tackle for St. Louis.
Shorts has big-play ability, but Prosinski is nothing more than a warm body on special teams. With that Round 4 pick (121st), they could have had a starting cornerback in Cortez Allen (went 128th to Pittsburgh) or a future Pro Bowl tight end in Julius Thomas (129th to Denver).
Instead of Isaac at No. 147, they could have had cornerback Richard Sherman (154th to Seattle) or receiver Denarius Moore (148th to Oakland) to team with Shorts as their receiving corps for the future.
CHRISTIAN PONDER, Florida State (6:02.0-229-4.72)
With a track record of right shoulder and right elbow problems during his final two college seasons, it surprised almost everyone when the Vikings made Ponder, a postseason "workout warrior," the 12th pick in the draft. The oft-injured former Seminole would become one of 24 passers drafted by Minnesota since the team joined the NFL in 1961. One of those selections, Fran Tarkenton, and another passer traded for, Warren Moon, are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Despite starting 35-of-36 games during his three-year pro career, do not expect a bust of Ponder's "mug" to ever grace the Hall. He would compile a 14-20-1 record with the first unit, but faces competition from journeyman Matt Cassel and 2014 first-rounder Teddy Bridgewater, making Ponder's time in Minnesota likely coming to an end, whether as a training camp cut or parting ways with the organization after spending 2014 as a possible clipboard holder.
Ponder has completed 610-of-1,013 passes (60.2 percent) for 6,436 yards, with 38 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. He's been sacked 89 times, giving away the ball 11 times via 20 fumbles. His best performance running with the pigskin came during an abbreviated 2013 season, scoring four times on the ground, but he fumbled it seven times, as Cassel and waiver pickup Josh Freeman also auditioned with the first unit in 2013.
Hopefully, Bridgewater will have the success that two of the other Vikings first-round quarterbacks enjoyed. Even though 1977 top choice, Tommy Kramer, compiled a 54-56-0 record as a starter, he did reach the playoffs seven times between 1977 and 1990, as he earned one Pro Bowl berth while gaining 24,777 aerial yards (third best in team history) behind 159 touchdowns.
The 1999 first-round selection, Daunte Culpepper, made the Pro Bowl three times during his five seasons as a starter, compiling a 41-59-0 record as he hit on 2,016-of-3,199 passes for 24,153 yards and 149 touchdowns, adding 34 mores scores as a ball-carrier before his career flamed out my injuries and contract woes.
Two of the best draft picks by Minnesota at the quarterback position was 1961 third-round find Fran Tarkenton, who recorded a 124-109-6 record behind 3,686-of-6,467 passes for 47,003 yards, 342 touchdowns and 32 more scores rushing. Brad Johnson, a 1992 ninth-rounder, registered a 72-53-0 record as a starter, reaching the end zone 166 times on 2,668-of-4,326 attempts (61.67 percent) for 29,054 yards.
Ponder went into the 2013 season as the starting quarterback but went 2-6-1 record in nine starts. Cassel had six starts (3-3) and Freeman had one (0-1).
It would take until Week 10 for the Vikings to finally win a game starting Ponder, a home victory against the Redskins in which he went 17-of-21 with two touchdown passes and an interception. In that game, Ponder got tackled and suffered a left shoulder injury after coming up short of the end zone in a rushing attempt, leaving Cassel to finish the game. Ponder later started games against the Seahawks, where the Vikings would take a heavy loss with Ponder's two fourth-quarter turnovers, followed by starts vs. the Packers and Bears.
Ponder made his last start of the season in Week 13 against Chicago, but he suffered a concussion in the first quarter, making way, once again, for Cassel. He helped the Vikings win their last four home games to end the season 5-10-1.
The Verdict: While Ponder was mysteriously rated by some scouts as the elite senior quarterback prospect in the country entering the 2010 season, it was his intelligence, accuracy, mobility and experience in a pro-style offense that had them feeling he could acclimate quickly to the NFL. The biggest concern for other teams was that he would struggle to remain on the field. While impressive when healthy, he was unable to finish either of his final two college seasons due to multiple injuries to his throwing arm.
Ponder will occasionally force the receiver to adjust on deeper passes, as his lack of dominant arm strength can cause the ball to float. There are legitimate concerns about his ability to read defenses and he fails to show consistency looking off the defender and spends too much time staring down his primary target. He seems to lack great awareness to pocket pressure, evident when he fails to make his progressions when his primary target is covered.
Even though he has good mobility, Ponder can be too aggressive and leave himself vulnerable to absorbing big hits by electing not to slide when rolling out to escape pocket pressure. There are times where he will telegraph his throws (mostly on vertical routes) and his touch is only adequate. Too often he will miss within the strike zone on occasion and he has to do a better job of leading his receivers on certain routes outside the numbers (struggles with quick outs and flare routes).
Draft Redo: Of the 10 players that Minnesota selected in the 2011 draft, only four remain with the team. In addition to Ponder, the Vikings found a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end in Kyle Rudolph in the second round and Brandon Fusco (sixth round) is open for a challenge from recently signed Vlad Ducasse for his right guard job. One of the team's other three sixth-round picks remain, with Mistral Raymond backing up at strong safety. None of the other choices are even in the league.
Taking Ponder with the 12th selection proved to be wasteful, especially after re-inking Cassel and drafting Bridgewater. If they could have a "do-over," I am sure Vikings fans would love having Ryan Kerrigan (16th pick to Washington) playing opposite Chad Greenway at outside linebacker. With Kerrigan in Minnesota, the Packers could have passed on Anthony Barr at No. 9 overall and filled a bigger need, such as at cornerback (Darqueze Dennard) or defensive tackle (Aaron Donald, a John Randle clone).
Iowa defensive end Christian Ballard never panned out and a receiver like Cecil Shorts (to the Jags at No. 114) would have given Ponder a viable deep threat weapon. Fifth-round cornerback Brandon Burton was not even on the draft boards for most teams and the 139th selection could have been better utilized if Minnesota had liked All-Pro corner Richard Sherman (154th pick by Seattle) to fill a gaping hole in the secondary.
ANDY DALTON, Texas Christian (6:02.0-215-4.93)
While Tennessee, Jacksonville and Minnesota all failed to deliver with their first-round quarterback selections in 2011, the Bengals were able to unearth a serviceable starter with the 35th selection with Dalton. Since the 1968 draft, Cincinnati has been on a constant search at this position, having selected 35 quarterbacks during their history, including five in the first round, two in the second and four more in the third.
Eighteen of those passers never threw a pass in a Bengals uniform.
Dalton has compiled a 30-18-0 record as a starter, but the coaches are expecting him to get over the playoff loss "hump" in 2014, or they might be tempted to again venture into the quarterback pool in 2015, as that group is deep in talent. He has gained 11,360 yards with 80 touchdowns against 49 interceptions while connecting on 992-of-1,630 passes (60.86 percent).
Dalton is not known for having a Matthew Stafford-like arm, but after completing just 37 passes for 20 yards or longer in 2012, he hit on 56 of those attempts last season. He also showed better pressure avoidance and was sacked just 29 times in 2013, after being captured 46 times during his second year.
Of the 35 quarterbacks drafted by Cincinnati, just one other signal-caller, 1971 third-rounder Ken Anderson, has a winning record (91-81-0). Anderson (32,838), 2003 first-round pick Carson Palmer (33,739) and 1984 second-rounder Boomer Esiason (37,920) are the only Bengals to have thrown for more yards than the third-year starter. The only other Cincinnati player to throw for even 5,000 yards was Jack Thompson (5,315), the third selection in the 1979 draft.
The Verdict: Dalton does not have the long-range arm strength most teams covet. But he compensates with the quickness that he showed adapting from being a quarterback in a shotgun/spread-formation offense, which feeds him a lot of pre-snap reads from the sideline, to a player that has the vision and intelligence to consistently audible at the line. He is very good at making progression reads and does a really nice job when checking down to second and third targets.
Dalton is the type that will consistently look off the safeties and does not telegraph many of his throws. He excels at keeping his head down the field when scrambling and has improved as a decision maker in 2013, but is still prone to making some questionable decisions throwing into traffic (career-high 20 interceptions last season).
Dalton is not that mobile, but has managed to run for seven touchdowns in 48 games. He still needs to improve his footwork on rollouts and will revert to throwing off his back foot too often. He also gets back foot stuck in cement at times, which prevents him from facing his target and throwing with good balance.
Still, he shows the ability to anticipate passing windows and to throw to a spot, making him one of the more accurate passers in the game when on the move. While the majority of his throws are within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, he did show flashes of his ability to throw accurately down the field (56 completions for at least 20 yards in 2013, compared to 37 in 2012).
One area that needs to be refined to further advance his long-distance game is coming over the top, as he delivers mostly using a three-quarters delivery. With his lack of great height combined with that three-quarters delivery, both issues have led to a high amount of balls being batted down at the line of scrimmage.
He gets the ball out quickly, though, and you can label his arm strength as adequate rather than ideal, but he puts good zip on intermediate throws. His deep ball has a tendency to sail a bit at times but he can make all the NFL throws as long as he gets the ball out with good timing.
Draft Redo: The 2011 draft gave the team a superb deep threat and future Pro Bowl receiver in A.J. Green, who has caught 260 passes for 3,833 yards and 29 touchdowns, as he had 169 grabs for first downs, 53 for at least 20 yards and 23 for 40 yards or longer since teaming up with Dalton. While some would have preferred Colin Kaepernick (49ers with the 36th pick) at No. 35 instead of Dalton, the TCU product has done everything he could to produce in his 48 games as a starter.
Of the six other draft selections in 2011, only fourth-rounder Clint Boling earned a starting job, taking over right guard duties. Third-rounder Dontay Moch was sent packing, only to re-sign with the Bengals in March after spending the 2013 season with Arizona, which released him this offseason. He is listed fourth on the Bengals' depth chart at weak-side outside linebacker.
With the 66th pick wasted on Moch, Cincinnati passed up the chance to take middle linebacker Nate Irving (Denver with the 67th pick) and outside linebacker Justin Houston (70th to Kansas City). Fifth-round pick Robert Sands was cut, signed by the Giants and again waived. He's involved in serious issues with the law. That 134th selection could have been better served on a player like offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (138th to New England) or receiver Denarius Moore (148th by Oakland).
Sixth-round receiver Ryan Whalen proved to be too slow for NFL competition and a clutch third -down threat like Charles Clay (to Miami at 174) would have added another short-area weapon for Dalton's passing game.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
COLIN KAEPERNICK, University of Nevada (6:04.5-233-4.53)
Since the 1950 draft, the 49ers have selected 40 quarterbacks, but 17 of those choices never completed a pass for San Francisco. That list included marginal success from six first-round picks, as just Earl Morrall (second overall pick in 1956; 63-37-3 record), Billy Kilmer (1961 choice; 61-52-1 mark) and Alex Smith (first overall selection in 2005; 49-40-1 record) boasted winning records as starters.
Other first-round picks came in 1957 (John Brodie) and 1967 (Steve Spurrier), and who could forget the 1997 draft disaster — Jim Druckenmiller. In 1964, the 49ers used their second-round choice on George Mira, who compiled a 5-3-0 record while starting eight of the 60 games. Giovanni Carmazzi was soon gone after being taken in the third round of the 2000 draft, having never appeared in a game for the 49ers.
The only Hall of Fame quarterback to play for the team was 1979 third-round find Joe Montana, who registered a 117-47-0 record as a starter and appeared in eight Pro Bowls in 12 seasons as a starter. He went on to complete 3,409-of-5,391 passes (63.24 percent) for 40,551 yards, 273 touchdowns and 139 interceptions.
The 49ers' next hope for winning a Super Bowl rests on the rifle-arm and cheetah-like running skills of play-action extraordinaire Kaepernick. Since replacing an injured Smith in 2012, he has won 17 of the 23 regular season starts, scoring 20 times on the ground while adding 31 more touchdowns against 11 interceptions, hitting on 59.78 percent of his passes (382-of-639) for 5,046 yards.
With an injury-depleted receiving corps in 2013, Kaepernick did not have the stellar campaign many expected, but he was limited in his role, as coach Jim Harbaugh often called the plays from the sideline. With Michael Crabtree's return to health, the additions of Brandon Lloyd and Steve Johnson on the veteran front and a fourth-round pick invested in speedy Bruce Ellington, the 2014 campaign could be the time the 49ers return to their past glory.
The Verdict: Kaepernick has all the athletic tools and work ethic to become a premier decision-maker and elite passer. He is a sponge that puts through lots of extra hours in the film room and on the practice field. He played in the "pistol" offense in college but has shown that he is comfortable operating under center and getting to his pass set point with no issues.
He has all the tools you look for in a pro quarterback — size, strength and incredible speed. He is a take-charge type who is a confident leader. He is also a tough runner whose mobility in the pocket and running with the ball forces the defense to remain honest. He is very effective throwing on the move, but is quick with his feet setting up to throw from the pocket. He will throw across the body with a high completion rate and has exceptional arm strength, demonstrated with the zip he places in the short-to-intermediate passing areas. He can also plant his foot and step into his throws to fire off the deep outs. With his outstanding judgment and vision, he can take apart a defense with either his arm or feet.
Kaepernick will improvise throws to make the completion and shows the solid mechanics to hit his targets in stride. He is a solid touch passer who will never panic under duress. He hits moving targets with very good velocity and has good communication and vision, which lets his receivers get under his long throws with minimal adjustments.
With that presence in the pocket, he has the ability to look off the defender, using all of his receivers. His best asset might be his accuracy on the move, as he has provided the 49ers with great athleticism from their quarterback position.
Draft Redo: Of the 10 players the 49ers drafted in 2011, six remain on the roster, with the first three selections — right outside linebacker Aldon Smith (first), Kaepernick and right cornerback Chris Culliver (third) all starting. Smith and Culliver are under investigation for a series of off-field issues and it would not be surprising to see both sit out at least a few games under league suspensions in 2014.
The fourth-round choice, Kendall Hunter, showed promise as an eventual replacement for Frank Gore as the starting tailback, but injuries have caused the team to move on, drafting Marcus Lattimore in 2013 and then Carlos Hyde in 2014, moving Hunter to fourth on the depth chart. If only San Francisco had known that kicker David Akers would suddenly self-destruct, it could have used the 115th pick utilized to take Hunter for Philadelphia's kicker Alex Henery (120th choice).
Fifth-round center Daniel Kilgore is expected to replace Jonathan Goodwin as the team's starter in 2014, but he will face competition from 2014 draftee Marcus Martin. Still, Kilgore has experience at guard, making his roster spot safe.
Both sixth-round picks, receiver Ronald Johnson and free safety Colin Jones, failed to win roster spots and those choices would have been better served to take center Jason Kelce (191st by the Eagles) and tailback/return man Jordan Todman (183rd to San Diego) as alternatives that would have solved future roster issues.
Of the three seventh-round picks, only Bruce Miller remains, but he has found success as a starting fullback (missed time in 2013 due to injuries) after he was drafted as an outside linebacker (played defensive end at Central Florida).
REMAINING 2011 DRAFT CLASS
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
RYAN MALLETT, Arkansas (6:06.6-253-5.37)
Selected 74th overall in the third round, Mallett has one year remaining on his rookie contract and is likely to hear trade rumors again during training camp Tennessee and Houston showed strong interest in securing Patriot quarterback's services prior to the 2014 draft, but nothing materialized. Houston makes great sense, thanks to their current quarterback issues and the fact that Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is familiar with Mallett from his rookie season in Foxboro.
Mallett's pro career has consisted of four appearances in 48 regular season games. His only pass completion on four attempts resulted in a 17-yard gain, but he is a valued commodity, thanks to one of the most powerful arms in the 2011 draft class.
With 2014 second-rounder Jimmy Garoppolo expected to serve as Tom Brady's eventual replacement, Mallett will look for an opportunity to start elsewhere in 2015, if he is not traded this season. He might lack foot speed but, like Ben Roethlisberger, he has that thick, strong natural frame to stand tall in the pocket and withstand constant punishment. He is a marginal runner with no quickness whatsoever, but for a player with his size, he shows good body control and enough ability to avoid the bull rush (needs to show better vision locating edge rushers though).
Mallett has marginal change-of-direction agility and is not athletic enough to avoid quick pressure in the pocket. He shows a lively arm and despite a lack of speed, is efficient on the rollout and can throw to his right and left with no loss in accuracy while on the move. He is just not the type that will win any foot races if he is flushed out of the pocket. He keeps his feet under him to make all the throws, showing good balance and body control stepping up in the pocket. He is a big, strong passer who is sturdy under pressure, but flashes little or no acceleration on the move.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
RICKY STANZI, Iowa (6:04.3-223-4.96)
Taken 135th by Kansas City, he didn't see any action in two seasons as the third-stringer and was released at the end of training camp in 2013. He spent the season with Jacksonville. In three seasons in the NFL, he has yet to appear in a game. With Chad Henne and Blake Bortles comfortable at the top two spots on the Jaguars' depth chart, Stanzi has a chance to remain in the league as Jacksonville's third-string option.
T.J. YATES, North Carolina (6:03.3-219-5.07)
Yates started five games in place of injured Matt Schaub and went 2-3 as a rookie. He has three touchdowns against six interceptions on 101-of-166 passes for 1,100 yards to show for his efforts. Those numbers could spell unemployment, as he is listed fourth on the team depth chart.
Unless Houston trades for Mallett or some other unwanted quarterback, league reject Ryan Fitzpatrick will battle Case Keenum for the starting job, while 2014 fourth-round pick Tom Savage (135th overall) is likely to spend the year on the sideline as Houston's third-string option.
NATHAN ENDERLE, Idaho (6:04.1-240-5.22)
The fifth-round selection has yet to suit up for an NFL game. While still active, the free agent has not even been on an active roster since the 2011 season and should seriously consider other career options outside of football.
TYROD TAYLOR, Virginia Tech (6:00.6-217-4.52)
A fantastic athlete who would be better served converting to wide receiver, Taylor could warrant some consideration due to his ability to contribute as a Wildcat quarterback. He has appeared in 13 games since the Ravens selected him 180th overall, but with Joe Flacco firmly entrenched as the starter, Taylor might have to stave off competition for the second-string job, as 2014 sixth-round find Keith Wenning is just as mobile and has one of the strongest arms in the 2014 draft class. Taylor will likely stick, even if beaten out by Wenning for the No. 2 job, as Baltimore values his experience.
NEW YORK JETS
GREG McELROY, Alabama (6:01.7-220-4.99)
In three seasons, McElroy appeared in two games, starting once. After hitting on 19-of-31 attempts for 214 yards and a touchdown, the 208th pick "smelled the roses" and recently announced his retirement from the game.