Top prospects know NFL is QB-desperate

The top quarterback prospects are well aware of the large number of teams desperate for QB help in the first 12 picks, which could inflate values and leave the Vikings scrambling. See what several of the top candidates had to say about their opportunity.

The top quarterback prospects in April's draft know the desirable position they are in. Nobody is comparing them to the Class of 1983 that produced such NFL luminaries as John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, but they know that the top NFL teams have quarterback needs.

While most NFL talent evaluators like to believe that they are most often picking the best player available, they can also push up a player's value on their board if they know it's a position of need. Make no mistake: There is a lot of quarterback need at the top of this year's draft and the prospects know it.

Blaine Gabbert, who left Missouri after his junior year to enter this year's draft, said that helped influence his decision.

"That was definitely a big factor in my decision. You're looking at the top 15 teams, potentially 10 (of those) teams could use a quarterback," Gabbert said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I know every quarterback in this draft looked at that – not only me. So that was kind of a point that helped me make my decision. That's kind of why I decided to come out."

Gabbert might end up the first quarterback selected, but even if he's not, he's expected to be selected in the top 10 picks, which will still bring a handsome salary even if the big signing bonuses of yesteryear remain in the past.

And Gabbert is right that he's not alone in looking at the needs.

"I believe it's a really good year to be a quarterback. You look at the draft, I think there's a good number of teams that will be looking at quarterbacks to draft or pick up in some way," said Jake Locker, another first-round prospect. "So I think it's a good year to be able to come out and showcase what you can do and what you can bring to an organization."

While the Vikings have the 12th overall draft pick, as high as they have possessed since 2007, when they got Adrian Peterson seventh overall, there are still numerous teams in front of them with the same quarterback need.

Four of the top five teams could take a quarterback – only Denver at No. 2 can safely be ruled out of the sweepstakes in the top handful of picks that includes Carolina (first), Buffalo (third), Cincinnati (fourth; Carson Palmer could be on his way out) and Arizona (fifth).

Next come Cleveland (sixth), San Francisco (seventh) and Tennessee (eighth), teams that might all be searching for a signal-calling starter. And then comes Washington at No. 10, which is expected to part ways with Donovan McNabb and could look to start over with a rookie for coaches Mike and Kyle Shanahan to groom.

That's eight of the first 11 teams picking in front of the Vikings that could feasibly look to snatch a quarterback before the draft reaches a dozen picks.

"This draft presents a great opportunity. Me and my agent (Jimmy Sexton) were going through a list of all the teams that need a quarterback and it's an extensive list," said Florida State product Christian Ponder, who is considered a late first-round or second-round prospect. "I know I'll be given an opportunity and at the same time I'm going to take full advantage of it."

The need at the position could have teams overvaluing the prospects and looking to play rookies before they are ready. Cam Newton and Gabbert are juniors who come from a spread offense in college, where going through a progression of reads or dropping back from center isn't always required – two traits used much more in the NFL than college spread offenses.

Still, that isn't stopping analysts from viewing Gabbert as a top-10 pick.

"I'm ecstatic. This opportunity doesn't come around very often. It's a once in a lifetime chance, and I'm going to make the most of it and just have fun doing it," Gabbert said.

"Everybody has their own strength and weaknesses. Everybody's going to have a strong arm, they're going to be accurate. If we didn't have these characteristics, we wouldn't be in this position to play right now."

Newton, who could land just about anywhere in the first round, at least acknowledges that being highly drafted and playing effectively early in his career could be two different things.

"My biggest thing first is to prepare for the NFL. I know it's going to be a challenging transition," he said.

With pro days well underway, and private visit and workouts hitting their stride, there is still plenty of predraft jockeying that could happen. But if free agency doesn't take place before the draft, one thing that isn't likely to change is the high number of teams in search of a quarterback of the future.

"Of course you see the teams that need quarterbacks in this draft. Anything can happen on draft day. Trades are likely to happen. People are going to fall," Gabbert said. "So you really don't know until you really get your name called in New York."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

Viking Update Top Stories