2011 NFL Rookie Quarterbacks in the Spotlight

With the NFL season set to begin, several first round rookie quarterbacks are in the spotlight.

In Carolina, number one draft pick Cam Newton beat out second year player Jimmy Clausen. Let the Newton era begin. The former University of Auburn QB has a veteran go to receiver, Steve Smith, and a good running game led by DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but that won’t be enough.

Coming from a spread offense in Auburn, Newton would benefit by spending a year learning behind a veteran quarterback and no disrespect to Derek Anderson, but he’s not the answer. It’s clear watching Newton, he needs to improve his accuracy. He’s not ready to lead an NFL offense, but Carolina will put him out there and tell him to try his best, but as the wise Yoda once said, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Playing in the competitive NFC South, Carolina will once again fight for the top pick in next years draft. Too bad for Carolina a better QB option, Andrew Luck, will be available next year. For now, the Panthers are Cam Newton’s team.

Unlike top pick Cam Newton, Jake Locker is in an ideal situation. Tennessee also has a new head coach and offensive coordinator this year, but new coordinator Chris Palmer was once one of the best quarterback coaches in the NFL and his experience will pay huge dividends for Locker and the Titans.

The former University of Washington QB also has help in the form of a veteran quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, a great running back in Chris Johnson, once his contract situation is addressed, and good receivers. Locker won’t start this season as long as Hasselbeck stays healthy and that’s a good thing. Learning from a veteran QB and working with an offensive coordinator like Palmer, Locker will be ready when his time comes. Of the first round draft picks, Locker is in the best position.

Blaine Gabbert put up a good fight with David Garrard for the Jacksonville Jaguars starting job. An injury to Garrard gave Gabbert the opportunity to get additional reps with the first team at practice and start in Jacksonville’s first preseason game. Gabbert performed well and put pressure on Garrard for the starting job, but with both quarterback’s struggling in the all-important game three, against the Bills, Gabbert lost his chance.

Gabbert will now sit and learn the question is for how long. Garrard is signed through the 2014 season but that doesn’t mean Gabbert will have to wait that long. Gabbert showed signs of how good he can be and he is Jacksonville’s quarterback of the future.

Of the first round selections, Minnesota Vikings selection of Christian Ponder was the biggest surprise. Ponder’s career at Florida State was okay, but not stellar. Minnesota obviously saw Ponder as a franchise quarterback. If or when he starts, Ponder’s offensive weapons will be plentiful. With Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe on his side Ponder will have sufficient help, but for now, he’ll watch and learn from Donovan McNabb.

Never in the race to be the starting QB in Minnesota this year, Ponder will have ample time to learn. With Joe Webb also on the roster, Ponder will have to work his way up the depth chart. The good news for Ponder is he can spend his rookie season learning free of pressure or expectations.

Odds are at least one of these quarterbacks will fail. In 1999 there were five quarterbacks selected in the first round. Today Donovan McNabb’s the only member of the class still in the league and Daunte Culpepper is the only other QB to have NFL success. Tim Couch, Akili Smith and Cade McNown were all busts.

Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert have the best chances of succeeding in my opinion. They are in good systems, on good teams, with a veteran to guide them. Cam Newton and Christian Ponder have the most to learn and odds are not both of them will make it, but people beat the odds every day, time will tell if they can too.




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