NEW YORK — The top seven quarterback prospects all went early in the 2011 NFL Draft, many of them earlier than expected. But each quarterback enters a different scenario with his new team, with unique circumstances determining how early they will be expected to contribute.
Here’s a look at the quarterbacks I believe are in the “best fits” based on their new teams and those expectations:
1. Ryan Mallett, Patriots (Round 3, No. 74) — He might be the luckiest guy in this draft. He’s a pocket passer with a big arm and Tom Brady-like skills. The Patriots either landed a long-term starter for 10 seasons after Brady, or they’ll trade him for a higher pick than he originally cost. He absolutely fits what Belichick wants in a quarterback for his offense. What they do with Brady, they can do with Mallett.
2. Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars (1, 10) — I like this fit for Gabbert because of starter David Garrard and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Gabbert won’t be rushed onto the field. When you can do that for a quarterback, you have a much better chance of success.
3. Andy Dalton, Bengals (2, 35) — Will he get to sit and learn behind Carson Palmer, or will he have to play because Palmer isn’t coming back? It would be perfect if Dalton could sit for a year. If he has to play right away, the expectations will be high, and he’ll throw to very young receivers (assuming Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens aren’t around). The Bengals might look better in November than September.
4. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers (2, 36) — I find this interesting. I think the 49ers will bring back Alex Smith. Both can get to the edge of the field, and new coach Jim Harbaugh will tailor the offense off the bootleg and to their strengths. The shotgun and three-step drop is what Kaepernick can do. Harbaugh will make him a good player.
5. Christian Ponder, Vikings (1, 12) — I’m not buying that Ponder is ready to play because of experience under center. The NFC North is tough. Ponder will be asked to do more than he can. It will help that he’ll play indoors often, because his arm isn’t strong, and having Adrian Peterson behind him. The Vikings don’t have anyone else, and Ponder has to play. And I don’t like that situation.
6. Jake Locker, Titans (1, 8 ) — I’m afraid Locker will have to play too soon, and he’s clearly not ready mechanically. If we see him on the field as a rookie, we’ll see what troubled him at Washington. It would be nice if the Titans would go slow with Locker and start Kerry Collins. It’s a great fit in the Titans’ offense and the play-action game off the bootleg with Chris Johnson.
7. Cam Newton, Panthers (1, 1) — Newton might have to be on the field too early. The Panthers don’t have that many veterans, and their receivers are very inexperienced. It’s too much, and I’m a little nervous for Newton. It’s not a good fit.