Jaworski rates the NFL draft's top quarterback prospects

Missouri's Blaine Gabbert is rated the top prospect by Ron Jaworski, who says he has a quick release and a strong arm.
Missouri's Blaine Gabbert is rated the top prospect by Ron Jaworski, who says he has a quick release and a strong arm. (Associated Press)
Posted: April 28, 2011

When it comes to the NFL draft, the quarterbacks are the stars.

That doesn't necessarily mean they will become stars in the pros.

In fact, among this year's crop of quarterbacks, not one is roundly considered a franchise talent. And yet, one is projected to go first overall (Cam Newton) and as many as five (!) could be gone by the end of the first round.

There are just that many quarterback-needy teams.

Ron Jaworski knows what it takes to be an NFL quarterback. He was a pretty good one, after all. The former Eagle and current ESPN analyst did his homework on the top quarterbacks in the draft, watching hours of tape, and ranked the top seven as such: (1) Blaine Gabbert, Missouri; (2) Newton, Auburn; (3) Colin Kaepernick, Nevada; (4) Christian Ponder, Florida State; (5) Ryan Mallett, Arkansas; (6) Jake Locker, Washington; (7) Andy Dalton, TCU.

"Quite honestly, I saw blemishes in all these guys," Jaworski said. "With none of them I don't feel as positive as I felt about [Atlanta quarterback] Matt Ryan a couple years ago."

Here's Jaws' take on each quarterback:

On Gabbert:

"Gets the ball out of his hand quick and can make all the throws. . . . Got the big, strong arm. . . . Didn't play under center, played in that Missouri spread offense. That doesn't bother me a whole lot. . . . Sometimes moved from the pocket too early. Am I concerned? Just a little bit. . . . But he can extend a play. He can take off and tuck it and get positive yards. He can take off and move outside the pocket and throw the football and keep his eyes downfield."

On Newton:

"Tremendous physical specimen. . . . Concerned about 14 starts and 280 throws at the collegiate level. . . . About 10 to 15 percent of those throws are actual throws that project to NFL. . . . Made some throws that will knock your socks off. A few plays later he'll throw one wildly inaccurate. . . . Spent the day with him at the Maxwell Football Club dinner. . . . Great kid. . . . Played in a very simplistic offense at Auburn. . . . Is a power thrower, and there's going to be a learning curve before he becomes a passer."

On Kaepernick:

"Big, huge guy (6-foot-5, 233 pounds). . . . Made a number of throws that project to the NFL. . . . He can stay in the pocket. He can see over the pass rush. He's got good but not great mobility. . . . Got outside the pocket and made good throws moving to his left and right. . . . Got a little bit of a quirky motion. . . . Wasn't impressed with [him] at first, but the more I watched the more I became impressed."

On Ponder:

"One of the knocks on him is that he's injury-prone. . . . Has the intuitive skill set to play the position in the NFL. . . . Very sound mechanically. Good anticipation. Just looks like an NFL quarterback. . . . The ball just doesn't seem to come out with a lot of zip. . . . I think the bomb strike is what bothered me."

On Mallett:

"A big, strong-armed guy that can really spin it. . . . There has been some talk about offseason problems, but I really can't address that. . . . Can throw the deep comebacks, the skinny posts, the dig-in, the in-breaking routes. He really puts the ball on the wide receiver. . . . Needs to work on his pocket awareness. . . . Has the most velocity."

On Locker:

"A very skilled athlete. This guy is a gym rat. . . . Much better outside the pocket throwing on the run. . . . Not an NFL-prototypical pocket-style passer. . . . At times, wildly inaccurate."

On Dalton:

"Didn't see the strong arm . . . and in the NFL on third down and 10, you got to be able to make those stick throws. . . . Saw a productive quarterback with great touch who can control the football from different platforms."

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.

Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Jeff_McLane


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