As we get closer and closer to the draft, people are looking for any and every possible angle to assess some of the more high profile talent in the 2011 NFL Draft. I found a particularly interesting angle today I hadn't really considered. I was poking around online today and saw an interest retweet by @TheBigLead:
Back in 1983, Dan Marino was part of the first round class of six quarterbacks that is the common standard for annual comparison. Marino was the last QB selected in that round, with John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, and Ken O'Brien all going ahead of Marino. You can look back at a couple of interesting articles (Palm Beach Post, Modesto Bee) that discuss some of the negatives. Oh, and there was the rumored drug use that scared off Chuck Noll and Marino's hometown Steelers.
As we approach next week's NFL Draft, there are two quarterbacks that face a variety of character concerns that might be on par with those Marino faced 18 years ago. You've got Cam Newton who seems to have an ego that just won't end, and you've got Ryan Mallett who faces rumors of drug use and immaturity. At the same time they've got some impressive physical tools that are bound to suck in at least one team earlier rather than later in the draft. This is not to say either one will end up with a pro career like that of Marino. I simply think it's worth the comparison given that everybody automatically makes the Ryan Leaf comparison when there are red flags.
When it comes to Cam Newton, I actually don't care about the ego all that much. For a lot of folks that reach "great" status in professional sports, some kind of ego is along for the ride. Rather, I just am not sold on his actual quarterback abilities. He could prove me wrong, but I'm really just not feeling it at this point in time.
As for Mallett, it's easy to get sucked in by that big arm. There is concern about the lack of mobility and footwork issues but it seems like the footwork issue can be taught at the next level. As Drew K mentioned in his Mallett 50 in 50, it's often better to have a QB who has had good footwork for most of their QB'ing life. However, I can look past it given the fact that as a member of the 49ers he would be working with a former quarterback as his head coach.
There has been discussion about leaping in with blind faith when it comes to the Jim Harbaugh era. In a general sense that's a dangerous thing to do. However, when it comes to the quarterback position, I actually don't see it as "blind faith" saying that if Harbaugh likes QB X then I can live with that. Harbaugh wasn't a Hall of Fame quarterback in the NFL, but Captain Comeback was a good QB and he's shown an ability to develop guys like Josh Johnson and Andrew Luck at the college level. Throw in his Raiders scouting reports on Tony Romo, David Garrard and Joey Harrington, and I think he's bought himself some credibility at least with regards to the QB position for the short term.