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2011 NFL Draft: Rookie Quarterbacks Preview (Part II)

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Yesterday we took a look at the top five quarterback prospects entering this years draft. We took a look at some of the major tangible and intangible traits that NFL teams will take a look at in: Passing accuracy, arm strength, touch on passes, decision making, field vision, mechanics, pocket awareness, and moxie.

I attached a poll with the question of who you, as fans, thought would have the most success in the NFL.

The results came out like this: Nevada Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who I had rated as the fifth best quarterback, received the most votes claiming 28% of the voting. Next in line was Blaine Gabbert (Missouri Quarterback) with 22% of the votes. As the voting stood, Gabbert had 420 votes. After that was Arkansas Quarterback, Ryan Mallett, who finished 1 vote shy of Gabbert with 419 votes. Jake Locker, the fourth best quarterback on my list finished in fourth place. And the second rated quarterback on my list wound up being Cameron Newton who finished with only 6% of the votes.

Today, we will look at the back half of the top ten quarterbacks. Again, the same as yesterday, strengths and weaknesses in the above mentioned categories will be evaluated.

There were some good opinions as well as feedback in the thread yesterday, so thanks to those who took the time to read the entire post. It was a pretty long-winded evaluation for each player and anyone who may have read the entire post may have been cross-eyed toward the end of it.

With so many teams looking to get better at the quarterback position, chances are that those specific teams will be scouting talent all the way to the back of the bunch. It's rare to find gems at the quarterback position later on, but it's certainly not impossible.

In today's part-two, we'll take a look at the guys who in my opinion should be ranked 5-10.

6. CHRISTIAN PONDER | FLORIDA STATE | 6'3", 230 LBS

Passing Accuracy: Ponder may be the most streaky of all the quarterbacks with his accuracy. Certain games he seemed to be on target with a majority of his throws, and others it seemed as though he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. The footwork on Ponder is adequate which is a mystery as to why certain throws come out like chipped clay pigeons. Sometimes it may just be in his head and he over-thinks the throw. When a problem is in a players head, sometimes that is harder to fix than any actual technique.

Arm Strength: The long ball is not Ponders strong suit. He struggles with most all passes that he throws over 40-yards or so. On his short range passes, there is enough velocity to get the ball there. But if he needs to force a pass in to a tight window, nine times out of ten, he's not going to be able to get it there on time. The Florida State quarterback rely's heavily on timing routes to have success.

Touch Passes: As mentioned above, he tends to over-think situations from time to time. He certainly has the ability to thread the needle, however, once he is out of rhythm, it's difficult for him to get back in it. He will need to get better in this category if he wants to make it as a pro in the National Football League. This will be Ponders bread and butter depending on where he goes. So the bottom line, is that he needs to work diligently in this specific area.

Decision Making: Along with the accuracy, the decision making process for Ponder seems to be a bit streaky. Of course the same argument could be said for a lot of the later round prospects. Decision making is one of the cornerstones in having a successful career. But because Ponder had a ton of pass plays that were all predicated on timing, he managed to avoid scouts paying too close attention to the decision making process. Rarely did he have to go through multiple reads.

Field Vision: This sort of ties in with the decision making. Because a large percentage of the pass plays were based on timing, he did not have to scan the field all too often. Once he gets in to action in an NFL preseason game, this will be exploited by opposing defenses more than likely. Particularly if he does not get drafted to a team that bases their offense on timing routes.

Mechanics: Ponder has great mechanics. There's no doubt about it. He may be one of the most fundamentally sound guy coming out in this draft. His play-action fakes are as close to a Chriss Angel magic trick as it gets in football. But, just because he possesses this talent doesn't always equate out to a successful quarterback. A player at this position could have been taught every precise detail and implement it, but still fall short because of a shortfall in their mental toughness. If Ponder can get past all of the demons in his head that make it impossible for him to excel, then he has a shot at being one of the better guys out of this particular draft. But it is a humongous "what if".

Pocket Awareness: The Texas native seems to have excellent pocket awareness. He slides very well in the pocket to avoid pressure. And he grasps the concept of when he needs to bolt pretty good too. The problem that Ponder has, is when he is forced in to making a choice between passing and running, he will sometimes throw the ball in to traffic trying to make a play with his arm. When you don't have the rocket arm, then it increases the possibility for a turnover or a deflected pass. If he is flushed out of the pocket, and he is rolling out, he rarely will try and make a play down the field. Instead, he will opt to throw the ball away. Sometimes this is good due to the turnover factor, and other times it can be a weakness if a game is on the line and a big play needs to be made. Ponder is far from being a gambler like the Brett Favre's and Ben Roethlisberger's of the league.

Moxie and Leadership: This is an area that Christian Ponder just really doesn't seem to get. He has single-handedly blown leads, and lost games with bad decision making with minutes left on the clock with poor throws. It almost seems that if you can get him in a "crunch-time" situation, that he will blow it anytime he has the chance. Some quarterbacks have had the same problem as this young player, but once they got somewhere with good coaching, and excellent mental shrinks, they've become success stories thereafter (minus the mental shrink part). It's not the end of the world for Ponder, but he has to get past that major obstacle in order to emerge from bogs of eternal stench (metaphorically speaking).

Summary: It's really hard to say what Ponder will do in the NFL. He seems like he has some of the traits to be a success, but on the flip side of that, he has just as many traits that would possibly hold him back. Right now, as things stand, Ponder could be ready for a back up, second-string role, immediately. In an emergency, with no pressure, he may not have the hiccups of over-thinking. Then again, if the game was on the line, and he had to go in, most of us have seen that story unfold with him before at Florida State.

7. RICKY STANZI | IOWA | 6'4", 220 LBS

Passing Accuracy: For the most part, Ricky Stanzi has above average ball placement. Stanzi has won some pretty big games with his second half precision. Like most any other quarterback, it takes Stanzi getting in to a rhythm to really start placing the ball exactly where it needs to go. But once he's on fire, watch out! If teams can break Stanzi's rhythm, he looks like a complete bumbling moron out there though. He is streaky in some of the other areas, but his accuracy is one of his strong suits. In his first couple years of starting, he had accuracy and ball placement issues, but he worked through them and overcame the weakness. He also had a pretty good crop of receivers on the other end of those passes as well, and that never hurts matters.

Arm Strength: The best way to put it, is that Stanzi has NFL arm strength. He is not going to be the guy that fits passes in to microscopic windows, but he can make the mid range passes quite well. If you have a guy like DeSean Jackson on your team, you may not want to consider Stanzi as your quarterback because he's going to leave that blazing wide out hanging in the air coming back for the ball.

Touch Passes: Stanzi was one of the best touch passers in college football this past season. His ball placement and velocities were just about as good as it gets. Numerous games this past year showcased that skill. He will fit well with a team that bases it's offense on timing (much like Ponder). If he can get a secondary defender to bite on a pump fake, which he is also very good at, it's usually going to go for a big gain or six to the house.

Decision Making: In his first two years, Stanzi was one of the worst decision making quarterbacks in college football. Iowa fans were as frustrated with Stanzi as Niners fans have been with Alex Smith. However, Stanzi in this last year really did a complete 180 with his hard work and dedication to get better in the off-season between this last year and the previous season. In and of itself, that was a great decision for Stanzi. His on the field decision making is not where it needs to be just yet, but the potential is there and seems to be evolving.

Field Vision: Sometimes Stanzi has been known to stare down receivers which leads me to believe that he doesn't know exactly where all his guys are going to be at all times. On the other side of the spectrum, he has been known to go through multiple progressions too. If you think of things in terms of one of the older Madden football games, you know, the one where the vision would be displayed in a highlighted, brighter color ranging from narrow to wide? Well, Stanzi's would probably be somewhere in the middle... (disclaimer: I do not play Madden football anymore, and this was just for illustration purposes only and if you have never played that game, then sorry, you'll just have to visualize it). He has work to do in this department, but he is no longer at the bottom of the pack here.

Mechanics: Stanzi's mechanics are neither great or bad. He will sometimes, when trying to finesse a pass, throw it off his back foot. Sometimes the steps he takes in to his passes are either too short, or over extending which effects the passes in being long or short sometimes. On any roll-out play, he seems to have a strange hop before he releases the pass. Sometimes I just want to yell, "Hey Air Stanzi, keep it grounded, this isn't b-ball!". A good head coach, coupled with an even better quarterbacks coach can fix these issues rather easily. There are drills that you can make a guy do until it feels natural.

Pocket Awareness: Definitely a strength of Stanzi's. He has a great knack for hanging in the pocket till the very last second. He doesn't get sacked too often for two reasons. The first reason is that Iowa usually has a pretty solid offensive line. The second reason would be that Stanzi knows when danger is near and knows exactly when to pull it down and scramble for as much as he can.

Moxie and Leadership: I've never doubted his moxie and leadership qualities. Stanzi is a natural scrapper. He wants to win, and he wants his teammates to win. I think that letting his teammates down drives him to do everything in his power to play great. Stanzi sometimes can get rattled rather easily though. If an opposing team gets in to his head, he is not always able to recover from that. Mental toughness is something that he will have to gain with experience.

Summary: There are enough flaws in Stanzi's game to sit him on the bench for a while and let him absorb all the little nuances of the NFL game. The best policy would be to let him play in preseason games and get his feet wet to adjust differently to the speed of the game. Ricky Stanzi could surprise a lot of folks in the future if he continues to harness that same work ethic that he had this past off-season in to the NFL. Don't expect Stanzi to be anything more than a back up for some time to come though. Players like this sometimes wind up being career back ups because there is just too much to overcome.

8. PAT DEVLIN | DELAWARE | 6'3", 225 LBS

Passing Accuracy: I will have to admit that I was not able to see as much of Devlin as I would like to have. The sample size I am basing this off of is not what I typically would like it to be. Definitely not as much as the other players. However, what I have seen of Devlin, I have really liked in the accuracy department. He does play in a spread style offense, and did take almost all of his snap out of the shotgun formation, but that does not mean you can't get a good gauging on his ball placement. Devlin is not perfect here, but on the short to mid range passes he gets the job done, and done near to perfection.

Arm Strength: Devlin has one of the more incapable arms from this rookie class. It would have to be a toss up between him and Alabama's quarterback (or former now) Greg McElroy. The ball just doesn't really get there in a hurry. But since the accuracy is so good, it makes up for the lack of velocity on the throws.

Touch Passes: Touch passes are Devlin's bread and butter. His ball placement usually gives his wide receivers, backs, and tight ends a chance over the defenders every time the ball is airborne. His short passes are crisp and tight and the mid range passes get there precisely when they need to be. His long ball is not the prettiest, so in that regard the touch is not there.

Decision Making: The decision making for Devlin is a bit of a gray area for me. I wish I had more games of him to evaluate, and they would have televised more of the Delaware games. With that said, what I did see in the small sample size of his decision making was a bit above par. He did show on a few occasions that he will stare down his first read for too long and not have enough time to hit his second progression. He does not have the quickest reaction time when he is pressured which often leads to sacks.

Field Vision: Devlin has a bit of trouble in this area. He knows how to go through progressions fine for the most part, but that doesn't equal good field vision. There were a few occasions that I noticed wide open receivers down field, and Devlin went with the check down instead. His helmet never even turned in the direction of the clearly wide open receivers. So in this regard, it seems as if Devlin does not always see a hundred percent of the field before making the decision to pull the trigger.

Mechanics: Mechanics are very sound for Devlin. The way he steps in to his throws are the way that they teach you to from a very young age. He has been well-coached up to this point. The issues and concerns that the NFL will have, is that he never took snaps from under center. This means that once Devlin is drafted, he will have a small time table to implement taking snaps from under center like he's been doing it his whole life. Hopefully for his sake, he has been working on that this entire time from the East - West Shrine Game to present, and up to the NFL Combine next week.

Pocket Awareness: I would not categorize Devlin as a great pocket awareness guy based off of what I've seen, as well as read. He was sacked countless times through his collegiate career because he held on to the ball for too long. There were even times that the pressure was coming and he made the mistake of hanging in there too long. In the NFL, he will not have the same time he was used to having at Delaware. The game will come at him much, much quicker and he will be forced to adjust.

Moxie and Leadership: Body language, on-field intensity, and a positive attitude are all things that any team looking for a quarterback should consider. Devlin plays the game somewhat casually. He has a drive, but in watching him, the little that I did, he just did not come off as a very fiery or passionate player. Like I said yesterday about Locker, Devlin just does not seem to possess that "it-factor". The NFL requires a player to have miles and miles of heart.

Summary: For anyone looking for a later round project quarterback, Devlin would appear to fit the profile. He did win a National Championship, but he has so much work to do in order to ever be considered as a tier-one-NFL-caliber quarterback one day.

9. ANDY DALTON | TEXAS CHRISTIAN | 6'2", 210 LBS

Passing Accuracy: Texas Christian's offense was spread out for high efficiency and one-on-one match-ups. Andy Dalton, on paper, in at least the last two of the years he played, seems to have crushed it as far as accuracy goes. But, in looking deep in to Dalton's throws, they contradict the stat sheet. He was very fortunate to have had Jeremy Kerley hauling in passes that were off target a majority of the time. High, low, behind, and in front of was the common theme for passes that Dalton's threw at his aimed targets. He isn't always bad at this, but it's definitely not one of his strong suits.

Arm Strength: Dalton has an above average arm for the NFL. His deep passes can make it there quick, he's able to fit the ball in to windows if they're large enough, and his out patterns get there in a hurry. The problem for Dalton is that his accuracy doesn't couple up with his arm strength. If Dalton can introduce the two, then thye may hit it off and there could be something there.

Touch Passes: His touch passing skill is not a hundred percent where it should be. However, it is not bad. He is considered to be middle of the road when it comes to that. Even if his pass is off a bit, he knows the difference between firing a ball in there and lobbing it over a defenders head.

Decision Making: There are several areas that Dalton is mediocre in. Decision making falls in to the mediocre category for the Texas Christian quarterback. Dalton has a quick reaction time but fails to go through all of his options all of the time. He has a tendency to force passes where they don't belong.

Field Vision: Mediocre would not be a word to describe his field vision. Dalton has decent recognition of where and when his guys are going to be somewhere. He avoids defenders pretty good also. Even though he seems to have a solid grasp in seeing most everything, there's always room to improve, right?

Mechanics: Andy Dalton, for as late as he is going to go, has one of the better sets of mechanics. His footwork is very clean, and very precise. He just doesn't make very many mistakes in his throwing motion, or his release, or his footwork.

Pocket Awareness: The 2011 Rose Bowl was a testimony to how good Andy Dalton reacts in the pocket. Wisconsin, (mainly J.J. Watt), was very disruptive on nearly every play of that game. However, Dalton handled the pressure quite well and moved around enough most of the time to buy extra seconds to make a play. His sliding and stepping in to passes is on par with where it should be.

Moxie and Leadership: Again, if you need to see for yourself, Dalton had very good poise, moxie, and the will to win in this years Rose Bowl game. Wisconsin was breathing down TCU's neck at halftime, Dalton, at the beginning of the 3rd quarter, led the team down the field for a TCU touchdown which would ultimately would wind up being the game winner. He plays with his emotions on his sleeve, and he is able wash away the negativity of previous bad plays to move forward quickly with his teammates support.

Summary: Dalton has a long road to go if he wants to be a successful starter in the league. He has the potential to get there, but it's going to take a lot of personal dedication and hard work once a pro team signs him to the roster. Dalton would be best suited going to a team that already has a future Hall of Famer at the helm right now. Because out of all the later round picks, if he is able to absorb what he can from a current player and living legend, or even an above average quarterback, he will have his own chance to shine someday down the road.

10. T.J. YATES | NORTH CAROLINA | 6'3", 220 LBS

Passing Accuracy: T.J. Yates and Andy Dalton are very similar quarterbacks. Yates may have been the most underrated quarterback in this years draft. He has not got the media attention that he deserved. With that said, Yates, in his first few years, took a while to adjust. But once he got a handle on things late in his junior season, it became a bit more natural for him thereafter. His passes are just about night and day from where they were as a freshman. He appears to have a very natural presence in the pocket. On his delivery, and ultimately where the ball wound up once it got to its final destination was much improved this year.

Arm Strength: He has enough arm strength to make all the NFL throws. He does not struggle in this area. Most of North Carolina's passing plays after Greg Little wasn't on the field for them anymore were shortened up a bit. So the velocity on those throws was plenty. Yates does have the ability to go down field though and he does it well.

Touch Passes: This could be the largest area of concern for the Tarheel quarterback. In watching the games that I had a chance to through these last four years, Yates has seemed to only know one speed. Since he does not have a bazooka for an arm, it could be a liability that he throws each pass in the same fashion.

Decision Making: The reason that he is so far down on the list for me is because out of any other quarterback in this years top ten, Yates stares down his first receiver almost as if he is trying to Jedi mind trick defenders to open up it up for his guys. That is a big no-no at the next level. He has the physical tools, but the decision making comes from the mind and instinct. Yates will be a project just due to the void in this category alone.

Field Vision: I would categorize Yates in saying that he has limited field vision. Like mentioned above, he stares down that first receiver not acknowledging the rest of the field very well. He has gone through progressions before, so we know that he is not totally incapable.

Mechanics: T.J. Yates has phenomenal footwork. Some of the best I have seen in a very long time. His drop backs are flawless, and his throwing motion does not have a glitch. Everything seems to flow very nicely when he drops back and then steps in to a throw. When people say that there is always room to improve, I think any improvement here for Yates, would be messing with perfection.

Pocket Awareness: In some instances, it looks like Yates is completely oblivious to what is going on around him. There are times that things aren't getting too hot in the kitchen yet, and Yates bolts out of there like a frightened alley cat. Once he takes off, he is fairly nimble and can pick up extra yardage with some decent moves. He does not possess the greatest awareness in the pocket but he is able to buy time in certain situations by rolling out. And on the roll out, Yates is pretty good with his passes.

Moxie and Leadership: There is no lack in poise and moxie from the Georgia native. T.J. Yates was born to play the quarterback position. He simply knows how to get his team to follow him to the depths of hell and back up to heaven. They all seem to support him very much. I don't think that there's ever been a bad word said about Yates and his leadership, especially by his teammates. If there has been, I haven't heard of it.

Summary: He may just be one of the more underrated players in this years rookie class of quarterbacks. As seen above, there are some glitches in his game. He has some of the traits of a decent pro quarterback. It's really up in the air if Yates will be one of those guys like Tony Romo. A player that comes out of nowhere to be listed in that franchise player category. I will be interested to see how Yates does in the preseason. And even more interested to see who grabs him in the later rounds.