clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2011 NFL Draft Positional Rankings: Christian Ponder Tops Blaine Gabbert In This QB Prospect Ranking

It's about time I go through and clumsily list my rankings, big board and projections when it comes to the 2011 NFL Draft. I say clumsily because we already have an NCAA guy, Drew K, and he's very likely my superior in most cases, but I've been hitting more often than I've been missing, and it's led folks to ask me to post my own thoughts in a more expanded format, so I'm here to do that. I will cover most positions, list a big board at the end, and generally talk at length about guys, of whom 95% won't be wearing Red and Gold next year. Previously, I posted my prospect rankings for the nose tackle position, cornerback position, and before that, the 3-4 outside linebacker position.

The Quarterback

Each and every one of you knows that the 49es absolutely have to bring in one, two, or even three quarterbacks this offseason. Alex Smith remains an option going forward, and I've detailed why I think he deserves to be an option previously, but he no longer deserves to be the sole option. Suffice to say that I think Smith has solid ability and might be able to pull something off with the right coaching staff, and that I believe he has kind of gotten the short end of the stick in San Francisco.

Still, the days where Smith is "the guy" going forward in the offseason are long gone, and the 49ers need to address the position. There will be a quarterback drafted at some point in the 2011 NFL Draft by San Francisco, it's just a matter of which one, and when. I'd guess that there's a couple of the top guys the 49ers like, but I also tend to think that Jim Harbaugh is very particular, and he won't "settle" for just anybody. He'll either make moves to get the quarterback he wants, or he'll get some developmental guys and target somebody he has his eyes on in free agency or trade. He won't reach for a quarterback.

After many delays, I've come to my quarterback rankings. I have a lot to say about these guys, but quarterbacks, more than any position, can all sound very similar, but I've done my best to differentiate my descriptions of these guys. I've been working on ranking these quarterbacks for over a month now, but I have unfortunately condensed this actual post into about six hours total of writing and assembling, so I do kind of ramble on a bit, but I stand by these rankings 100%. The percentages, as always, are what I expect the 49ers like them in the given rounds. Let's get to it, folks.

Quarterback Prospect Rankings

Rank Player/School Height/Weight Rd. 1 Rd. 2 Rd. 3 Rd. 4 Rd. 5 Rd. 6 Rd. 7
1 Christian Ponder, Florida St. 6'2'', 229 lbs 80% 90% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2 Blaine Gabbert, Missouri 6'4'', 231 lbs 75% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
3 Jake Locker, Washington 6'3'', 227 lbs 60% 70% 85% N/A N/A N/A N/A
4 Colin Kaepernick, Nevada 6'5'', 233 lbs 40% 80% 90% N/A N/A N/A N/A
5 Cameron Newton, Auburn 6'5'', 244 lbs 65% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
6 Ryan Mallett, Arkansas 6'7', 247 lbs 40% 45% 60% 70% N/A N/A N/A
7 Andy Dalton, TCU 6'2'', 210 lbs 15% 60% 65% N/A N/A N/A N/A
8 Ricky Stanzi, Iowa 6'4'', 223 lbs 0% 20% 40% 50% 60% N/A N/A
9 Pat Devlin, Delaware 6'3'', 225 lbs 0% 0% 0% 40% 50% 55% N/A
10 T.J. Yates, North Carolina 6'3'', 219 lbs 0% 0% 0% 10% 15% 30% 50%
11 Greg McElroy, Alabama 6'2'', 220 lbs 0% 0% 0% 0% 10% 20% 40%
12 Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin 6'2'', 212 lbs 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 20% 30%
13 Nathan Enderle, Idaho 6'4'', 240 lbs 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 20% 30%
14 Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech 6'1'', 217 lbs 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 15% 25%
15 Taylor Potts, Texas Tech 6'4'', 218 lbs 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 10% 20%

Talking Points

  • This was the hardest post to put together, as I waffled a lot on spots one and two, and where to put someone like Stanzi, because I think he has some of the best developmental potential in the draft.
  • My sleeper is Pat Devlin, he can be something special with, at the minimum, one year to sit and learn. He's a prototypical west coast offense quarterback and I would be elated to see him go to San Francisco in the fifth or sixth round.
  • T.J. Yates fits the above criteria as well, and I will admit right now, I wasn't high on him for awhile. Somebody on Niners Nation talked him up an awful lot, and it led me to looking more into him and I spent a good three hours watching solely him last week.
  • I don't think the 49ers should draft Blaine Gabbert at pick seven if he's around, I feel like elite defensive talent is more important at this point in the draft and that there might be trade opportunities
  • There is a surprising amount of starting-caliber players given enough time to develop in this draft, but remember: I will talk about their developmental ability a lot, but I shouldn't have to remind you that more often than not ... quarterbacks fail. That's just how it is.
  • Really interested to know where you folks would be happy with Ricky Stanzi - I've seen him taken as high as the second and as late as the fifth. Also would like to know which quarterbacks you'd be alright with selecting in the first round.

Individual Thoughts

1. Christian Ponder - I've taken a liking to Ponder over the last few weeks, like much of the 49ers fanbase. I don't think he's quite a finished product, though most players in this draft aren't anyway, but he does excel in areas that we should feel good about. Ponder excels over the middle, has great timing, and is very accurate in that regard. He's the kind of player who's style is generally predicated on riding a strong rushing attack, but he didn't even have to do that in college. He's smart and athletic, two very Harbaugh-esque traits. I think, with the power rushing attack, the strength of tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, the 49ers will become a team very based on timing and accuracy when it comes to the passing game, and that's something Ponder could do from day one. For some negatives, he struggles on the deep ball and doesn't really "wow" you with his numbers. I'd like him to go through his progressions quicker and I'd like to see more touch put on the ball. Either way, I think Ponder is a great fit in San Francisco and he's somebody that can be coached up.

2. Blaine Gabbert - The Missouri product tops most quarterback rankings, but I couldn't give him the nod here. There's a lot I don't like about Gabbert and his meteoric rise to the top of the quarterback rankings after Andrew Luck decided to stay in college. His accuracy is just not there at all times, I don't like his propensity to get absolutely flustered and disappear from games. If a running back is off, you have backups and you can alter the gameplan a little ... when your quarterback is off, there's pretty much no hope for you to win. His footwork disappears, his throws hang up there, it's just not pretty. But there is a lot to like about him, and that's why he's number two on my list. Good, strong arm that doesn't lead to over-throwing the shorter and intermediate routes, he's got great touch on his passes and throws a beautiful ball most of the time. He's got good athletic ability and knows when to make plays outside of the pocket. I don't like the offense he played in at Missouri and I think he has a lot to learn in regards to starting in the NFL, but he really is the prototypical kind of guy you want for development.

3. Jake Locker - This guy is almost an anomaly, because every single thing he does is virtually mechanically sound. He is a guy with almost perfect intangibles, and just about any scout will tell you as much. But for one reason or another, the accuracy just isn't there. He's got a very strong arm and looks great on the deep ball. He's got a quick release, quick feet, makes good drops and has a beautiful throwing motion. But again, we go back to the accuracy. You can make a case for lacking play from his receivers and team around him, but there's nothing that can explain that awful completion percentage. There is a lot to work with there, and any quarterback-needy team who believes in their own ability to develop a quarterback will be licking their lips in anticipation of working with this kid to figure out how to maximize his insane potential.

4. Colin Kaepernick - I have him higher than most, and I almost felt like I should put him even higher. This is a draft deep on developmental quarterbacks, and Kaepernick is the top of the order in that regard. He's gotten better every season he's played, and is very smart and determined to learn. He will come in and immediately be receptive. He's got the second biggest arm in the draft and looks great on the deep passes. He's not your prototypical west coast offense quarterback, he struggles with some of the easier throws and finds it hard to get into a rhythm. His throwing motion is something that will be eternally criticized, and even though he says teams don't want to change it, you can bet Harbaugh would have a few critiques. What it boils down to is the fact that Kaepernick is just too good at most things to pass him up because he might be a better fit in a different offense, he's the kind of guy you build around and mold to your liking.

5. Cameron Newton - Newton is here because there is so much raw material that can be something special, if it can be utilized. I personally do not think it can be molded into something else, I don't think that Newton is exceedingly developmental, I think he feels like he's a finished quarterback and that he won't put in the work, but that's just my view on the matter. If the 49ers draft him, I will support him and believe in Harbaugh's ability to turn him into something that we all know he has the talent to be. He's got a huge arm and amazing athleticism, he isn't mistake-prone and he protects the ball. I don't like his throwing motion, but it's at least a quick release. He doesn't, however, have great timing or deadly accuracy when asked to thread the needle. His footwork is atrocious, and that will cost him at the NFL level. When people are hounding him, he panics, his footwork breaks down even more, and he does this weird, half-jumping throw that I've seen in literally every game he's played and it drives me crazy. That has to be eliminated, or he won't make it in the NFL, simply put. He's got a lot of character concerns.

6. Ryan Mallett - The strongest arm in the draft right here, folks. Mallett is somebody that you folks know I loved before this past season. But then this past season happened, and he showed me a lot of bad things. His accuracy dropped off and he started throwing the short timing routes like he was trying to force the ball through their chest. His footwork, if you can call it that, regressed, and his throwing motion got worse, a bit longer. He routinely thinks he has a man open, but it's not even close and he gets picked off because his accuracy, as stated, just isn't there. His personality ... boy has that been self destructive. He's drawing comparisons to Ryan Leaf, and I see them. I also fully believe the talk of him missing a meeting with the Carolina Panthers due to a bad hangover. The best things I can say about him are these: he has a fantastic arm and is built like a boulder, with a lot of potential upside. Mallett is "boom or bust" personified.

7. Andy Dalton - Supposedly, the 49ers have a lot of interest in Dalton, and it's easy to see why. He's got a great mix of arm strength and accuracy, he can make the throws that Harbaugh would ask of him. He's athletic, smart, and is a leader on the football field. Unfortunately, there's just not a ton of developmental ability there ... Dalton almost feels like a finished product with what he can do, short of learning how to better work under center. I just don't see a guy who can develop into something special, I see him as middling in the NFL, but middling is still good. If he really puts in all the work and does everything he can, maybe he develops, and if Harbaugh likes him enough, then I'm fully alright with landing him, but I feel like his ceiling is relatively low for somebody with such a high floor.

8. Ricky Stanzi - This is like an ... uber-developmental west coast quarterback, right here. Stanzi is a quarterback who has improved every year he's played in every possible category. There's a lot of little issues with his footwork, his timing, his arm strength isn't elite, and he has a history of making mistakes with the football. Fortunately, everything I've seen from Stanzi indicates that he's intensely receptive to teaching. When they told him his throwing motion wasn't ideal for the NFL, he worked on it a year early and it looks great now. He's got a high football IQ and will be whatever you want him to be. I like him in the late third or fourth round.

9. Pat Devlin - I like Devlin's developmental potential a lot in the later rounds of the draft. His arm is above-average and he is super-accurate. His ball placement is better than most quarterbacks in this draft and he's great with his timing, works best with receivers out of their breaks for monster YAC (Crabtree, anyone?) Prototypical throwing motion and release, good mobility, pretty athletic. His biggest knock is the fact that he's still kind of raw and will take a lot of time to adjust. This isn't a guy that can come in day one and start, he's the kind of guy that needs to sit for at least one season, maybe even two. If the 49ers really trust in his ability, they can draft him in the fifth round, get a veteran, and plan on Devlin in a year or so.

10. T.J. Yates - I'm really adverse to the three-quarter slot passers, but Yates is one of the few exceptions. Yates, despite the throwing motion that draws my eternal ire, is a very accurate quarterback, though he wasn't always known as such. The key there is the fact that he improved everything about his game to get where he is, and that's a very accurate, good-arm pocket passer with a propensity to hit his targets in stride and deliver a good deep ball, despite an average arm. His 2010 was the exception to his own set rules, because he did almost everything right, in spite of years past. This shows that he's got a great developmental potential, but his ceiling is all over the place. He's a solid second option that will likely be a career backup, but might have a higher ceiling than that. Wild card.

11. Greg McElroy - He has "career backup" written all over him, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. McElroy has a very high football intelligence and can digest a playbook virtually overnight. Has experience running a pro style offense and has decent arm strength, accuracy and poise in the pocket, but there's just not a lot there athletically. He's got a visibly low ceiling and cannot win games on his own. McElroy is not the kind of quarterback to make things happen when the team needs it the most. Also don't like his release or his propensity for holding onto the ball until he's pulverized into the turf.

12. Scott Tolzien - Tolzien is a good athlete with above-average arm strength and throws some really pretty passes out there, with a lightning release. His accuracy isn't always there, and he holds onto the ball too long sometimes. Tolzien is a very determined quarterback, and that's why he has a better chance of developing into a starter than some of these other guys at this point in the list, but he's still projected to be a backup, though he does have some initial readiness to play at something not entirely unlike an average level.

13. Nathan Enderle - I think I might have him a little higher than most do, but I think it's just about right. Enderle is a good, accurate quarterback who knows what it means to run an offense. He's the kind of quarterback that coaches love because he's so willing and determined, but despite his obvious physical talents, he still has issues with his arm strength. He looks like he should be throwing them a lot harder than he does, and it leads to many mistakes. His throwing motion is awful, and he does small things like pat the ball before a throw, and NFL defenders will be all over him. Struggled with top competition in college, and I don't see that changing in the NFL, short of a complete transformation.

14. Tyrod Taylor - One of those super-athletic college quarterbacks who doesn't want to be told he has to play another position in the NFL. Unlike most of them, I feel like Taylor could develop into an NFL quarterback, the problem is that I don't think he'll be able to develop into a starter. The upside is that he improved in his senior year and throws a very good short pass, but anything over six or seven yards gets wild and shaky. Add in the fact that he's got a strong arm, and that leads me to believe there's just something wrong with his release, but I don't visibly see a ton I'd change, so he's a mystery in that regard.

15. Taylor Potts - Fierce determination is the reason that Potts makes this list. I like a lot of things about his game, but he's fighting a severely steep uphill battle. The Texas Tech product has a good arm, middling accuracy on all levels and is pretty athletic. He's shown enough over the last couple months to make himself a late-round prospect. I would be happy with the 49ers selecting him in the seventh, he could be a good backup.