For several NFL franchises, this past year’s draft saw a significant investment made in a “quarterback of the future”. IUSportCom’s Michael Maxwell takes a look at five of these highly-regarded rookies and how that future looks.
The moment everyone had been waiting for came Sunday in Cam Newton’s debut for the Carolina Panthers, facing the Arizona Cardinals. Critics in this past off-season have questioned Newton’s patience in the pocket, implying that he too often resorts to using his feet. And after an almost flawless final season at Auburn, the expectations for the overall number one pick could not be higher.
As expected, Cam started the day at quarterback, but what many probably did not expect to see was how much success he had through the air. Cam threw for an NFL debut record 422 yards, two touchdowns, as well as one interception. However, with capable reserves Jimmy Clausen and Derek Anderson also on the roster, Cam can’t afford to rest on his laurels.
Newton’s transition into the NFL will be a challenge. The pieces of his game that will benefit him most are his physical attributes. Newton is 6’5″, weighing in at a shade over 240 lbs. He has quickness scrambling out of the pocket, making him dangerous for the opposition. I believe he will learn a lot this season and has promising potential to be a winner in the NFL.
After a decent preseason showing in the first snaps of his professional career, Jake Locker is still not under the same spotlight most other rookie quarterbacks in his class are after Week 1. He currently is a 2nd string back-up to starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for the Tennessee Titans. After a tough Week 1 loss to the division rival Jacksonville Jaguars, it appears offensive consistency for the Titans is still yet to be found.
Jake Locker is an extremely talented quarterback who is worth the price of admission. But I am most eager to discover if there is a clutch factor to his NFL game. In his final season at Washington, he led the Huskies on three late game-winning drives in the 4rth quarter. Can he be the same kind of leader for the Titans, a team in dire need of just that? I believe if given time to develop, he could certainly be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
This past Sunday, on the opposite sideline to Locker, stood second-string rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. He was selected 10th overall by the Jaguars and currently is the backup to Luke McCown. He came with high expectations from the University of Missouri.
Tough times have hit Jacksonville in recent years as they have sought stability at the quarterback position. Many felt Gabbert was too undeveloped to be a first round draft pick. A challenging aspect of his adjustment will be his leadership. Nonetheless, Gabbert will get his shot to live up to his draft position.
As potentially the luckiest rookie quarterback of all in this year’s draft, Ryan Mallett went to the New England Patriots as the 74th pick from the University of Arkansas. Not only does he get the chance to play behind one of the best in Tom Brady, he also gets to play in one of the best systems under Coach Bill Belichick. They conclude Week 1 of the regular season on Monday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins.
Mallett has the physical qualities to be a successful quarterback in the NFL. He stands an athletic 6’6″ weighing approximately 230 lbs. But questions about Mallett’s mental toughness has brought up concern. In time, I believe Mallett could be the successor to Brady.
The unluckiest rookie after Week 1 proved to be Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals. As the first half wound down, Dalton took a hard hit from a Browns defender, forcing him to miss the rest of the game with a right wrist injury. The Bengals would come back to win in the second half 27-17.
Dalton was the 35th overall pick in the draft from Texas Christian University. He had tremendous success last year in his final college season, leading his team to go undefeated and win the Rose Bowl. The part of Dalton’s game that will benefit him most in the transition to the NFL is his efficiency. In his final season at TCU, he threw for twenty-seven touchdowns and only six interceptions. This ability to make intelligent decisions with the football will significantly help him adjust to the pro game.