In an interview earlier today, ESPN’s Mel Kiper claimed that about four QBs will be taken in the first round, two of whom will be Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert. This would leave three or four of the top guys still available to Buffalo at pick #34 should the Bills decide not to go QB in Round 1. Of that potential group (Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick), I actually wouldn’t be terribly upset with any of them. Here’s my rankings of that group of five, from most desirable to least.
1) Colin Kaepernick, Nevada – I absolutely loved watching Kaepernick play at Nevada. He’s a great athlete – the only player in NCAA FBS history with 10,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards. His passing improved considerably during his college career, as he finished his senior season with a 65.3 completion percentage. His intangibles and toughness are sound, and I think Chan Gailey could come up with great ways to use his strengths. I don’t see him as a starter in 2011, as he will need to make a big transition from the pistol offense Nevada ran to the NFL style of play. His mechanics are also a bit wonky. But with a year or two of watching and learning from Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kaepernick could be a star.
2) Christian Ponder, Florida State – There’s a ton to like about Ponder. He’s an accurate thrower with great feet in the pocket. He doesn’t have elite arm strength but he’ll get the ball where it needs to go. Ponder’s more than athletic enough with really nice speed in the open field. His intelligence is also high – he finished his undergraduate degree in just two-and-a-half years (yeah, Florida State’s not an academic powerhouse, but still). The issue with Ponder is his durability. He couldn’t seem to stay healthy at Florida State. And that’s certainly a scary problem playing behind the Buffalo offensive line.
3) Jake Locker, Washington – If I were to pick the guy in this group who I think has the highest potential ceiling, it’s Locker. Locker’s a big, strong guy with excellent arm strength and athleticism. It’s easy to see why scouts have gone nuts for this guy over the years. The tools are all there. You just wonder if he’s already damaged goods. He took an absolute beating while playing for some awful Washington teams. As a result he just seems to panic in the pocket at times. He is also the least accurate thrower by far in this group. Could he ever get over all that? I think he can. The Bills would be a nice landing spot for him, as he wouldn’t need to be rushed into the lineup with Fitzpatrick around. After a year of confidence building, learning, and not taking hits, Locker could be ready to be a star.
4) Andy Dalton, TCU – I think Dalton is going to be in the NFL for a long time, be it as a starter or a backup. He’s a fierce competitor who definitely has every intangible you could ask for. He’s highly intelligent and has the accuracy to be successful. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him become successful. However, his physical skills are adequate at best. He’s small with a bit of a three-quarter arm slot delivery, which will get plenty of balls batted down in the NFL. His ceiling is lower than the three guys above him on this list.
5) Ryan Mallett, Arkansas – Some people think that Mallett is a top-ten talent and whoever gets him has a steal on their hands. I don’t agree. Way too many question marks here. He certainly has talent, as evidenced by the huge numbers he put up at Arkansas. Mallett played in a pro-style offense in college and can make all the NFL throws. He has the best combination of arm strength and accuracy of anyone on this list. There are just too many concerns about him mentally for my taste however. Mallett is prone to melt down in big games. He strikes me as the kind of guy who will throw five touchdowns on the Bengals in a meaningless October game but do nothing against the Patriots in a primetime matchup. He doesn’t do well at all with a rush in his face. And the off the field concerns are numerous. Mallett’s a talent, and maybe he’ll be a star, but I’d rather Buffalo look elsewhere.