Six quarterbacks were selected in the top 36 picks of the 2011 NFL draft, meaning six veteran signal callers are in jeopardy of losing either a starting job or a shot at a starting job. Here’s a breakdown of the six spots in which rookies might have a chance to push for playing time under center early on:
(Ranked subjectively in order of most interesting to least interesting.)
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton might have a higher ceiling than any quarterback in this class, which is why it worked out well for the Bengals that they were able to fill another need in Round 1 before covering their asses with the TCU quarterback early in the second round.
Bengals owner Mike Brown won’t let Carson Palmer bail easily, and I’m betting Palmer ends up coming back instead of retiring (the Bengals won’t trade him). Now if Palmer walks, Cincy can use Dalton and/or Jordan Palmer for a year before making Dalton the man or investing in a veteran next offseason. If Palmer stays, he can begin to groom Dalton for the role.
Predicted Week 1 starter: Carson Palmer
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew is the most important player on the Jags’ roster, and he believes in David Garrard long-term. Still, Garrard is a hot-and-cold quarterback. Since breaking out with a big 2007 season, the 33-year-old has thrown 38 interceptions. He’s the epitome of good, not great. Considering that the Jags are hungry to attract fans, it might not take more than a small Garrard slump to open the door for No. 10 pick Blaine Gabbert. The Jags sacrificed their top two picks in the draft for the former Missouri quarterback, so you’d have to think that he’s going to have a chance to push Garrard as soon as it becomes possible.
Predicted Week 1 starter: David Garrard
3. Carolina Panthers: The work stoppage combined with the fact that Cam Newton isn’t considered to be ready to take over an NFL offense has us thinking that Jimmy Clausen will begin 2011 as the starter. The key is that the team will likely pit the two young signal callers against one another. Clausen was Carolina’s top pick in the 2010 draft (second round), and he hasn’t been given a chance to shine yet. As we saw when he was at Notre Dame, he has the ability to do big things.
There’s been talk that the Panthers might consider dealing for a veteran QB to lead the way while Newton and Clausen wait in the wings, but this team isn’t good enough to compete right now anyway — that would be a waste of money and could disrupt the battle between Newton and Clausen. If anything, keep soon-to-be free agent Matt Moore around and let the three work together.
Predicted Week 1 starter: Jimmy Clausen
4. San Francisco 49ers: The plan seems obvious. New head coach Jim Harbaugh wants to give Alex Smith one more chance to start while grooming second-round pick Colin Kaepernick for the job a couple years down the road. If Smith improves out of nowhere, great. If not, there’s Kaepernick. If both fail, they invest in veterans or more prospects in offseasons to come. I think that’s the best approach. They should stay away from veterans like Matt Hasselbeck.
Predicted Week 1 starter: Alex Smith
5. Minnesota Vikings: The way Leslie Frazier is talking, it looks as though the Vikings will stay away from veterans like Donovan McNabb and put all of their eggs in Christian Ponder’s basket. At the very least, Ponder will probably compete with Joe Webb for the starting job in training camp, if/when training camp takes place.
With Ponder and/or Webb, there will be growing pains, but the Vikes would be better off pitting those two against each other than wasting a season with washed-up quarterbacks like McNabb or Hasselbeck. The only veteran they should consider is Kevin Kolb, who could be a long-term solution if Ponder and Webb don’t turn into legit starters.
Predicted Week 1 starter: Christian Ponder
6. Tennessee Titans: The team obviously believes that No. 8 pick Jake Locker is the long-term answer, but with little preparation time, there’s good chance the inaccurate Locker would break some interception records if he were to start throughout 2011. The Titans need a veteran to mentor the former Washington quarterback. Kerry Collins is already in town, so signing him to a new contract makes sense. McNabb and Hasselbeck get more attention, but Collins might be more effective than either of those options.
Predicted Week 1 starter: Kerry Collins
And here’s a list of six teams that passed on quarterbacks despite needing quarterbacks:
(This time, they’ve been ranked in terms of how desperate they should be for a starting quarterback.)
1. Arizona Cardinals: The Cards didn’t draft a quarterback despite last year’s mess, which means they’re almost certainly going to trade for or sign a veteran on the market. Honestly, I think they’ll lose out on Kevin Kolb and Kyle Orton and end up with a washed-up quarterback instead. I just don’t have a lot of faith in this franchise.
Predicted Week 1 starter: Donovan McNabb (and maybe Marc Bulger as the No. 2)
2. Washington Redskins: I don’t buy this John Beck stuff. The ‘Skins will chase one of the stars of the quarterback carousel and land Kolb, Orton or Bulger. This team loves doing deals with Denver, so I’m thinking Mike Shanahan borrows a signal caller from his former team.
Predicted Week 1 starter: Kyle Orton
3. Seattle Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck is apparently as good as gone, so Seattle’s decision not to draft a quarterback has to either mean that it believes in Charlie Whitehurst or that it plans on trading for Kolb, McNabb or Orton or signing Bulger.
Predicted Week 1 starter: Kevin Kolb
4. Buffalo Bills: The Bills passed on a slew of quarterbacks twice in the draft, meaning they truly believe in Ryan Fitzpatrick. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team chased a veteran backup, but I think they’re sticking with Fitz as the starter for now.
Predicted Week 1 starter: Ryan Fitzpatrick
5. Miami Dolphins: Chad Henne hasn’t worked out, but the Phins obviously weren’t enamored by anyone in this draft class. I think they bring in a veteran and let him compete with Henne.
Predicted Week 1 starter: Chad Henne