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2011 NFL Mock Draft: Quarterback Prospects Jockey For Position As Blaine Gabbert Rises

The quarterback position continues to be the hardest one to peg in the 2011 NFL Draft after Andrew Luck opted to stay at Stanford for one more year. Without the consensus top quarterback, and No. 1 overall pick, the quarterback class took a hit, with the remaining prospects all facing question marks. Every 2011 NFL mock draft seems to have a different opinion on where the top quarterbacks will land, but Blaine Gabbert appears to be emerging as a favorite as the draft picture comes into focus, though there’s a spirited about about which quarterback NFL teams will fall in love with in April.

Here’s a look at the top quarterbacks and where they’re projected to go.

Blaine Gabbert: The Missouri quarterback decided to come out early, and has seen his stock rise significantly throughout the year. With Luck gone, and the rest of the quarterbacks shrouded in uncertainly, Gabbert is looking more and more like the top guy.

CBS Sports’ Chad Reuter had this to say about Gabbert, noting he may climb all the way to No. 1 overall by the time the draft rolls around.

One personnel boss thought Gabbert could end up the first overall selection. Physically and as an athlete, he’s very similar to Alex Smith (first overall, 2005). He will also have to transition from a spread system to a pro-style offense, like Smith. His arm strength and quick release are more similar to Joe Flacco, however, which may allow him to have more success than Smith has had with the 49ers over the past six seasons.

Jake Locker: An up-and-down season appeared to hurt his draft stock, calling into question whether it was wise for Locker to return to Washington for his senior year in 2010. Still, Locker’s physical tools are likely to impress ahead of the draft, and many mock draft experts have Locker as an early first round pick, perhaps even in the top-10. His inconsistency in the passing game, and tendency to throw into coverage or be fooled by coverage, leave questions about his game. When it comes to the draft, however, potential rules the day, and Locker has plenty of it.

Cam Newton: Like Locker, Newton faces questions about his passing. In the BCS Championship, Newton completed a career-high 20 passes. Think about that. He had never completed 20 passes in his 12 games at Auburn, typically only throwing the ball 17-20 times in a game. His legs are a weapon and his size is tantalizing, but can he become an NFL-level passer? Again, his potential is the upside, but it remains to be seen how his passing will translate to the NFL.

Ryan Mallet: Possessing the strongest arm in the draft, Mallet wows observers with sheer power. He does, however, have a tendency to force throws and be fooled by coverages. In the Sugar Bowl, he showed off that arm strength, but also threw a costly interception to end the game.

With mock drafts rolling in, here’s a sampling of how where each is projected to go.

Rob Rang:
Blaine Gabbert, No. 7 to San Francisco
Cam Newton, No. 8 to Tennessee
Ryan Mallett, No. 10 to Washington
Jake Locker, No. 25 to Seattle

Chad Reuter
Blaine Gabbert, No. 3 to Buffalo
Jake Locker, No. 10 to Washington
Cam Newton, No. 12 to Minnesota
Ryan Mallett, not in the first round

SB Nation
Cam Newton, No. 7 to San Francisco
Blaine Gabbert, No. 10 to Washington
Ryan Mallett, No. 25 to Seattle
Jake Locker, not in the first round

You can clearly see each of these four are highly-debated, with little consensus about the top quarterback. With the first round typically a quarterback bonanza, it’s still likely all four are taken early in the draft, perhaps before the Seattle Seahawks even get a chance to step to the podium.

For the latest on the NFL Draft, stay tuned to our 2011 NFL Mock Draft StoryStream.