I don't believe this is a great draft when it comes to quarterbacks. Simply put, there is no Peyton Manning, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, or even a Josh Freeman. Someday, one of the quarterbacks from this draft class might develop into an elite player. But right now they have everything working against them, and it starts with the 2011 schedule.
Most of the rookie quarterbacks operated a spread offense in college and are not prepared to work from under center, read coverages, or find second and third options in their route progressions on the NFL level without taking off and running. In time, I'm sure a few of the first- and second-round selections from this draft will be successful. But we're entering a critical period of the year for these young quarterbacks, with the very real possibility of no organized team activities, mini camps or even a full training camp due to the lockout.
The rookie quarterbacks will already be headed in the wrong direction without the valuable repetitions during the spring and summer.
The top quarterbacks in the draft -- Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, and Andy Dalton -- are going to be drafted early, most likely by teams that need a quarterback immediately. But they are not going to have the opportunity to do what is next in their learning cycle, which is prepare. As difficult as it is to deliver as a rookie quarterback under those circumstances, the situation is made even worse if they have no contact with their coaches or teams. These quarterbacks will lose early and often with the lack of a traditional offseason schedule and preparation.
Here's a look at the first four games of the season for the teams in need of a quarterback in the draft. If the top quarterback prospects can't deliver right away, there will be problems. The higher they are drafted, the more pressure there is in the short term. While the media and fans might give them a small pass, in the end, the pressure is on their shoulders.
Arizona: Carolina, at Washington, at Seattle, New York Giants -- A rookie quarterback would be lucky to go 1-3 with this schedule. Maybe Cardinals fans will think the young draft pick is the next Matt Leinart. Whoever the player is, he would be lucky to be as good as Leinart.
Carolina: at Arizona, Green Bay, Jacksonville, at Chicago -- This is a no-win situation with the Panthers, and whoever is next at quarterback will not be leading a winning team. The Panthers catch a break with the opener in Arizona but, the Packers, Jaguars and Bears are too much to handle. A 1-3 record would be the best to hope for, but 0-4 looks more realistic.
Cincinnati: at Cleveland, at Denver, San Francisco, Buffalo -- The Bengals are probably not getting Carson Palmer back. With Palmer and some new weapons, they might go 3-1 during this stretch. Without Palmer and potentially with a rookie quarterback under center, they're easily another 1-3 team.
Minnesota: at San Diego, Tampa Bay, Detroit, at Kansas City -- The Vikings stopped worrying about Brett Favre coming back and realized their future at quarterback is shaky. Looking at these first four games, does anyone think a rookie can keep up with Philip Rivers, Freeman, Matthew Stafford, and Matt Cassel? I don't think so, and an 0-4 start is where I think the Vikings are headed with a rookie quarterback. That might be why they are also looking for a veteran.
Tennessee: at Jacksonville, Baltimore, Denver, at Cleveland -- The Titans might try and re-sign veteran Kerry Collins, but the truth is new coach Mike Munchak needs to get some experience for a new signal caller. It's not a great set of teams in these first four games, but Titans fans will have expectations and give little slack if the momentum starts to slide in the wrong direction. A rookie quarterback in this early schedule would be lucky to go 2-2.
Washington: New York Giants, Arizona, at Dallas, at St. Louis -- The Redskins are playing the quarterback decision close to the vest, but if they intend to get it right this time a quarterback with the No. 10 pick might be the right thing to do if Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan are ready.
After a look at the schedules of teams who might draft quarterbacks early and actually need them to play, it's easy to see they might not have a lot of success to kick off their careers.