2011 NFL Draft serves as warning to QB-needy teams


The 2011 NFL Draft continues to serve as a sober warning to teams tempted to reach for a quarterback come Thursday night.

Among that year's crop of first-round passers, only Cam Newton saw his club exercise the fifth-year option exclusive to his draft class. Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder all loom as street free agents next offseason after failing to emerge as franchise quarterbacks.

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Ponder has lost the confidence of the Minnesota Vikings' front office, which today views Matt Cassell as a better starting option and could very likely draft a rookie all over again later this week.

Blaine Gabbert's already on his second team after crash-landing in Jacksonville. If Jim Harbaugh can squeeze even a drop of production from the former Jaguar, the 49ers coach should rightly be hailed as a miracle worker.

If anyone still has a shot to reverse fortunes with his current employer it's Locker, who entered Tennessee's offseason program as the team's likely starter -- for now. Support from new coach Ken Whisenhunt has been lukewarm, but Locker does bring unusual athleticism to the role. Still, his play has been inconsistent and his durability has cost him 14 starts over the past two seasons. Locker's place in the pecking order could sour if the Titans draft a rookie.

Five days away from this year's first round, the flock of general managers leading quarterback-needy teams face a familiar dilemma: Where to pick your passer?

Each of this year's signal-callers are riddled with questions, leaving a poll of 17 NFL personnel people conducted by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel without a clear consensus as to this year's top quarterback. Johnny Manziel earned eight votes and four chose Blake Bortles, while two picked Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr. One fellow even pounded the table for Zach Mettenberger!

The warning cries flow in by the hour:

Hyperbole? Don't think so. Every one of the head coaches on hand when Gabbert, Locker and Ponder were picked have been canned. That alone should have more teams thinking about the "best player available" over reaching for a quarterback flush with question marks.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" breaks down draft news and rumors and plays the popular prediction game, "Go Get My Lunch!"