There were 12 quarterbacks selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, but the focus is mostly at the top when examining which passer will have the biggest impact over the course of his NFL career. And while much attention will be paid to the No. 1 overall pick, our experts also advise fans to keep an eye on the development of Tom Brady's new backup.
Michael Lombardi: Mallett will keep Belichick coaching
Ryan Mallett will have the largest impact of any quarterback drafted this year, and his impact will be felt on and off the field. On the field, he will be given time to develop, to watch and learn from one of the greatest ever in the game -- Brady. Off the field, Mallett's ability will make Patriots coach Bill Belichick not want to stop coaching in the next 10 years and keep chasing titles. Mallett brings good news to Pats fans in every area.
Pat Kirwan: Mallett's impact put on hold
The player with the biggest impact could very well be the guy with the potential to be a bust -- Cam Newton -- because of the situation he'll be in. However, I prefer to look for a guy who is already on a good team with stability in the coaching staff, an excellent defense, and playmakers on offense.
Also, it doesn't hurt one bit if the young quarterback doesn't have to play for a few years. That's right, I'm describing the situation Aaron Rodgers found himself in when he went to Green Bay. If Carson Palmer returned to Cincinnati, that would make Andy Dalton a candidate if ownership extended Marvin Lewis, but those are two big ifs and I will move on from Dalton.
If we just look at the development of Matt Cassel in New England and what he's doing today in Kansas City, it is possible that Mallett could get his whole image turned around as an understudy to Brady and find himself doing big things in this league years from now. Right now, there is no pressure on him, and he's going to learn a lot about how to play this game at a high level.
Charles Davis: Patriots have their version of Rodgers
Over the course of his career, the quarterback from the 2011 draft that I believe will have the biggest impact is Mallett. I do realize that he might not start for at least three years, but inside the crucible of the New England program, I like his chances of growing, maturing, and then when he gets his opportunity, producing like Aaron Rodgers did with Green Bay. And, if Brady is able to extend his career, then look for Mallett to take the "new" Mallett to another NFL team and have a fine career.
Logical to build on spread success
Vic Carucci: Gabbert will get ample time to grow
The Jaguars will be grooming Blaine Gabbert to take over for David Garrard, and that should allow Gabbert the chance to grow into the starting role rather than being shoved into it. He should be able to successfully make the transition from the spread offense that he played at Missouri to the Jaguars' more conventional scheme. Although he worked from the shotgun formation in college, Gabbert regularly had to make the progression reads that he'll make in the NFL. He also should benefit from the work he did before the draft with veteran quarterbacks coach Terry Shea.
Bucky Brooks: Newton breathes life into stale franchise
As the No. 1 pick of the draft, Newton will have the biggest impact in the NFL over the course of his career. While Panthers fans would hope that Newton impacts the league in a positive way by returning the franchise to prominence, his transition from the spread into a pro-style system will certainly alter the way that scouts evaluate college quarterbacks in the future.
If he is able to develop into an effective pocket passer, he will open up the door for athletic quarterbacks and prompt more offensive coordinators to tweak their systems to fit the skills of a dual-threat at the position. In Carolina, he will breathe life into a franchise that has grown stale over the past few years and develop into a Josh Freeman-type playmaker as he steadily grows out of an initial role as a game manager.
Jason La Canfora: Pass or fail, Newton will have impact
There wasn't a sure-fire, sure-thing in this group. And there are some serious concerns to some degree with most of them -- Newton, the first-overall pick, included.
But if we're talking "impact," it's hard for me not to select Newton. He has tremendous athletic gifts, he has always been a winner, and he immediately injects hope and life into Carolina's franchise. That's impact right there.
He will sell jerseys and tickets, and he will help keep corporate suites stocked. He will generate interest in the franchise and land them back on Monday Night Football. Even if he burns out, he will do so on the grandest stage.
I believe the Panthers will find ways to get him involved early and put him in position to succeed. Whether he does indeed become a franchise quarterback or whether he fails, either way he will have made a massive impact.
Steve Wyche: Newton's abilities will serve him well
There is the potential for Newton not to pan out, but don't we say that about nearly every quarterback before he's gone through the NFL gauntlet? Newton needs some refinement, but his run-pass skill set will serve him well. Defensive coordinators will have to devise schemes based on his ability to run, but his big arm and desire to be great will set him apart from the rest of this group. Like some of the other young quarterbacks who've had early success, he joins a team with a fairly solid offensive line and a running game.
Elliot Harrison: It's all about Panthers' icon
Newton ... whether he fails or not. If he succeeds, then he'll be remembered as the face of the draft and as one of a select group of top overall picks who produced at quarterback. If he struggles through a mediocre career, he'll be cited as another example of why general managers should stay away from the big, athletic quarterback that likes to run. Unfortunately for Newton, carrying an icon status and being drafted first overall translates to great expectations.