1. Cam Newton
2. Jake Locker
3. Blaine Gabbert
4. Colin Kaepernick
5. Christian Ponder
6. Andy Dalton
7. Ryan Mallett
8. Ricky Stanzi
9. T.J. Yates
10. Tyrod Taylor
11. Greg McElroy
12. Adam Froman, UFA
13. Nate Enderle
14. Pat Devlin
15. Jerrod Johnson, UFA
16. Josh Portis, UFA
It's hard to fall in love with any one QB this year. Even the early first-rounders have warts. Analyst opinion is all over the map on the seven QBs drafted in the first three rounds. I find Locker to be the most intriguing prospect in the draft, so let's take the No. 8 overall pick as a prime example.
With a strong running game, capable pass-blocking line, a go-to wide receiver, and a breakout candidate at tight end, Locker is set up for success as one of the most accurate outside-the-pocket passers
NFL Network's Mike Mayock has ever seen. He's a first-class athlete with ideal mobility, a rifle arm, and the requisite "tough-ass
" competitive streak. Locker had already made tangible progress
with his inside-the-pocket passing skills leading up to the draft, and Titans coordinator Chris Palmer has a track record
of improving his quarterbacks' accuracy.
Now we're cooking with fire, right? Not so fast. Fox Sports' Adam Caplan labeled Locker "realistically" a second-round talent in April after knocking him as a third-rounder in late January. NFL Network's Charley Casserly knew of no team in late March that had a first-round grade on Locker. Colleague Michael Lombardi went a step further, insisting some teams had Locker graded as a fourth-rounder because his lack of accuracy is a "fatal flaw
." Colts president Bill Polian doubts
that accuracy can even be taught at the NFL level. How divided are scouts on Locker's outlook? Some teams had considered moving Locker to safety
For all of that criticism, former Bears QB and current Sirius NFL radio analyst Jim Miller compares Locker
to Steve Young and Mark Brunell, suggesting Gabbert's accuracy issues are worse. "Rogue" ex-scout Dave Razzano has been pounding the table
for Locker all off-season, going so far as to lambaste critics as "stupid
." Razzano insists Locker threw a "great ball" in a low-percentage offense with no help from the offensive line or wide receivers. "If you look at their college stats, Favre and Locker are practically identical," said Razzano. "Tell me this guy doesn't move like Favre, scramble like Favre, throw like Favre. Pretend he has the number four on his jersey. His release is a lot like Favre, too."
How do you rank a player compared at various points to Favre, Steve Young, Mark Brunell, and Kyle Boller?
The scouting reports are that wildly divergent for every single QB prospect. Blaine Gabbert senses pressure that isn't there, struggles on third downs, and has accuracy issues down the field. Colin Kaepernick is a mechanical nightmare coming from a pistol-spread offense. Christian Ponder has a Chad Pennington ceiling. Andy Dalton is a talent-challenged reach who can't spin the ball as hard as needs to at the NFL level. Ryan Mallett is a golden-armed statue with a drug and alcohol problem.
. . .
Newton is the quintessential boom or bust pick. He was a system-dependent, scandal-ridden, mechanical mess as a one-year wonder in college. Ex-scout Russ Lande points out
, "No college QB who played in the 'Run Option' offense has developed into a good starting NFL QB. See Alex Smith
and Vince Young
." As a more athletic Josh Freeman
, though, the boom potential is significant enough that he could end up a fantasy difference-maker in a best-case scenario. He's No. 1 on this list purely because his ceiling is highest even if his floor is Akili Smith
1. Mark Ingram
2. Ryan Williams
3. Daniel Thomas
4. Shane Vereen
5. Delone Carter
6. Mikel Leshoure
7. Roy Helu
8. DeMarco Murray
9. Alex Green
10. Kendall Hunter
11. Johnny White
12. Bilal Powell
13. Taiwan Jones
14. Stevan Ridley
15. Jacquizz Rodgers
16. Dion Lewis
17. Allen Bradford
18. Jordan Todman
19. DaRel Scott
20. Evan Royster
21. Jamie Harper
22. Anthony Allen
23. Chad Spann. UFA
24. Derrick Locke, UFA
25. Baron Batch
26. Jay Finley
27. Mario Fannin
28. Noel Devine
29. Graig Cooper, UFA
30. John Clay
My initial reaction to Ingram in New Orleans was less than enthusiastic, picturing a backfield still bogged down in the fantasy quagmire. After delving deeper, however, I would confidently take him over the two playmaking receivers at No. 1 overall. Reggie "It's Been Fun New Orleans" Bush is irrelevant to Ingram's future since they don't play the same position in Sean Payton's offense. Pierre Thomas
just signed a four-year deal for backup wages. Chris Ivory
was sidelined with injuries to his knee, head, shoulder, and hamstring before ending his rookie season with a Lisfranc fracture. The Saints didn't fork over a second-rounder and next year's first-round pick to play mix-and-match football with Ingram. The clear-cut top back in the draft is expected to take over feature-back duties
from Day One.
If Payton's pass-heavy offense is viewed as the No. 1 obstacle to Ingram's fantasy success, it shouldn't be. Payton has shown a willingness to run a balanced game-plan whenever he's had an effective interior rushing attack. Back in 2006, Deuce McAllister
racked up 244 carries while the Saints finished 12th in rushing attempts. Three years later, Payton's backfield was sixth in the NFL in attempts behind the 1-2 punch of Pierre Thomas
and Mike Bell
. If his backs are healthy and effective on the ground, Payton has no qualms about giving them the rock.
Thomas slots in as the feature back in Miami. Just beware the Dolphins aren't finished remodeling the backfield. … Williams is the second-most talented back in the draft. He's no lock to beat out a healthy Beanie Wells
a rookie, though. … Vereen is immediately the best all-around back in New England. … With Joseph Addai
's Indy future in question and Donald Brown
failing to establish himself as the future, Carter is walking into a primo fantasy situation. … I can't draft Leshoure as a top back when he's set to function as the change-of-pace behind a more talented player for the foreseeable future. … Helu landed in a best-case scenario with the Redskins' one-cut scheme as an ideal fit. Directly behind injury-plagued, speed-challenged Ryan Torain
is never a bad spot to start a career. … Murray is going to have to bulk up and maintain playmaking ability at the same time. That's easier said than done. Just ask Felix Jones
(who is a better back, by the way).
A word about smallish, mid-round change-of-pace backs like Hunter and Rodgers: These rankings are for standard-scoring leagues with 25--30 deep rosters. If you play in monster-sized PPR leagues employing a flex spot, then Hunter and Rodgers should be moved up the list. As a general rule, I would never draft to fill a flex spot. I'm aiming higher.