This is part three of Cincyjungle's three part comprehensive look into the Bengals search for a new quarterback. It's a pretty safe bet that one of these eight quarterbacks will be wearing stripes next season. I plan on giving you every bit of information on these players that I can find. Hopefully together, we will figure out who's the best fit to carry this franchise into its next chapter.
In part one, we broke down the west coast offense and the abilities a quarterback must have in order to succeed. I also gave you an in-depth look at my quarterbacks 8-6.
8) Ricky Stanzi
6) Ryan Mallett
In part two, we looked at the quarterbacks I have ranked 5-3 on the Bengals board.
5) Andy Dalton
3) Jake Locker
Today, we get a closer look at the consensus top two quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL Draft. Both players have very high upsides, but are projects. Neither Gabbert nor Newton is ranked in the top 10 on my board (Yes. I have an actual dry erase board in my basement, I'm a nerd.), but if you ranked these guys off of potential, they would be near the top. If the Bengals decide to go QB early, it will be one of these two players.
2) Cam Newton - QB - Auburn - 6'5" 248 lbs - 33.5" Arms - 9.5" Hands
Strengths: We all know Cam Newton. He's a physical freak at the quarterback position. He's faster and more agile than most linebackers, and he's stronger and more powerful than most defensive backs. He was the ultimate weapon in college football. He posses the leadership skills and swagger that could change the way the opposition looks at your team. I saw opposing players look timid when they were in range to make a play on Newton, almost as if they were scared to get embarrassed by him. He made pass rushers look silly when they tried to sack him and linebackers look small when they tried to lay the big hit. His arm is very strong and he can physically make every throw on the field. Newton stands very tall in the pocket with a calmness and confidence about him. He can throw from the pocket or on the run. His feet don't have to be set; he gets most of his throwing power from his upper body. Newton can throw even with defenders draped all around him trying to bring him down. When he does run, Newton is extremely powerful and always falls forward. Newton will fake step-up in the pocket then spin outside and run for 10 yards. He has a tremendous natural feel when he's running the ball. His vision is top notch. He looks fluid and like he's coasting, but other players still can't catch him. As the season wore on, Newton's progression as an all-around QB was visible. Auburn seemed to trust him more as he became less of a runner and more of a passing QB. I even saw him take a few snaps from under center vs. Kentucky.
Weaknesses: His character questions are well known. The laptop, taking money, his father and Newton's personality are all blemishes on his report. As a player and quarterback, Newton is a project. He played in a spread at Auburn. Most of his plays, he was asked to make one read and then take off running if nobody was open. While he was successful doing this, Newton played like he always knew running was a bailout option. It won't be, as much in the NFL, so he will need to stay in the pocket and keep his eyes down field as he looks to escape the pass rush. Newton's arm is strong, but he lacks the deep accuracy and anticipation it takes to make those throws. His accuracy is scattered at best. He has no control over ball placement. It comes out high, low, left or right. It's in the vicinity of his target, but the ball isn't in the optimum position. His footwork and touch are the biggest problems with his accuracy. He doesn't always throw with his feet set and his release can come from different angles. Usually his release is over the top and powerful, but as the game wears on, Newton will start to drop his shoulder and give a 3/4 release. Newton will also fade away from his throws causing him to lose power. These issues can be fixed, along with route progression, vision, timing, set-up, and overall technique. Even though his will probably never be a very accurate QB, Newton has the physical skills to work with. He just needs a complete overhaul from a QB coach.
Final Analysis: Newton is easily one of the most polarizing prospects to come out in recent history. He has the physical ability to completely change not only your team but also the way the NFL is played. Remember when Michael Vick blew up? Everybody wanted a scrambling quarterback. If Newton becomes successful, good luck trying to find another 6'5" 250 lbs running QB. It's not as big of a long shot as I can make it sound in his weaknesses. As a QB, Newton is a better prospect at this point than Tim Tebow was in 2010. I watched Newton's pro day on ESPN, and you could tell he's been working hard. Newton is the ultimate "Boom or Bust" prospect.
2010 Stats: 185 of 280 - 66.1%, 2,854 passing yards, 30 TDs 7 ints, 23 sacks, 1,473 rushing yards, 20 TDs
"The more scouts dig, the more I am finding they are turned off on Auburn QB Cam Newton. Citing that he’s a me first guy and has some real character flaws behind the scenes. One scout said he handles himself flawlessly in front of the camera, but when they are off he’s not the same guy. "
-- Wes Bunting of NationalFootballPost.com
Games Watched: vs Kentucky 2010, vs LSU 2010, vs Alabama 2010, vs Clemson 2010, Vs Oregon 2011, Auburn Pro Day 2011
Projection: Even though he's not a polished top 10 player. The quarterback position is the most important in football and about 12 teams are still looking for their franchise guy. He will go top five, and possibly first overall to the Panthers. Teams like Carolina & Buffalo need a shot in the arm. In all seriousness, they need an icon and entertainer. I don't see Newton getting past the Bills with the 3rd overall pick.
1) Blaine Gabbert - QB - Missouri - 6'4" - 235 lbs - 33" Arms - 10" Hands
Strengths: Blaine Gabbert is a 20 year old, junior, quarterback out of Missouri. He was highly recruited (ranked 5th best QB by ESPN) coming out of high school. He has started 25 games for the Tigers and threw 40 touchdowns and rushed for eight more over that two-year stretch. Blaine Gabbert is a great athlete for the position. He can escape the pocket and run for the first down. He's a gritty runner and plays like he has no fear. Gabbert can throw on the run very well. I saw him make a tremendous throw while rolling out to his left and throwing across his body. He does a good job of setting his feet just enough to get the throw off on time and accurately. He can also sit in the pocket and launch it deep. His arm is strong enough for the deep throws, especially on the deep outs. He can hit his back foot and zip into any spot on the field. Gabbert He has a quick release when throwing without power and when he's just out there playing and reacting. At the combine, it has been rumored that Gabbert interviewed exceptionally well and showed his football intelligence when teams questioned him. Somebody who has seen him at practice said he has taken snaps from center and he looks natural in three, five and seven-step drops. I've seen his three-step drop from the pistol formation and he looked fluid and on time with his throws. The further I got into watching his games, the more I noticed how much of a gunslinger Gabbert really was. He really is a play-maker who just seems to have something special about him when a play breaks down. Think Big Ben with the way he throws from any angle with guys all around him.
Weaknesses: The biggest obstacle for today's quarterback coming out of college is adjusting from the spread offense to a more conventional pro-style offense. Gabbert's adjustment might be even harder because he comes from not only a spread offense, but also a five wide receiver spread. Every play was a combination or crossing routes and deep routes. This made it so somebody was open on almost every play. Also, I probably saw him turn and hand the ball off 10 times in six games. So he may have to develop a traditional play-action fake because I never saw it. I said he can escape the pocket, but he's very weird with it. He has happy feet as times and doesn't look like he trusts his offensive line or his receivers to get open. He will look to run or bounce outside even when there isn't a rush. I'm sure coaches would rather see him step up and throw the ball in the NFL. When he does run, Gabbert didn't run with much power. He took his 5 yards and got out of bounds. This is good in terms of staying healthy, but sometimes I found myself wanting him to put his head down and grind out that first down. His release can be long when he knows where he's going and knows that he has to fire it in there. Think Brett Favre when he balances on his back foot and launches the ball across the middle of the field on a slant route. Because he throws on the run and with so much power, Gabbert's accuracy is scattered. He can make you scratch your head when he misses a routine throw. His touch on deep balls is also off. This could be fixed with coaching and better footwork. Too many times in Missouri's offense, Gabbert was asked to take the snap, then rock and throw. This would be another habit that NFL teams will have to break. Most of Gabbert's deficiencies are because of the spread offense and correctable.
Final Analysis: Gabbert has all the physical tools you look for when drafting a quarterback high. He has good size. Is a great athlete and can make every throw from any situation. He comes with the typical spread questions, but his athletic ability and work ethic should make it an easy transition. I had a hard time coming up with a pro comparison for Gabbert. I came to the conclusion that he's a mixture of Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger, and Jay Cutler. If you have watched those guys during their careers, then you know what I mean. You're going to get the good and the bad with Blaine Gabbert. With his gunslinger mentality, he will make you jump out of your seat with excitement or want to kick the dog after a bonehead play. Hopefully whoever drafts him will have a good team around him to help bail him out when he needs it. He has a very good chance to be a special player and could be an option for the Bengals with the fourth overall pick.
Games Watched: vs. Nevada 2009, vs. Illionois 2010, vs Nebraska 2010, vs. Iowa 2010, vs. Texas Tech 2010, vs Oklahoma 2010, vs Kansas St 2010
"A number of coaches throughout the NFL have been turned off by the overall way Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert has handled himself this post-season. They did not like the fact he didn’t workout at the NFL Combine and cited his overall demeanor and body language as turnoffs. The more info I gather on Gabbert the less I feel like he’s being endorsed as a high first round pick. He could end up being the one quarterback to slide a lot further than many think come April."
Wes Bunting - NFP
Projection: I think Gabbert definitely goes top five. At the very least he goes to the Cardinals with the 5th pick.