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It was impossible to miss in 2011 Draft, unless you took a QB

Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 23: Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks back to the sidelines for a play against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 23, 2012. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

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With all the big deals going down last week, there were three moves that were very easy to overlook.

Yet they’re tied together by a common thread, and an unusual collection of talent around them that made it almost impossible to screw up their choices.

Yet three teams did, and badly.

With the retirement of quarterback Jake Locker and the signing of cheap backup deals by Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder with teams that didn’t draft them, the fate of the NFL Draft Class of 2011 provides a stark contrast.

Coming in the midst of a draft full of incredible players, three General Managers (Mike Reinfeldt, Gene Smith and Rick Spielman) picked quarterbacks who would go 28-57 as starters, and may never start another game if things go as planned.

With the exception of the teams that reached for quarterbacks after the one good one was taken, every team in the top two-thirds of the draft got a player they could build around, if not a major star.

In fact, you have to get down to the 23rd pick, Eagles guard/fireman Danny Watkins, to find a player who was less valuable to his team than Locker, Gabbert and Ponder were. Chiefs wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin (26th) and Packers tackle Derek Sherrod (32nd) were the only other two true disasters in the entire first round.

But it’s not just that the Titans, Jaguars and Vikings missed, it’s how magnificently the other teams around them hit.

The Panthers started the day with quarterback Cam Newton, an easy choice for them which was debated by others at the time. He’s led them to their first back-to-back playoff berths in franchise history. Then came a parade of players who have made Pro Bowls already (Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones).

But the key stretch was picks 7 through 12.

The 49ers took Missouri pass-rusher Aldon Smith, who is excellent when eligible. The Titans took Locker eighth, passing on Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith. Watching Smith go off the board, the Jaguars fixed their quarterback problem (or not) with Gabbert, before the Texans used the 11th pick on some guy named J.J. Watt, who has become perhaps the best defensive player of a generation. Then came the Vikings with Ponder, before another run of talented linemen. Thirteenth pick Nick Fairley has been up and down, but the next three linemen chosen (Robert Quinn, Mike Pouncey and Ryan Kerrigan) have each made Pro Bowls, and everyone got at least a serviceable starter until Watkins broke the seal at No. 23.

Granted, this was during the 2011 lockout, and those three teams didn’t know when or if they’d otherwise find a quarterback in free agency, but the magnitude of the misses remains startling.

It’s truly a remarkable class in hindsight, almost impossible to screw up — unless you reached for a quarterback.

It shows the incredible pressure G.M.s are under (or put themselves under) to get the quarterback position right, that three guys would blindly pass on an otherwise talented class of players to take quarterbacks with question marks (and they all had them).

It also makes you wonder how many will reach to draft a quarterback beyond this year’s top two (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota) to fill a need, at a position so important it makes otherwise smart men lose their minds.

But perhaps never worse than three guys did on Thursday April 28, 2011.