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Quarterback class may not have an immediate starter

Blaine Gabbert, Adrian Clayborn

Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert (11) throws as Iowa Hawkeyes defensive end Adrian Clayborn (94) pursues during the third quarter of the Insight Bowl NCAA college football game Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)


The past three NFL drafts have produced several first-round quarterbacks who became immediate starters, including men like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Sam Bradford. In 2011, there simply may not be a game-ready guy.

Where is that one impact, immediate starter?” an AFC personnel exec recently told Tom Pelissero of “That’s what NFL teams are trying to figure out. There may not be right now a walk-in-the-door, first-day starting quarterback that’s in the draft.”

Pelissero explains that two of the top quarterbacks -- Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert -- played in spread offenses at college, making it harder to determine whether they’ll quickly be able to pick up a pro-style offense right away. Ryan Mallett played in an offense more suited to the pro game, but he is being dogged by concerns regarding leadership and off-field concerns. Jake Locker, once presumed to be the darling of the 2011 class, has sputtered.

It means that teams will have to spend extra time with their sleeves rolled up, pouring over film and other information. And it means that teams needing a quarterback now will have to be even more careful.

“We will probably emphasize, from whether we go to set up private workouts with these guys to everything else that we normally do, you want to make sure you do everything you possibly can to make the right decision,” Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman told Pelissero.

“If that’s going out and meeting with a kid’s family, if that’s going out there and working with a kid individually, if that’s spending a day with a kid on the board, doing a lot of things. And I think when we do go out this spring and work these guys out -- because you’re not going to be able to get all those questions answered in a 15-minute interview at the combine -- you’re going to have to do a lot more than that.”

The only good news for teams at the top of the draft is that the financial risk could be lower, if a rookie wage scale is adopted for 2011. If a new CBA isn’t worked out by April 28, however, teams may have no idea as to what the rules will be for paying the players picked at the top of the draft.

And the process remains hardly a science, and far from perfect. Pelissero suggests that this could be the first year since 2000 during which no quarterback is taken in the first three picks. That’s the draft that unexpectedly produced in pick No. 199 a future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback who should have been the first overall pick, and whose name is used every year at this time in an effort to keep us interested in the late rounds of the draft.