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2011 NFL Draft: Cam Newton Or Blaine Gabbert? I'll Take Jake Locker

The 2011 NFL Draft begins this Thursday night and most are wondering two things. Who will be selected by their favorite team and where will the quarterback prospects be picked? The guys considered to be the best QB prospects this year are Cam Newton from Auburn and Blaine Gabbert out of Missouri. Both of these guys are projected to be drafted very high -- possibly within the top five picks.

But while both of those guys are considered this year's best prospects, there is one guy I would want out of all the others. Not necessarily do I want him for the Cardinals at number five, but he is the guy I think will turn out to be a very, very good player. That guy is Washington quarterback Jake Locker.

I'll freely admit that I am biased towards him, having watched him for four years here in the Pac-10. I was surprised when he returned for his senior season when most believed that he could have been the number one selection overall in the 2009 draft.

His 2010 was not the best. He was banged up a little bit and he showed some "warts" in his play. He fell on a lot of guys' draft boards.

Why do I like him and think he will be a great QB in the NFL?

To start, his arm strength is unbelievable. He can make throws that are extremely difficult. Along that route, he also throws the ball very well on the run. He is very comfortable moving around in the pocket.

We all know that he is very athletic and a big guy. He was officially 6-2 1/2, 231 pounds and ran a 4.59 40.

he only has one knock on him and that is his accuracy. That is a valid point.

However, in my observations of him, I consistently saw a guy who would make plays, even when he had inferior talent around him. Washington had terrible teams, but he still led them his senior year to a bowl game and a bowl victory.

Something about the way he had to play with inferior talent is likely a contributing factor to his completion percentage. He wore himself out on the field with his running and the way he played. The fact that he would play to the point of exhaustion (not lazy exhaustion -- exhaustion from intensity and responsibility) likely caused many of his throws to go astray sometimes. Jon Gruden seemed to think this was a factor.

Many people compare him to a more athletic version of Jay Cutler. I'll admit that I am far from a fan of Cutler, but he is a very good player.

Locker has a big league arm, he throws on the run, he makes plays, and is a committed leader. Some other things I like are the fact that he knows how to read defenses. He loved running an empty backfield and reading coverages to manage the offense and spread people around.

He has experience under center. You can also tell he absolutely loves the game of football and will put in the time. needed to be a great player. Playing in the Pac-10, he got to play against quality talent.

I just get the impression from listening to him that he gets it.

Again, by no means am I advocating selecting him at number five, although I would be willing to do it if Patrick Peterson, Von Miller or Marcell Dareus were all off the board.

I never had even heard of Blaine Gabbert before the Insight Bowl. He also looks like he gets it and will be good. Cam Newton is still a project. But Locker I believe will be the best of the three guys and that whoever drafts him, whether he goes as high as number to the Redskins as some have projected or any team he may fall to as late as the second round.

I just feel pretty strongly that Locker will be a better QB than Gabbert. Newton is still an unknown. If he does what he is capable of developing into, he could be one of the greatest ever.

I may be way off base, but I just have that feeling. Whoever gets Locker will end up being very satisfied with that selection. Hopefully it isn't anyone in the NFC West, because a division of a developed Sam Bradford and Jake Locker would be a hard place to win.