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The NFC South features three of the top quarterbacks in the league and a rookie that wants to become an icon.
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Drew Brees sets the bar for the NFC South, and you need a ladder to reach it. Brees topped 4000 yards for the fifth straight year, 4620 to be exact. His 33 touchdown passes marked his third straight year with at least 33. Brees is remarkably accurate, productive, and consistent. He’s a bona fide star and top tier QB1. It doesn’t seem to matter who is catching the ball for him.
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Matt Ryan made a nice jump into borderline QB1 territory last year. He threw for 3705  yards and 28 touchdowns. Roddy White is one of the most explosive receivers in the league. The Falcons traded the moon for rookie WR Julio Jones to compliment Roddy. I’m not sure Ryan can be much more productive than last year, given their commitment to Michael Turner and the running game, but he should be as good or slightly better. Ryan is a low-end QB1, high-end QB2.
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Josh Freeman quietly turned in a solid season, throwing for 3451 yards and 25 touchdowns. Perhaps as impressive was his INT total (6). He added another 364 yards on the ground. Given his size, I expect Freeman to record his first rushing touchdown next year. His numbers are a little bloated thanks to a five touchdown performance against a dismal Seahawks pass defense in Week 16, but he remains a terrific QB2. Freeman really developed a nice rapport with Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn is ahead of schedule on his ACL recovery and should be more effective in 2011.
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Then you have Cam Newton. He is an amazing athlete, capable of being very productive with his arm and his feet. The lockout could prevent Newton from becoming comfortable with the offense, but he will still have the instincts to make plays with his feet. He’s worth a look late in the draft as a QB2, but he could run hot and cold in 2011, especially if Steve Smith gets his wish and is dealt to a contender.
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Obviously quarterbacks were big early, with none bigger than Cam Newton. He should have no trouble beating out Jimmy Clausen as long as he’s able to get the reps to learn the playbook. The labor situation comes into play once again. He’s a bit of a risk as a dynasty quarterback. You just don’t know how he’ll fair at the next level. He is an amazing athlete though that has major upside.
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With the Steve Smith era likely over, Newton will be working with David Gettis and Brandon LaFell. Not exactly the who’s who of NFL receivers, but they showed some flashes last year. Given the quarterback issues in Carolina last year, it’s not really fair to give them a grade.
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The loser is this draft pick, aside from the obvious choice of Jimmy Clausen, is Jonathan Stewart. Newton is a gifted runner that will vulture some of his would be rushing touchdowns.
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Jake Locker found a good landing place. Who wouldn’t want to have Chris Johnson in the backfield and Kenny Britt (assuming he doesn’t get himself arrested or suspended) to throw to? Accuracy has been an issue for Locker, but Britt has the ability to erase mistakes. While he doesn’t have the upside of Newton, he could turn into a solid NFL (and fantasy) quarterback.
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I would take Blaine Gabbert over Locker in dynasty leagues, but Locker is probably the second quarterback (behind Newton) that I would take in redraft leagues. We’ll have to see how the rest of the draft and free agency period plays out before I make a firm assessment.
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Blaine Gabbert landed in a good place for him. He will be afforded the time to develop playing behind David Garrard. Garrard, who learned under Byron Leftwich, is a good team player and will be suitable teacher for Gabbert. The pick doesn’t affect the skill position players as he won’t likely take the field unless things go sour of the Jags.
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One long-term concern is the hot seat the Jack Del Rio seems to continually be on. If he loses his job, will a new coach want to make his mark with his own guy? Especially if he does play and stink it up, a la Jimmy Clausen. That is back-of-the-mind concern though and shouldn’t have too much weight in your decision to take him in dynasty drafts.
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Finally we come to Christian Ponder, a pick that did not go over well with Vikings fans. He’s smart, with enough athleticism and accuracy to make him a quality NFL quarterback. Injuries have dogged him the past couple of years, but the jury is certainly still out on him in that regard. I think he’ll be a solid pro, I just don’t know that the Vikings wouldn’t have been better served taking Nick Fairley, Mike Pouncey, or Prince Amukamara with the 12th pick and went after a quarterback in the second round.
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Ponder has one of the best running backs in the game (Adrian Peterson) to hand off to and a gifted receiver in Percy Harvin. Sidney Rice may have leave via free agency, but the Vikings have been committed to addressing needs under Zygi Wilf. The Vikings will add a veteran quarterback, but we’ll have to wait and see if it is to be a mentor or a stopgap.


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The Panthers were 2-14 last year. Their 196 points scored last year was the lowest in the league by a mile. They scored 75 fewer points than an inept Cleveland Browns offense. That’s nearly five fewer points per game than the league’s second worst scoring offense. Their 143.1 passing yards per game was nearly 40 fewer than an Arizona team that is desperate for a quarterback change. Clearly the Panthers need better play out of their quarterback. The question is will it be Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, or Jimmy Clausen?
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So how bad was Jimmy last year? He completed 52.5 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and nine interceptions. He had a 58.4 passer rating. In his defense he had just one legitimate target (Steve Smith) in the passing game, and he actually had fewer fantasy points in non-PPR leagues than David Gettis. Smith will turn 32 in May and is on the downside of his career. An intriguing option would be to select Georgia WR A.J. Green with the number one pick. He is the top receiver prospect since Calvin Johnson and the Panthers could take a quarterback in the third round to compete with Clausen.
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The Panthers struggled on the defensive side of the football as well. They ranked 26th with 25.5 points allowed per game. Carolina allowed the tenth most rushing yards per game (123.8). Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus won’t help you score points on offense, but he would certainly beef up their defense. If he commanded double teams, it would open things up for everybody else. The Panthers could also consider Patrick Peterson, but cornerbacks traditionally have not gone that high in the draft.
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Without a second round pick it seems unlikely that the Panthers go in any direction other than quarterback. It will most likely come down to a decision between Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton. Sorry Jimmy. Gabbert is a safer choice while Newton has more  upside. Not only does Newton have incredible athleticism, but he has the ability to put butts in the seats and increase merchandise sales. If the lockout continues, that revenue stream would be desirable.
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If I were pulling the trigger on the Panthers’ first pick I would go with A.J. Green. I’d bring  back Matt Moore once the lockout is over and have an open competition at quarterback. If you struggle again this year, perhaps you land Andrew Luck next year.
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What would you do if you were calling the shots for the Panthers?


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Chris Mortenson
is reporting that Blaine Gabbert scored a 42 on the Wonderlic test. His high score further cements him in my mind as the number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He is the purest quarterback in the draft and has the second highest Wonderlic score, after Greg McElroy, among quarterbacks.
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Cam Newton reportedly scored a 21. It’s a solid enough score that he shouldn’t receive scrutiny. Other first round hopefuls, Jake Locker scored a 21 and Christian Ponder scored a 35. Ryan Mallet, who slipped at the combine more for his interviews than for his performance, scored a 26.


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Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion Cam Newton has declared for the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft. He had an amazing season where he completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 2854 yards, 30 TDs, and just seven INTs. He also ran for 1473 yards and 20 touchdowns.
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At 6’6″, 250 pounds, Newton brings impressive size and speed to the table. He also has a big arm. He’ll likely go in the early to mid-first round, depending on how he does both mentally and physically leading up to the draft.
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I’m not sure he makes a big impact as a rookie, but he is certainly one to go after in dynasty leagues. Quarterbacks can be so hard to predict, but it appears Newton has the tools to be an elite quarterback.


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