Don't understimate this year's QB crop

The above three quarterbacks may benefit from being drafted outside the top 10. US Presswire

One of the criticisms of the 2011 NFL draft is that it is somewhat bereft of elite quarterbacking talent.

It isn't just that it lacks a consensus No. 1 pick in the Troy Aikman/Sam Bradford/John Elway/Peyton Manning mold. It also doesn't have a Donovan McNabb/Steve McNair/Philip Rivers/Matt Ryan type of midrange top-10-in-the-draft caliber of quarterback either.

That type of perception may have some thinking that this will not be an impact draft year for quarterbacks, but the actuality of the situation could be the exact opposite. This year's talent crop does include four potential mid- to late-first-round selections in Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett and Cam Newton.

Those names may not have the star factor of a top-10 pick (Newton's self-proclaimed "icon" comment notwithstanding), but history offers very clear evidence that quarterbacks selected later in the first round actually are -- in many ways -- just as successful as those top-10 choices.

The evidence to back this up can be found in a study I did on quarterback selections from 1970-2006. The idea behind this time frame is to review selections made since the AFL and NFL merged their drafts and to limit it to quarterbacks who have had at least five seasons to prove their worth.