It’s way too soon, but I’ll play your little game.
The Niners are fucked, first off. They have no GM, the only team in the NFL without one. Harbaugh might end up as their coach next year, but I think their coach will end up being Jon Gruden. His first coaching job ever in the NFL was in SF, he loves the history of the team, he loves the Bay Area, he loves the fans and I think Gruden (based on what I’ve heard him say during the Niners last couple home MNF games) would love a chance to helm the resurgence of one of the league’s most storied franchises. The Niners are probably going to fire their entire coaching staff, even if they manage to backdoor their way into the playoffs. In fact, if they lose this weekend in St. Louis, Jed York should meet Singletary halfway between the locker room and the field and tell him and the rest of the staff to find their own flight home because they’re fucking fired. They need a GM and an offensive-minded coach who can utilize the talent they have on offense and mentor either a newly-drafted QB or help Alex Smith learn how to be accurate with the football. Gruden fits all of those molds, Harbaugh doesn’t.
I think the Niners should trade everything they can to move up and take Andrew Luck, probably with the first pick in the draft. I’m not sure the Bengals are going to want to take a QB with the first pick, if they get it, because they still owe Carson Palmer a lot of money on his contract, won’t want to eat it, and won’t want to have two high-priced QB’s. I think Andrew Luck is the type of rare talent that they should take no matter what, but it’s the fucking Bengals.
Cam Newton is definitely an intriguing pick, but I look at him and can’t help but think of Jamarcus Russell. I don’t think he’ll be that big of a bust, but it’s not enough to say that because he dominated in the SEC he’ll dominate in the NFL. Luck has all the talents that translate well in the NFL. He’s played in a play-action-oriented, pro-style offense, so he’s proven that he is more than capable of dropping back with his back to the defense, turning around and picking up his receivers. A lot of these college QB’s who play in the spread aren’t used to letting the routes develop with their backs turned and then being forced to make the quick decision or the quick progression thru various receivers. It’s all right in front of them in the spread, and with practically everything happening out of the shotgun, they don’t really emphasize good footwork and sound mechanics that much.
Remember, what has made Vick so much better now is reliance on sound footwork, an improved ability to throw from within the pocket and a better grasp of the play-action fake. As physically-talented as Newton is, physical talent alone isn’t enough in the NFL; he may run over LBs and DEs in college, but a guy like P. Willis or Harrison or Freeney is going to hand his ass to him if he tries t run over them. So much of NFL offenses are predicated on the ability to gain big chunks of yardage on first down with the play-action fake, especially for young QB’s who the defense is going to be coming after hard. They HAVE to be able to throw out of play-action, or else there’s nothing to keep the defenses in check; they’ll just tee off on him on every mid-yardage down, like 2 and 5, 3 and 3.
I wonder if someone like Newton, who was basically kicked out of college for cheating on multiple occasions (a sign of a poor work ethic), has the drive to improve on something like this, let alone put in the tape study hours needed. Luck’s learning curve is much shorter than Newton’s will be and he’s a helluva physical talent as well. At 6’3" and about 230 lbs, with good speed outside of the pocket, good pocket presence, a big, accurate arm and a firm grasp of pro-style offenses, I think he’s easily the best QB available.
As far as Seattle goes, I was at the game against SF a couple weeks ago, and I can tell you right now what they need is a new QB, not a new CB. Hasselbeck is fucking done. The four worst throws I’ve ever seen in a game were all from him in that one. Buffalo obviously needs a new QB as well, as does Arizona. But beyond that, there seem to be a lot of bad teams that aren’t in obvious need of a QB. Cleveland and Carolina probably want to see what they have in McCoy and Clausen, Tennessee might still go with Young, Minnesota might stick with Jackson and teams like Detroit and St. Louis look pretty set at QB. So I think that one of these teams slotted around say, 8-15 in the first round might have a good shot at packaging some picks to move up to grab a QB.
But I think the real prize in the draft is Andrew Luck, and if he comes out then he should be the consensus number one pick. I’m not sold on Newton and I think a guy like Jake Locker isn’t even first round worthy. If a team that wants a QB to build around, I think the only obvious choice is Luck, which means they’ll have to put together a big package to move up to the first pick.