NFL Scouting Combine Thoughts: Mallett, Ponder shine while Newton struggles

Considering the needs if the Miami Dolphins this offseason, Saturday and Sunday at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis were the two big days. On Saturday, the offensive line took to the field for their on-field drills. But I'm not going to get too much into analyzing blocking techniques and fundamentals. So if you're looking for some talk about the offensive linemen who could be on Miami's radar, I apologize for disappointing you.

On Sunday, quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers took center stage. And if you're looking to discuss those positions, you've come to the right place. Today let's discuss what we saw out of the quarterbacks.

Mallett's stock goes up despite rough media session

If we're talking about the media interview sessions, then Cam Newton would have come off as one of the winners of the weekend while Ryan Mallett would have unquestionably come off as one of the big losers of the weekend. But then these guys stepped onto the field.

Mallett refused to address the drug rumors during his media availability before abruptly ending the session after yet another question regarding these rumors. Early Sunday morning, however, word was beginning to go around that Mallett's private interviews with teams went well, with Mallett receiving mostly "favorable" reviews. By Sunday afternoon, Mallett was probably back into the first round conversation (if he even ever fell out of it to begin with) after putting on a show during his passing drills.

Mallett displayed his strong arm and smooth mechanics as he put together what SI.com's Tony Pauline called "the best quarterback effort at the Combine of the last ten years." Pretty much every other draft analyst agreed with that assessment. It wasn't only the zip on his passes, either. His accuracy and timing were outstanding - far better than what I expected.

Of course, most people expected this kind of performance from Mallett in an environment like the Combine. The questions about Mallett on the field, though, revolve around his decision making, his ability to escape a collapsing pocket, and how he folds when defenders close in. Want a good comparison for Mallett? Think Drew Bledsoe. Big arm and can be very good when given time. But when he has defenders around him, he panics and isn't athletic enough to escape at all.

Newton inconsistent

Meanwhile, the most scrutinized and over-publicized player of the 2011 draft is Cam Newton. And he had his ups and downs on Sunday. He tested out well in the 40, broad jump, and other measurables. But he did little to dispel the idea that he's more of an athlete than a quarterback. His passes often sailed over his intended targets. With so much natural-born talent, however, Newton is still a top pick in this draft.

With that said, there may be a new quarterback climbing into the first round.

Ponder making up ground

"Christian Ponder looked more like first round pick this afternoon than Cam Newton did. Significantly more accurate," tweeted Tony Pauline on Sunday. And Pauline isn't the only one who took note of Ponder's performance yesterday.

I've been saying since he made the decision to throw at the Combine that I was excited to see Ponder throw because I wanted to see how live his arm looked now that he's healthy. And I was impressed. I knew he was accurate. But I didn't know his passes had as much zip on them as I saw yesterday. He looked great throwing those out patterns, with a perfect blend of zip and touch.

Outside of Blaine Gabbert, Ponder might possess the best blend of arm strength, accuracy, and intelligence of any quarterback in the draft.

Just how much of an impression did Ponder make?

"I think there is a real chance for QB Christian Ponder could go in round on," says Wes Bunting.

A few other QB notes:

  • Surprised by the athleticism of some of these quarterbacks. Anyone think Ponder would run a 4.65? Or how about Blaine Gabbert running a 4.62? Just more proof that the QB position is changing.
  • Speaking of Gabbert, reports indicate that Gabbert was as impressive in his private interviews with teams as I thought he'd be - cementing my thought that he is the best quarterback in this draft.
  • Colin Kaepernick is fast. His 4.53 40 yard dash is proof of that. And he is another QB with a cannon. But his accuracy is very inconsistent and his mechanics are off a bit. He takes a long time to get the ball out.
  • Jake Locker looked more like a first round quarterback on Sunday than he has all of 2010. But I'm still not sold on Locker. He's still too wild for my taste.
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