Senior Writer

Better-Than Team: Ponder will be best QB from 2011 draft


An NFL coach I respect told me I am making Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder sound like Peyton Manning.

That's stretching it a bit.

But I will say this: Ponder will be the best quarterback from the 2011 NFL Draft.

The Carolina Panthers will probably take Cam Newton first overall and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert will likely go in the top eight. But Ponder will be a better NFL quarterback than both of them.

That's why he's the captain of my 2011 Better-Than Team. It is my list of players I like better than most scouts, usually players outside the top-15 or so.

This is something I've done for the past couple of years, usually with varied success. I've hit some. And I've missed some.

Just like NFL teams often do.

So dive in, and check back in a few years. And think of me when Ponder is the best quarterback in this draft.

Now here's the rest of my Better-Than Team:

Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU: At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, he is a big receiver. He isn't a burner, but he's fast enough. He was hurt at LSU by bad quarterback play.

Terrence Toliver is a big, strong receiver who was hurt at LSU by lousy quarterback play. (US Presswire)  
Terrence Toliver is a big, strong receiver who was hurt at LSU by lousy quarterback play. (US Presswire)  
Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia: He battled injuries last season at Virginia, so his stock dropped some. But he is 6-2 and he has good speed. He might end up being a nice starter for a team.

John Moffitt, G, Wisconsin: Badgers tackle Gabe Carimi was the star of the Badgers' line, but this kid is a mauler. Watching him on tape shows he won't back down from anybody.

Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa: He won't be among the first six quarterbacks taken, but he isn't far behind. He's smart, has a good arm and was a productive player in the Big Ten. Good enough for a third-round look.

Chimdi Chekwa, CB, Ohio State: He was a quality starter for the Buckeyes. He should be a nice nickel back and then maybe push for a starting job in his second or third season. He did dislocate his wrist in the Sugar Bowl, but ran under 4.4 at the combine.

Titus Young, WR, Boise State: I know he has some off-the-field concerns, but he can run. He reminds me of DeSean Jackson of the Eagles. They had character questions about him when he came out as well, and he's worked out fine.

Stevan Ridley, RB, LSU: He's a tough inside runner who will be a chain mover in the NFL. He might never be a speed threat, but he will be a grinder.

Joseph Barksdale, T, LSU: He moved to left tackle last season, and didn't play as well as the year before. I think he can be a right tackle or move to guard. He's got good size and he's tough enough.

Mark Herzlich, OLB, Boston College: He battled back from cancer and played last season after missing 2009. He wasn't as sudden a player, but he's getting there. Was once considered a first-round pick. Now he's certainly worth a look in the middle rounds.

Ricky Elmore, OLB-DE, Arizona: Brooks Reed, his teammate at Arizona, is getting more love, but this kid isn't far behind. Like Reed, he plays hard all the time.

Lee Ziemba, G, Auburn: He was a college tackle, but his feet aren't good enough to play there in the NFL. He could be a nice guard.

Colin McCarthy, ILB, Miami: He lacks great speed, which is why he won't go as high as he should, but he is a kid who knows how to find the football. He will be a special-teams star right from the start.

Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: I watched a lot of him in college, having gone to ASU. He was doubled a lot, so his numbers aren't great. But he can be a nice mid-round pick for a team and work into the line rotation.

Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh: He was considered a possible first-round pick, but injuries really hurt him last season. He had back surgery early last season, then came back and tore an ACL. He is worth a mid-round look.

Drake Nevis, DT, LSU: He is small at 6-1, 290 pounds, but he has the quickness to be a penetrating tackle. He was a disruptive player in a good conference.

Jurell Casey, DT, USC: Here's another smallish defensive tackle at 6-1, 300 pounds. But he was a playmaker at USC. Teams are missing on him if he's not gone by the mid-second round.

James Carpenter, T, Alabama: He started the past two years at left tackle, but might have to move to the right side in the NFL, much as Phil Loadholdt has done for the Vikings.

Josh Bynes, LB, Auburn: I know he doesn't have great speed, but the kid made a lot of plays in college. If he gets with the right team, he could stick. Just don't ask him to run with tight ends.

Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina: He isn't a burner, but he might be a nice slot receiver for a team with speed outside.

Evan Royster, RB, Penn State: He was a productive runner in a good conference. He won't be a speed runner, but he can move the chains. He is worth a late round look.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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