Top prospects for 2011 NFL draft Locker, Luck headline QB class.Photos Loading... http://www.profootballweekly.com/2010/12/13/locker-luck-headline-qb-class Washington QB Jake LockerAbout the Author Nolan Nawrocki firstname.lastname@example.org Senior editor .Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki previews the top prospects for the 2011 NFL draft, by position. In cases where a listed prospect is playing in a bowl game, we identify that upcoming matchup. Elite quarterbacks, as always, are in short supply, and a senior class that showed promise entering the season has lost some of its luster, with Washington's Jake Locker standing out as the lone legitimate prospect. And even he has detractors in the scouting community. The underclassmen ranks could give the draft class a significant boost, although a number of emerging prospects are redshirt sophomores and still would stand to benefit from staying in school and maturing. Juniors are marked by an asterisk (*), third-year sophomores by two (**). An "e" indicates number is estimated. SENIOR PROSPECTS 1. Jake Locker, Washington 6-2¼, 231, 4.55e Some evaluators will contend that Locker holds the ball too long, looks to run too often and still makes too many bad decisions. Others will point to his 57 percent completion mark and knock him for his inaccuracy. Count me among the believers who look at his unique physical talent, ultracompetitiveness and strong makeup and see a future star. The amount of pressure in his face after two seconds is often great, as is the number of well-placed drops by his receivers. Week after week, he gets beat up and returns to play through injury, despite often not being allowed to practice much. Some could say he compares to Josh McCown. I see more of a resemblance to Donovan McNabb — a highly driven competitor who still will need some time to settle as a pocket passer but who always can create with his feet, is dangerous in the red zone and would excel in an offense featuring heavy play-action and rollouts where he could operate heavily on the move and outside the pocket. Locker wills his way to victory, as he has done against USC on the final drive the past two seasons. He has gotten better every year and is loaded with upside. He will be a very early pick. Don't miss: Locker's Huskies play Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl at 10:30 p.m. ET Dec. 30. 2. Ricky Stanzi, Iowa 6-4, 228, 4.81 Outside of Locker, there might not be another senior selected in the first three rounds. Stanzi cannot drive the ball downfield very well, but he has outstanding size, plays in a pro-style offense and clearly is comfortable taking snaps from under center, with good footwork in three-, five- and seven-step drops. He still makes some shaky decisions, forcing the ball into double coverage, and got flustered at the end of the Arizona and Wisconsin games when he was consistently pressured. But he has shown he will stand in the pocket in the face of the rush and deliver. He makes progression reads and has the tools to develop into a solid pro, even if he needs to learn how to anticipate better and develop more confidence. Don't miss: Stanzi's Hawkeyes play Missouri in the Insight Bowl at 10 p.m. ET Dec. 28. 3. Nathan Enderle, Idaho 6-4¼, 234, 4.95e Of Enderle's two biggest tests of the season, one was against Nebraska the second week of the season, and the other was against Boise State on Nov. 12. Against Nebraska, he was overmatched and tossed five interceptions, even if three of them could be pinned on a tip, a drop and a receiver not coming back to the ball. What Nebraska did expose was how he was unable to escape the rush and handle the consistent pressure of the Blackshirts' defense. He is very intelligent, but he may be too smart for the game, overthinking it too often instead of instinctively pulling the trigger and reacting to what he sees. 4. Christian Ponder, Florida State 6-2, 219, 4.85e Ponder showed promise as a junior when he had the close attention of Jimbo Fisher, but since Fisher has added head-coaching responsibilities to his plate, Ponder has regressed, making too many bad reads and questionable decisions. He can move around the pocket, but his right (throwing) elbow will receive close scrutiny after landing hard on it against Boston College on Oct. 16 and suffering further damage that forced him to sit out in the ACC championship game. He needs to play in a West Coast offense and may never be more than an ideal NFL backup. Don't miss: Ponder's Seminoles play South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl at 7:30 p.m. ET Dec. 31. 5. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada 6-4 5/8, 218, 4.53 Having rushed for more than 1,000 yards for a third consecutive season, Kaerpernick benefits from a "pistol" offense that has begun to show up in the NFL. While still very raw as a passer, he has the size, arm strength and athletic traits to warrant developing and potentially provide value in a situational capacity. He needs to learn to throw with touch. Don't miss: Kaepernick's Wolfpack play Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at 9 p.m. ET Jan. 9. UNDERCLASSMEN PROSPECTS 1. Andrew Luck, Stanford** 6-4e, 235e, 4.75e The son of an NFL quarterback, Luck has benefited from steady protection and has been groomed in an incubator for QBs under the tutelage of former NFL Pro Bowler Jim *Harbaugh. For a redshirt sophomore, Luck is poised, patient and lets the game come to him. He has shown, with a thick lower body, that he can make throws with defenders draped around his legs and even escape the pocket for considerable yardage. He is a tough, smart, highly respected team leader even though he has been in the program for only three years. When the Cardinal needs a play in critical situations, he has made them, charting very well on third downs and operating from under center in a pro-style offense the vast majority of the time. If he decides to depart early, he will contend with Locker to be the first quarterback selected. Sources say Harbaugh's presence at Stanford could directly affect his decision. Don't miss: Luck's Cardinal play Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl at 8:30 p.m. ET Jan. 3. 2. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri* 6-5e, 235e, 4.65e Still young and a bit immature, Gabbert has made great strides since a year ago when he was bothered much of the season by an ankle injury. Operating almost exclusively out of the gun in a simple, one-read offense that does not go downfield often could give evaluators pause. However, he has great stature, the arm strength to zing it into small windows off his back foot and intriguing agility for his size — all reasons to believe he could do more than what he is asked to do in the Tigers' system. He has battled through a right hip pointer and is a strong competitor with a confident on-field demeanor. He does lock onto receivers and vacates the pocket prematurely under duress and could require patience to adjust to progression reads in a pro-style offense. He has undeniable upside. Don't miss: Gabbert's Tigers play Iowa in the Insight Bowl at 10 p.m. ET Dec. 28. 3. Cam Newton, Auburn* 6-6e, 250e, 4.60e He is a strong, powerful and very dangerous runner, showing an extra gear running away from LSU's Patrick Peterson on a 49-yard TD scamper in which he displayed the elusiveness, balance and burst that could be the signature play of his Heisman Trophy campaign. However, he has operated in a shotgun, spread, no-huddle, fast-break, dash-read offense heavy on designed QB runs and short passes. He is not mechanically polished, with spotty accuracy, and his questionable character, work habits and preparation always could be restricting. He actually has regressed as a thrower since his days at Florida. That said, his run skills dwarf Tim Tebow's, and he could still warrant early interest in the draft for a team that likes to gamble. Don't miss: Newton's Tigers play Oregon in the BCS national championship game at 8:30 p.m. ET Jan. 10. 4. Landry Jones, Oklahoma** 6-4e, 220e, 4.95e A pocket passer with limited foot quickness and not enough touch, Jones is barely touched in a turbo-tempo, no-huddle, controlled passing game and does not take a lot of shots downfield. He would benefit from more experience and should stay in school, but he looks the part with a very strong arm, good accuracy and physical tools to harness. He knows where to go with the ball, throws accurately on the move and has appeared more confident and composed in his first year as a full-time starter after taking over for Sam Bradford. Don't miss: Jones' Sooners play Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl at 8:30 p.m. ET Jan. 1. 5. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas* 6-6e, 240e, 4.90e Has a cannon on his shoulder that allows him to fit the ball into very tight spots and move his team downfield in a hurry when he is hot. Yet, his ball placement has been sporadic, his feet are heavy and he has been unable to stay healthy this season as a stationary passer. His footwork is lazy, his accuracy wanes on the move and he makes too many ill-advised throws, coming from a Bobby Petrino offense that tends to mask the deficiencies of his QBs. More troubling than any physical traits, however, are concerns about his intangibles, makeup and character that bear too much resemblance to former Chargers first-round bust Ryan Leaf. Don't miss: Mallett's Razorbacks play Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl at 8:30 p.m. ET Jan. 4. Coming Tuesday: Top RB prospects Don't miss out on PFW's brand-new NFL Draft mobile app for iPhone, Blackberry and Android — coming soon. It will provide the very best in player analysis and inside draft info. Watch this site for an announcement when it becomes available. Also, be sure to get your copy of PFW's 2011 Draft Guide magazine (on sale March 1) and PFW's 2011 Draft Preview book (on sale March 29). Both publications will be available at retail outlets and at PFWstore.com. .