Locker headlines a solid crop of senior QB prospects for 2011

The quarterback position is the ultimate team need. Without a solid player at this position, a team has little chance to win. That’s why 30 quarterbacks have been selected first overall since the beginning of the draft in 1936.

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One important predictor for success when drafting quarterbacks is the number of games started in college — 30-plus seems to be the magic number of starts when talking about quarterbacks selected in the first round (last year’s two first-rounders Sam Bradford (31) and Tim Tebow (40) both met that standard). The most important traits for quarterbacks to have to be successful are mental quickness, accuracy and intangibles that include work habits.

Note: This list only includes players who will have exhausted their eligibility after the 2009 season. Standford’s Andrew Luck and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett will have a year of eligibility remaining and were not included for that reason — even though they would be top prospects if they choose to come out.

Here are the top 13 senior quarterback prospects NFL scouts will be keeping a close eye on this fall.

Top senior quarterbacks

1. Jake Locker

College: Washington

Height/Weight: 6-2½, 231

Locker, a fifth-year player, is entering his fourth year as a starter. He has very good running ability to go with improving accuracy. He is also a baseball prospect, who has signed with the Angels. He is a top-10 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

2. Christian Ponder

College: Florida State

Height/Weight: 6-2, 220

Ponder is a fifth-year player, who is slated to be a starter for the third straight season (he has appeared in 23 college games). He has improved each year and Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher thinks he can develop into a better NFL prospect than JaMarcus Russell, who he coached at LSU. He projects to be a low first-round pick.

3. Pat Devlin

College: Delaware

Height/Weight: 6-3, 225

Devlin transferred from Penn State after the 2008 season, where he was a backup. He was the all-time passing leader in Pennsylvania high school history. He does not have as strong an arm as Joe Flacco, but is more mobile. He figures to be a second or third-round pick, who will move up if he has a good year.

4. Jerrod Johnson

College: Texas A&M

Height/Weight: 6-3½, 240

Johnson is a fifth-year player, who has started each of the last two years. He holds eight single-season school records. He has 51 touchdown passes in the past two seasons. He is an athlete playing quarterback, and new assistant coach Steve Kragthorpe should help this fall.

5. Nathan Enderle

College: Idaho

Height/Weight: 6-4, 235

Enderle is a fifth-year player that already has three years of playing experience. He is very smart and has good athletic ability. Check out his final drive in the Vandals’ Humanitarian Bowl victory over Bowling Green. He has upside.

6. Andrew Dalton

College: TCU

Height/Weight: 6-2, 212

Dalton is another fifth-year player with three years worth of starts under his belt. TCU is more of a running team, having rushed 500-plus times compared to only 326 passes, so his stats aren’t as prolific as some others on this list. He has solid strength, and talent, but is a little bit of a project.

7. Tyrod Taylor

College: Virginia Tech

Height/Weight: 6-1, 215

Taylor took over the starting job his freshman year and has not relinquished it since. He plays like Michael Vick did at Virginia Tech — he moves around, and has some passing skills.

8. Colin Kaepernick

College: Nevada

Height/Weight: 6-4½, 218

Continuing a trend, Kapernick is another fifth-year player that has already staretd the past three seasons. He plays quarterback in the pistol formation and is an outstanding runner, to go along with his passing ability. He ssems to have good arm strength and is reminiscent of Matt Jones, a former Jaguars first-round pick.

9. Ricky Stanzi

College: Iowa

Height/Weight: 6-4, 228

Stanzi was 18-4 in his last two years as a starter, and is a big strong-armed quarterback with good speed. He has improved every year, going from a backup in 2007 to now a elite starter. He possesses good leadership skills and is a team captain.

10. Case Keenum

College: Houston

Height/Weight: 6-0½, 205

Keenum plays in the same type system as Graham Harrell did at Texas Tech. He has passed for 12,950 yards and 102 touchdowns in his three years as a starter. He has exceptional accuracy, and has completed over 69 percent of his passes.

11. Taylor Potts

College: Texas Tech

Height/Weight: 6-3½, 215

Despite being in his fifth year, Potts has not played a lot. He did pass for seven touchdowns last year against Rice. He has physical ability, but needs more playing experience this year.

12. Chris Dieker

College: Southern Illinois

Height/Weight: 6-5, 230

Now in his fifth year, and third as a starter, he broke his collar bone after seven games last season. His size and arm strength are impressive.

13. Greg McElroy

College: Alabama

Height/Weight: 6-2, 225

A fifth-year player, who is going to be starting for the second year, he is very smart.