There are numerous young players to step up and perform for his respective team in a time of need. Four quarterbacks were taken in the first round, all of which were taken within the first 12 picks of the draft. Of those four, three have started at least three starts through Week 10 of the season.
Cam Newton (Carolina), Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville) and Christian Ponder (Vikings) are current starters while Jake Locker (Tennessee) remains on the bench behind veteran Matt Hasselbeck.
Gabbert (1,025 yards, 6 TD, 5 INT, 63.6 QBR in eight starts) took over in Week 2 after veteran David Garrard was suddenly released and Week 1 starts, Luke McCown was benched due to poor performance. Gabbert, however, has yet to show me he deserves consideration for ROY, but he is still Jacksonville's quarterback of the future.
Ponder (744 yards, 3 TD, 3 INT, 69.8 QBR in three starts) took over as the starter in Week 7 against the Packers, replacing veteran Donovan McNabb. His first career start was rather impressive considering the circumstances. He was thrown out there with little experience and threw for 219 yards and 2 TD passes, coming within six points of upsetting the still-undefeated, and defending champion, Green Bay Packers.
His numbers since then have been less than impressive, but his last start was against, yet again, the Packers. His 1-2 record is the result of playing the top team in the league twice. Carolina's Cam Newton–whom Ponder defeated on Oct. 30–is the lone quarterback who I have in the running for OROY.
Starter from the day he was drafted, Newton has had quite a few naysayers, and so far he has silenced every single one of them. The No. 1 overall pick by Carolina, Newton has led the Panthers to a 2-7 record, but that doesn't tell the entire story.
Carolina's defense has taken some hits early, losing center piece Jon Beason for the season very early. They have allowed the third-most points this season, behind only Indianapolis and Minnesota and have struggled against the run (1,238 yards, 12 TDs).
As for his supporting cast on offense, Newton's legs are the most dangerous on the field, not former Pro Bowlers DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. What was once the top rushing duo in the game just a few seasons ago is now almost a non-threat, combining for just three touchdowns on the year. Newton, however, is just two touchdowns shy of tying Michael Vick's record for most rushing TDs by a quarterback in a single-season (9).
His 374 yards on the ground is second-most on the team, putting up an average of 5.3 yards per carry. I do believe that it is actually the play-calling that has thrown off Carolina's rhythm. They are relying too heavily on the rookie signal-caller as he has attempted 30 or more passes in all but one game this season, and 40 or more in three different games. The one time he had under 30 pass attempts? A 33-20 victory over the Washington Redskins.
If he has any haters left after his first nine starts of the season, I would like to think that they at least understand that he is responsible for Carolina's two wins and cannot be solely to blame for the team's seven losses. Once Carolina has a healthy defense back, and they run the ball a little more often–taking pressure off Newton–the Panthers will at least be contenders in the South.
Newton is, by far, the best quarterback of this rookie class and could even be in consideration for Offensive Rookie of the Year. If not, then there's no doubt he's the most valuable asset on this team.
Ponder: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Newton: Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images