On NFL Live today former Redskins GM Vinny Cerrato questioned Blaine Gabbert‘s NFL potential, citing his low completion percentage on 3rd down as a red flag.
Gabbert completed just 44.3 percent of his 3rd-down passes this past season, which ranked him 83rd out of 85 quarterbacks with at least 75 3rd-down attempts according to CFBstats.com.
That certainly sounds like a concerning stat, but what does it mean?
Due to a severe lack of college statistics, it’s tough to evaluate these numbers in a historical context. CFB Stats goes back to 2007 with their 3rd-down data, so I took a look at how the 1st-round quarterbacks from that time span faired in their final collegiate season [I used Sam Bradford's sophomore stats since he missed the majority of his junior year, and unfortunately FCS stats were unavailable for Joe Flacco].
In this small sample size no one comes close to Gabbert’s low percentage, so it’s difficult to draw any conclusions. However, the lowest of the this group, Matt Ryan, is also the best pro of the group which seems to indicate a lack of relevance for 3rd-down data as a predictor of NFL success.
Despite the inability to truly draw a conclusion about these stats one way or the other, I would have to agree with Cerrato that Gabbert’s 3rd-down numbers do create a red flag. However, I also don’t think it’s concerning enough to make me question the 1st-round grade I have given him. It’s safe to say he’ll have more polished receivers at the next level than T.J. Moe and Jerrell Jackson. So just as Matt Ryan’s stats improved as soon as he was surrounded with NFL talent, I expect the same from Gabbert.