In the last few weeks leading up to the draft I’ll be posting a series of “final thoughts” on some of the top prospects in this year’s class. Up next: Blaine Gabbert (full archive here)
Blaine Gabbert is not Sam Bradford. He is far from a finished product and he probably won’t be able to step in and immediately make his team better.
Gabbert is a unique prospect because rarely do quarterbacks with so much talent enter the draft having accomplished so little at the college ranks.
Those who are skeptical of Gabbert point to his erratic play, mainly decision making, and his ineffectiveness in certain clutch situations (most notably his low 3rd down percentage). These would all be viable concerns if he were a senior, but since we haven’t seen the finished product I think Gabbert deserves the benefit of the doubt.
When evaluating quarterbacks I look at three factors:
1. Accuracy – Without you can’t play in the NFL. It’s as simple as that.
2. Work Ethic – The most talented quarterbacks are rarely the best quarterbacks. The elite players (Brady, Breese, for example) got to where they are because they out-work everyone else in the league.
3. Arm Strength – Less important than accuracy, but still a necessary skill that you either have or you don’t.
To be a an elite quarterback you need to have No. 1 and No. 2 – no exceptions. No. 3 is nice, but so long as the strength is adequate, you can survive.
As for Gabbert, I have nothing negative to say about his ability in any of the three areas.
He isn’t in Sam Bradford’s class in terms of accuracy, but he certainly has NFL ability in that area of his game. The same can be said about his arm strength.
And perhaps most importantly, I love his work ethic. He’s an intelligent player who made noticeable strides throughout his two years as the starter at Missouri. Coaches and teammates have nothing but great things to say about him and I genuinely believe that will carry over to the next level.
You want your starting quarterback to be a first-guy-in/last-guy-out type of player, and Gabbert is that guy.
I’m not trying to cover up for the fact that Gabbert isn’t a polished as your typical top-10 pick. There is no denying that. However, I do believe that he possesses the necessary skills and the work ethic to correct his mistakes. In other words, nothing he does wrong isn’t easily correctable.
I wouldn’t take Gabbert No. 1 overall, and would hesitate to even take him in the top five, but he is a legitimate 1st-round pick and I believe he has a bright future in the league.