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. Read more
5. A trade occurs within the first five picks
The Panthers would love to trade down. The Broncos probably feel the same way. With two quarterbacks possibly coming off the board within the first five picks, someone is going to trade up to ensure they get their guy. My money’s on the Cardinals moving up for Gabbert, possibly to No. 1.
4. The Patriots actually use both 1st-round picks
No one loves trading picks more than Bill Belichick, but this year the Patriots actually need their picks. There is enough talent at positions of need (defensive line, offensive line) that the Patriots will stay put and fill some holes. In the 2nd round is where we’ll see the Pats start making moves.
The best player in the draft isn't falling as far as you may think
3. Patrick Peterson is off the board within the first six picks
Nearly every mock draft has Peterson falling to the 49ers. Sorry to ruin your fun 49ers fans, but the best player in the draft isn’t getting past six different teams. If he falls to No. 6 the Browns will gladly end his fall, even if he doesn’t fill a glaring hole.
2.A.J. Green falls to the Washington Redskins There are multiple scenarios in which this could happen, and I truly believe one of them will come true. In my most recent mock draft I have the Bengals selecting Julio Jones, which allows Green to fall to No. 10.
1. At least three quarterbacks will go in the 1st round
Newton and Gabbert are 1st-round locks. After that, it’s anyone’s guess as to who many come off the board next. However, I am confident that someone will reach for another quarterback in the 1st round. Maybe the Dolphins reach for Mallett or Locker. Maybe the Seahawks do the same. Maybe someone falls in love with Dalton or Ponder. Whatever happens, one of those guys is going in the 1st round, and possibly more.
However, I also believe there is a slim chance that he gets past the Panthers, Bills and Bengals. In order to land Gabbert, they may need to move up, and the only safe way to assure he’s on the board they would be to move to No. 1. Read more
Jim Harbaugh was brought in to fix the San Francisco 49ers. And it’s no coincidence that they brought in a former quarterback who helped develop Josh Johnson and Andrew Luck at the college ranks.
Make no mistake about it, Harbaugh’s job is to find the 49ers a franchise quarterback and turn him into a star. So could they really afford to go through this draft, which is relatively deep with signal callers even if it’s lacks an elite player, without taking one?
Harbaugh and Baalke have the picks to move up to No. 1
Cam Newton doesn’t appear to be a Harbaugh kind of quarterback, but Blaine Gabbert would fit the mold.
To the best of my knowledge the 49ers have not brought Gabbert in for a workout, however, Harbaugh was present at Missouri’s pro day. It’s unlikely that he’ll fall to No. 7, so could the 49ers trade up?
We haven’t see a pre-draft trade involving the No. 1 pick since the Falcons moved up for Michael Vick, but it could happen this year. The Panthers would presumably love to trade down, since there is not a clear-cut top prospect in the draft and there are a number of teams out there desperate for a quarterback.
Due to the lockout no players or future picks may be traded on draft day. This means that the 49ers, who own a league-high 12 picks have the most ammunition to make move up.
According to the trade value chart the No.1 pick is worth 3,000 points. It’s unrealistic to expect the 49ers to match that point total, but if the Panthers are willing to lower the asking price they could get a nice package in return.
The Niners could offer the 7th, 45th, 108th and 115th picks (still leaving them with their 3rd-round selection) which equals 2,102 points on the trade chart. That trade would give the Panthers a 2nd round pick (which they currently lack after trading it for Armanti Edwards in one of the worst draft-day deals of all time) and a total of eight picks in the first four rounds.
It’s a long shot, and 49ers have not given any strong indication that they want Gabbert, but don’t be shocked if they swoop in a the last minute and climb up to No. 1.
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.
In my latest mock draft I have the Carolina Panthers selecting Blaine Gabbert with the No. 1 overall selection.
Gabbert going No. 1?
It was a tough decision, as I’ve had either Da’Quan Bowers or Nick Fairley in the top spot for the past two months. However, I now believe the Panthers are leaning heavily toward a quarterback.
GM Marty Hurney reportedly still supports Jimmy Clausen, whom he selected in the 2nd round in 2010, but the new coaching staff wants to move on and put their mark on the franchise. More often than not, the coaching staff wins these battles.
There has been some speculation that the Panthers are interested in Cam Newton. It’s certainly possible, but I just don’t envision Ron Rivera – a tough, old school defensive-minded guy who played under Mike Ditka – rolling the dice a rookie quarterback with an ego the size of Newton’s.
With that in mind, the logical choice is Gabbert. He isn’t the best player in this year’s class but he is a player to build around, which is what Rivera and his staff is hoping to find.
Of course, all of these rumors could simply be a smokescreen. If everyone else thinks the Panthers want a quarterback, it raises the asking price of the No. 1 pick in a trade…
Mike Holmgren has faith in Colt McCoy. He’s made that very clear.
However, he also plans to draft a quarterback.
That admission shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that both Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace are free agents. However, Holmgren also stated that he plans to meet with all of the top quarterbacks, which he indicated probably includes Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton.
It will be interesting to see what Holmgren means when he says he will meet with all of the top quarterbacks. He said he will “bring them in, do our work and see what happens.”
Does that mean he plans to use some of his private workouts on guys like Gabbert and Newton?
If so, it’s a questionable decision and has to make you wonder how committed he is to McCoy. If they’re set to move forward with McCoy, it makes no sense to draft a quarterback in the 1st or 2nd round. So why waste a draft visit on quarterbacks that will be long gone by the time its worth considering a signal caller.
One would think it would be wise to focus on more realistic 1st-round options, and perhaps some mid-round quarterbacks such as Pat Devlin, Andy Dalton and Ricky Stanzi.
Earlier this afternoon I took some time to answer a few of your questions on twitter. A lot of them really deserve more than just four or five word response, so I thought I’d take an few minutes to elaborate…
It’s definitely possible that one or both could wind up in the top five, but I think they’ll ultimately fall a little further.
The Panthers aren’t taking a quarterback, despite some mock drafts linking them with Cam Newton. The Cardinals may consider it, but I think they’ll pass as well. Ken Whisenhunt really wants to bring in a veteran, and I think they will to appease Larry Fitzgerald as well.
That leaves the Bills. And after addressing their strongest position in the 1st round last year by taking C.J. Spiller, it’s anyone’s guess what they may do this time around. Newton and Gabbert are possibilities, but I think they’ll lean toward the best available player – A.J. Green or Patrick Peterson.
In each of my first two postseason mock drafts I’ve had Blaine Gabbert headed to the 49ers with the 7th overall selection. I’m not the only one, however, as its becoming a popular prediction in mock drafts popping up all over the internet.
As the Gabbert-to-San Fransisco speculation heats up, I thought I’d take some time to further explain my reasoning.
First, the Bills and Cardinals – who both need quarterbacks – would have to pass over Gabbert. Buffalo is the wild card here, because Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey were anything but predictable in their first draft together. Despite quarterback being their primary need, I just can’t see them reaching for Gabbert; especially considering how well Ryan Fitzpatrick performed this season.
As for the Cardinals, Ken Whisenhunt knows he is on a short leash and is likely to push hard for the team to sign or trade for a veteran (McNabb? Kolb?). He doesn’t have the final say, but they may be willing to appease him after GM Rod Graves’ hand-picked quarterback (Derek Anderson) was a monumental bust in 2010.
So if Gabbert is on the board, why would the 49ers take him?
While neither one played in a true pro-style offense in college, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two. Urban Meyer’s system at Utah was sort of a spread-option scheme, and even more gimmicky than his system at Florida in an effort to make up for a lack of overall talent. Smith’s athleticism made him a great fit, but it also stunted his growth as a true drop-back passer.
Gary Pinkel’s offense at Missouri is more of a true spread offense. While he does take most of his snaps from the shotgun, he primarily stays in the pocket. These days, experience in the shotgun is less of a concern than ever before as more and more NFL offense include a high percentage of plays from the shotgun. There will be an adjustment for Gabbert, but he has a great reputation as a smart kid and a hard worker and I have no doubt that he can make this transition.
Another reason San Francisco can feel good about the possibility of taking Gabbert is the coaching staff. In his short coaching career Jim Harbaugh has done nothing if not help quarterbacks reach their highest potential. At San Diego he developed Josh Johnson into an elite FCS quarterback, which landed him in Tampa Bay where he started a few games prior to the start of the Josh Freeman era. And we’re all aware of what he did with Andrew Luck at Stanford.
Alex Smith never had the benefit of working with an offensive-minded head coach. Additionally, he was forced to transition through multiple offensive schemes due to the revolving door at offensive coordinator, including Jim Hostler, Norv Turner and Mike Martz. Looking back on it, Smith never really had a chance in San Francisco.
All things considered, I think San Francisco is the ideal landing place for Gabbert. The team needs a quarterback (desperately), they have the coaching staff in place to develop him and he has a strong reputation as a kid who is willing to put in the long hours necessary to become an elite quarterback.
I certainly understand the hesitation of fans. Gabbert isn’t Sam Bradford or Andrew Luck and no one expects him to come in and light it up from day one. But I think there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Gabbert’s future, especially if he lands in San Francisco.
Prototypical height for a NFL quarterback. Elite arm strength. Accuracy is adequate. Above average mobility; can buy time with his feet and occasionally take off running – similar mobility to Aaron Rodgers. When given time, his mechanics are good and fairly consistent. Holds the ball high and has a quick release.
Gets flustered under pressure; often takes off running when he still has time to stand tall in the pocket. Loses his mechanics when facing pressure; often throws from a wide stance with a somewhat sidearm motion which results in a lack of accuracy. Needs to work on his touch; often throws rockets which can be difficult to catch.
The ground work for an elite quarterback is already in place, but Gabbert still has some work to do. He isn’t as polished as a typical quarterback that would come off the board in the top 10, which is where he is projected to be drafted. He seems to be an intelligent quarterback who has made obvious progress throughout his two years as a starter at Missouri. Given his tendency to rush his motion under pressure he may benefit from sitting on the bench for awhile. Being thrown into the fire may be detrimental to his development. He definitely has the ability to develop into a franchise quarterback, but is far from a sure thing. He has a good reputation for being a hard worker and a smart kid which makes me optimistic about his ability to eventually reach his full potential.