49ers 2011 NFL Draft: Blaine Gabbert Might Not Be Bad Target After All

Joseph BurkeyAnalyst IFebruary 25, 2011

Is Blaine Gabbert the 49ers' next franchise quarterback?
Is Blaine Gabbert the 49ers' next franchise quarterback?Jamie Squire/Getty Images

To be wise, a man needs to be able to admit his faults.  I have given Blaine Gabbert a bad rap, and I have judged him before I knew all the facts.

Certain parallels between Gabbert and Alex Smith lead me to a knee-jerk reaction when various writers had the 49ers taking Gabbert with the seventh overall pick a month ago.

The facts that Gabbert was leaving school early to enter the NFL, played in a spread offense through college and was called a studious personality simply sounded so much like Alex Smith's history that I rejected any notion of the 49ers selecting him.

But new information has come to light for me, and it should be shared with the 49ers Faithful.

While coaching at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh tried to recruit Gabbert, who was considered the best pro-style quarterback coming out of high school at the time. Apparently, he actually does have a decent amount of experience and skill under center.

I did not know that.

Credit where it's due: Bleacher Report community contributor Mike CQ brought that fact to my attention in a recent comment thread, and it more than checked out with a little research.

Gabbert verbally committed to Nebraska, but backed out later and went to Missouri.

This I knew, and as a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan, I admittedly held a minor grudge against Gabbert for it. What I didn't realize was Gabbert's reasoning for backing out.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers had fired Bill Callahan after Gabbert's initial verbal commitment, and it was Callahan's West Coast Offense that had drawn him to Big Red to begin with. Gabbert was indeed interested in playing for a pro-style offense.

Now it's time to reassess the young passer from Missouri.

Give him a clean slate. Let his NFL combine numbers, Wonderlic score, pro-day, and highlight reels speak for themselves. Let Harbaugh, Baalke and the rest of the scouting crew, make the decision on whether the he's the best quarterback available. Let them decide if he can be groomed into a winner at the NFL level.

Maybe he can.

And Gabbert's 6'5, 235-pound size, coupled with very decent athleticism, may just give him another edge up on the 6'4, 217-pound Alex Smith in terms of injury resistance. CBS.com's scouting report gives him a very good review as well.

It's still difficult to justify paying first-round cash to a rookie quarterback who's not likely to start for at least a year. It's hard to get behind a young passer who decided to forgo his senior season and entered the NFL draft on a weak quarterback year. This is especially tough when we see the inconsistency of the young man's highlights and lowlights

But even if he ends up behind Alex Smith and another passer yet to be determined, I can imagine a future where Gabbert is hitting Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and the rest of the 49ers passing attack in stride.

Does Gabbert have the "it" factor that it takes to make it as an NFL quarterback? Can Harbaugh's coaching team make him San Francisco's next franchise passer?

Who knows.

When it's all said and done this April, most of what the Faithful asks is that we don't end up with a first-round bust who has trouble taking snaps under center, and rumors of small handedness.