Blaine Gabbert: Is He the Top QB in 2011 NFL Draft Class?

TCorrespondent IIIJanuary 8, 2011

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  Quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Missouri Tigers drops back to pass during the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes  at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2010 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Hawkeyes defeated the Tigers 27-24.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck's return to school, the name that is emerging as the top quarterback prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft is Missouri's Blaine Gabbert

With all the buzz being about the likes of Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and Washington's Jake Locker as far as quarterbacks are concerned, Gabbert gets lost in the shuffle among these established names.  However, Gabbert may be a diamond in the rough for an organization looking to build around a franchise quarterback.

Gabbert possesses a strong arm that helps him complete throws to any area of the field.  At 63 percent accuracy in 2010, Gabbert acquits himself well in the spread offense at Missouri despite not completing the arbitrary 70 percent that is the typical benchmark among top tier quarterback prospects.  However, his throwing motion produces a tight spiral with the ability to place the ball over the receiver's shoulder, hitting him in stride. 

Gabbert, at 6'5" 235 pounds, possesses the size desirable among quarterback prospects.  This does not hamper his ability to move outside the pocket.  However, Gabbert has developed a habit of pulling down the ball and running with it too soon at times instead of waiting for the play to develop.

A concern about Gabbert's field vision is in Missouri's spread style offense, the quarterback looks primarily for the deep ball rather than reading through his progressions and check down to another receiving option.  Gabbert will have to learn to see the entire field instead of letting his rocket arm unload each and every time.

Gabbert's mechanics are sound in that he has a quick release with a compact motion.  However, another detriment of playing in a spread offense is taking snaps primarily out of the shotgun.  Gabbert will have to show pro scouts that he is capable of taking snaps directly under center and produce the same accuracy while dropping back to throw.

Gabbert is an intriguing quarterback prospect because of the raw talents that he possesses as a passer and an athlete.  The spread offense may negate Gabbert's talents in the eyes of scouts because there is not enough of a sample size in terms of seeing Gabbert as a complete quarterback.