2011 NFL Draft: Why Missouri's Blaine Gabbert Is a Fringe First-Rounder

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2011 NFL Draft: Why Missouri's Blaine Gabbert Is a Fringe First-Rounder
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Gabbert's value is more a product of hype than skill.

Welcome to the first addition of my 929-part series, "I disagree with Todd McShay." You and me McShay. Three o'clock, at the monkey bars. Be there.  

As his first mock draft was unveiled, it was plain to see he holds former Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert in high regards, selecting him to go to the Buffalo Bills with the third pick. To be fair, Mel Kiper has him going just two spots lower to Arizona. But do you want to fight a man with hair of steel?  

Gabbert's sudden rise is documented. He's gone from an afterthought to the No. 1 QB on a lot of draft boards. The question is: 

How?  

Admittedly, I am not able to watch Gabbert as much as the people who are paid to do so. But Gabbert does not look like a Top-Five pick. Far from it. As the title suggests, he looks more like a fringe first-rounder.  

The positives Gabbert brings are noted. He does have the prototypical size, some mobility outside of the pocket and possesses an arm. But there is so much more to a quarterback than that, and he is lacking in a lot of aspects. His pocket presence is the worst of the top quarterbacks. When he feels the slightest rush, he'll get antsy and try to flush out of the pocket or take his eyes off downfield and attempt to run.

This was truest in a game against Nebraska this past season. Granted, he was under pressure for most of the game, but shouldn't a Top-Five pick be able to withstand the pressure and handle adversity? It's not going to get any easier in the NFL. Gabbert is not willing to stand in the pocket and make a throw. If that doesn't change, he will not succeed at the next level.  

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His footwork is also called into question. He doesn't step into every throw even when offered a clean pocket. He'll throw off of his back foot and has difficulty in resetting his feet after moving. He may be able to get away with that in college because of his arm, but it's not going to work in the NFL. Defensive backs will be chomping at the bit to face him.  

Despite a high completion percentage on the season, no doubt helped by the Tigers spread offense, Gabbert has shown to be wildly inaccurate. Although there were a couple drops by his receivers, he was abysmal in a game against Texas Tech, going 12-of-30 for 95 yards. As the game progressed he regressed. His passes started skipping into the ground and virtually the only completions came from screen plays.  

Most importantly for a quarterback is the mental aspect. In this era, a quarterback has to be as strong mentally as he is physically. Gabbert appears to struggle in that aspect as well. Going back to the Nebraska game, he could have been intercepted three times on curl routes because he threw the ball too late, allowing the corner to make a play on it.

He's made extremely questionable decisions in every game I've watched. He'll throw across his body, throw the ball away while still in the pocket (obviously resulting in an intentional grounding) and attempts to throw passes into windows that don't exist. Even in his best game I saw, against Kansas State, he made poor decisions. He threw short of the sticks on a fourth down, causing Missouri to turn the ball over on downs. On a third down later in the game, Gabbert ran 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, eventually getting brought down for a huge loss.

On top of all that, the elephant in the room is the offense Missouri runs. It's a relatively simple spread, consisting of a lot of screens and quick throws. Gabbert is rarely under center and doesn't have the experience reading a defense while dropping back. That is the biggest obstacle QBs from spread and shotgun-oriented offenses have to overcome.

The "how" has been disputed, but there's another question lingering. Why? 

Why did Gabbert shoot up the boards? Andrew Luck returning to Stanford played a large role. With his return, the QB class became much weaker. There is no longer a standout QB, as there has been in most recent drafts. That didn't stop the expectation of there needing to be one—coupled with the value of quarterbacks Gabbert's value is being inflated.

He is simply the lesser of all the evils. He "wins" by default. That is the worst reason to draft a player. Value is just as important as need, especially in the first few picks where mistakes are magnified and large amounts of money are thrown away if the wrong pick is made. 

Without a doubt in my mind, I could see five or six quarterbacks being more worthy than Gabbert. He is the Nintendo Wii of this quarterback class. The novelty makes it interesting at first, but after awhile, the flaws shine through and the hype crashes back to earth.  

Checkmate, Todd McShay.

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