2011 NFL Draft: Where Will Mizzou's Blaine Gabbert and Aldon Smith Be Selected?
Over the last three weeks or so, the University of Missouri football program has gone through a complete and utter transformation.
On Dec. 30, Mizzou lost to Iowa in a devastating effort that was propelled by a questionable officiating call with three minutes remaining in the contest.
Four days later, quarterback Blaine Gabbert declared for the NFL draft.
Just three short days later, Aldon Smith joined him, and in doing so bypassed his two final seasons with the black and gold.
The question lurks among the experts: Where do these two previously unknowns fit in on the big board?
The strong-armed Gabbert is almost unanimously now the best quarterback available in the 2011 class. In a previous column, I wrote all about Gabbert's strengths and possible fits for him, but the fact of the matter is that his stock has clearly risen since I last documented it.
Gabbert's size, at 6'5" and 235 pounds, and his poise make him set to become a franchise quarterback.
So where will he go?
Most mock drafts seem to point to the San Francisco 49ers with the seventh selection, and I can't disagree.
Where will Aldon Smith be selected in April?
With the disappointment of the Smiths in 2010, both Troy and Alex can't guarantee that one of the two will start Week 1 in 2011. Gabbert would immediately take the reigns from them if selected.
He can insert himself easily into an offense like San Fran's, with deep ball receivers like Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan receiving tosses from the cannon-like arm that is Gabbert's.
However, the Niners might not have the chance to pull the plug on the Ballwin, Mo. native. I could see the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, or maybe even the Carolina Panthers taking Gabbert, although the latter is highly unlikely as Nick Fairley looks like the consensus No. 1 pick.
So that brings us to Aldon Smith, whom I will go into greater depth since I haven't discussed him previously in specific details.
I can see the Houston Texans picking him out of the crop with the 11th pick in the first round.
Smith would provide an excellent rush option opposite of Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans.
The 2009 Big XII Freshman of the Year has gone from an anonymous draftee to an automatic first round in less than a month.
In two seasons in Columbia, Smith established himself as one of the premier pass-rushers, with 17 sacks in total. He had six this year, but played in only nine games due to a leg injury.
If the Texans don't pull the plug I could see the Oakland Raiders or the Tennessee Titans taking the sizable 6'5", 260-pound Smith.
But there's a chance either could go higher.
Suppose Gabbert becomes a consensus No. 1 or Smith slithers his way into the top five. Stranger affairs have happened in less than a month, like the all-at-once crumbling of Missouri's 2010.
It's funny how things work in the draft, huh?
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