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Gabbert spent much of the combine watching others go through drills.
If I was to present a spread QB who was dead last amongst the top 10 QBs with only 16 TDs last season as a first round talent, I might get a few funny looks. If I was to then push him into the top 10, there would be some serious questions. Take one more step, and call him the most pro-ready QB of the group, and you have exactly what has transpired with Blaine Gabbert.
Yes, I am calling Mr. Everything, Mr. Ready-Day-One QB Blaine Gabbert the most over-rated offensive player in the draft. I also recognize I'm about the only one...but that might change.
To be fair, I was drinking the cool aid early on. I believed the hype and excitement of a spread offense QB. He does throw a pretty ball, and has decent arm strength...what's not to love? Then I started looking at his numbers, which led me to look at his performances. Now I have to say, I don't get it.
Gabbert's numbers dipped last season...somewhat significantly. I won't bunch up this article with all the data, but you can find them in the link.
When looking for a drop in talent in his receiving options to explain the change, it is tough to find. He had one of the best TEs in college in Michael Egnew, who caught five of Gabbert's TD passes. It is hard to argue that the undrafted Danario Alexander was that much of a loss for Gabbert, as he did very little to help Chase Daniels the year prior.
Daniels brings an interesting point of comparison. He had better numbers all three seasons (sophomore - senior years) than Gabbert did either year. Daniels' low TD figure was as a sophomore with 28, and he threw 39 his senior year. If Gabbert has that extra push to play in the NFL, why didn't he fare better in college? There is a marked difference from 39 to 16 TDs.
Just for fun, I charted passes in a few games where I had access to all of his offensive snaps. Against Illinois, who was bereft of DBs at the time, he had what looked like great accuracy, hitting 34 of 48 passes. Two of the 14 incomplete passes were dropped, and a third was catch-able, but not thrown well. Looks like a great day, right?
But looking further into the performance, the stats are overstated.
15 of the completions were either behind the line of scrimmage or within five yards. Yet another 15 were between five and 10 yards down-field. That is 30 of 34 completions being short-range throws.
This type of distribution may fly in some west coast offenses, where accuracy and a quick release are important, but is that all a team expects from a top 10 draft pick?
Further into the passing stats, six passes of under 10 yards were incomplete and accounted for both of the drops. He completed four of five passes between 10 and 20 yards to open receivers, but missed on all five that landed more than twenty yards beyond the line.
Gabbert did have one particularly solid pass 35 yards downfield and Wes Kemp made a beautiful catch. However, he was called for pass interference on the play.
I can see Gabbert turning into a good west coast QB, and he may be attractive to the 49ers at pick seven or Washington at 10. However, that would be more of a testament to their state of emergency at the QB position.
In a normal year Gabbert would be looking at being taken late in the first or in the second round; any team expecting him to step in and start in year one will have a surprise in front of them.
As for Gabbert's Pro Day...yes, he worked from under center, and some analysts felt he looked good in his drop. In the limited portion that was televised, his footwork didn't appear to be there yet, but he has time to improve that aspect of his game.
Gabbert also hit most of his passes. But so did another player that has some interesting comparisons, Washington QB Jake Locker. Similar to Gabbert, Locker saw his numbers drop last season, and because of that Locker has fallen out of consideration as a top QB. In fact, their overall numbers are very close with the exception of completion percentage.
However, Gabbert runs a spread offense with a lot of bubble screens and swing passes to his RBs that kept his completion rate high, despite falling numbers everywhere else.
Locker ran more of a pro set and threw the ball down-field. As such, Locker's completion percentage was lower.
For me, Gabbert's worth starts and ends with what he did on the field. A spread offense is designed to be a high-powered, high scoring set. It worked that way before Gabbert, but not with him.
Throwing a nice spiral isn't enough to get it done in the NFL, and I just haven't seen anything from Gabbert to make him a top five pick.