Position Ranking: #2
Strengths: Ideal combination of size and athleticism for the position. Has a live arm and can make all the NFL throws; arm strength is very good. Shows good zip and accuracy in the intermediate passing game between the numbers. Good footwork when having to reset his delivery and throw from inside the pocket.
Throwing motion is compact and ball comes off his hand well with good release quickness. Has the mobility to buy extra time outside the pocket with better than adequate running speed to make plays with his legs on the run. Shows a pump fake and shoulder shrug to hold the deep safety when he intends to make downfield throws. Was the first quarterback to beat conference rival Oklahoma since 1988; most efficient performance of the season.
Needs Improvement: Isn’t a natural passer and will leave the pocket prematurely. Gets happy feet when he senses the outside rush and takes off to run before pass route has fully developed. Throwing angles and lower body mechanics are off/on. Struggles with deep accuracy and timing, I counted 12 over/under throws on the deep patterns in three of his games I evaluated (five in one game), with the same problem occurring in other games I evaluated. Doesn’t fully stride into all of his throws and open up his hips, leading to inconsistency with his accuracy and ball velocity.
Played in a spread system that never asked him to make coverage reads and audibles, or go through a full progression (entire field). Most of his reads were to one side of the field. Missouri’s system doesn’t offer professional pass concepts, a full route tree, or coverage read options between the quarterback and receivers. Can get mentally rattled in games, losing confidence, and his mechanics (San Diego State, Nebraska, Texas Tech). Most of his completions were short and intermediate routes with good protection, and wide open throwing lanes. Slow to pick up the cornerback blitz. Wasn’t asked to take snaps from center and develop a pass drop with timing.
Bottom Line: I see plenty of similarities between both Blaine Gabbert and another gifted prospect, Jake Locker. Both have very good arm strength and the athleticism to impress teams. On the downside, neither seem very comfortable standing in the pocket and allowing plays to develop with regularity; the game hasn’t slowed down for them yet. I’ve always liked Gabbert’s size and raw tools, but was surprised to hear he was declaring for the draft as I felt he needed another year to strengthen his abilities. Gabbert made strides against Oklahoma but then took two steps back against Nebraska and Texas Tech. His performances against San Diego State and Kansas were also very inconsistent from a technique and decision making standpoint.
The team that drafts Gabbert will be banking on his athletic ability and believing that he’ll pick up the mental aspect while refining his technique. I feel that he’s fully capable of becoming a good pro quarterback, but can’t say with confidence that he’s shown that his skills and acumen will translate based on Missouri’s spread system. He shows many of the same physical strengths of Alex Smith leaving Utah, and Smith was drafted #1 overall. Gabbert’s athleticism, size, and potential will get him drafted high as well.
Draft Projection: 1st round.