This post is part of a continuing series in which we break down 13 2011 NFL Draft prospects - our Baker's Dozen - that should interest the Buffalo Bills. Keep up to date on our Baker's Dozen series here.
While Cam Newton remains the subject of the greatest amount of quarterback-related discussion amongst Bills fans, Missouri junior Blaine Gabbert remains the more likely of this year's two top draft prospects to be available when the Bills select at No. 3 overall. Possessing elite-level traits in several areas, Gabbert has nonetheless been the subject of a great deal of skepticism during the pre-draft process.
Defining Trait: Lack Of Refinement. Gabbert is a highly appealing prospect for two reasons: prototypical athletic traits, and top-notch intangibles. Even while at Missouri, however, he proved that he'll need a lot of refinement - with his lower body technique as well as in the classroom - before he's ready to command an NFL huddle. Also working against Gabbert is the fact that he struggles in the face of defensive pressure; quarterbacks with similar makeups to Gabbert have failed as professionals because they couldn't handle pressure. This, in my opinion, is Gabbert's biggest hurdle to success. But as a raw prospect, he's got the vast majority of what you look for.
Throwing Abilities. Gabbert has excellent arm strength, even if it shouldn't be categorized as special. He's got enough arm to effectively throw the entire route tree. Anticipates routes well and delivers with touch and accuracy. Has experience dropping from under center, but has not done it pretty much at all in game situations - his technique will need to be refined. Footwork, especially, needs to be technically rebuilt. Technique breaks down in the face of pressure - everything from arm mechanics to footwork. Will force throws when defenders are around him, and appears to go to great lengths to avoid contact. His deep ball needs work, as well.
Movement Abilities. An excellent athlete, Gabbert has the ability to move around in the pocket with ease and keep plays alive. Mobile enough to get to the edge, and can hurt a defense either by running or throwing on the move. Is not a run-first quarterback, and won't ever put up gaudy rushing statistics. He's more of a "keep the play alive" type.
College Production. Gabbert was a big-name, local recruit that took over for one of the most successful spread quarterbacks in recent memory, Chase Daniel. His numbers in those two years were not gaudy, despite Daniel's previous success, and despite the wide-open nature of the attack. His low YPA and low scoring output, particularly as a junior, has been a major question mark in scouting circles for months. One more year at Missouri, however, and he'd likely have broken a few of Daniel's records.
Blaine Gabbert: College Statistics
|Blaine Gabbert Totals||26||563||920||6,779||40||18||215||436||8|
Field Awareness Traits. Gabbert has excellent down-field vision. He can see and quickly diagnose coverages, make the right read, and deliver an accurate, catchable pass. Very smart player that seems to really understand the passing offense, and has above-average instincts for that part of the position's responsibilities. Does a nice job of keeping his eyes downfield while moving, looking to make a play through the air. Very confident in his arm and isn't afraid to make stick throws. Though his offense was pass-happy, he will need time to adjust to pro concepts and especially pro blitz and coverage schemes. The biggest hurdle Gabbert must overcome is his propensity to panic under pressure.
Athletic Traits. Prototypical size for the position. Thickly-built athlete that can move around very well for a guy his size. Has the athletic ability to make plays with his legs, despite less-than-stellar career rushing numbers at Missouri. Not a difficult player to bring down, but can take a hit and deliver.
Blaine Gabbert - 2011 Combine Results
Injury Issues. Gabbert sustained a minor ankle injury in 2009, his sophomore season, but shows toughness in his willingness to play through it. Came into college with some minor injury issues lingering from high school, as well.