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.
Today we're joined by Rock M Nation bloggers Bill Connelly and Ross Taylor who cover the Missouri Tigers for SB Nation. Taylor put together an excellent scouting report on Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert in February and we'll be taking some of his thoughts from that as well as asking Connelly a few other questions. Hope ya'll enjoy.
We'll start with Taylor's thorough analysis and move to Connelly and the fans' comments. Taylor begins his look at Gabbert by talking about the QB's strengths.
"You can't miss his arm," notes Taylor to the point. "You just can't. Almost every quarterback can get a receiver the ball on a 15-yard out; very few of them can do it on a rope with zero arc from the opposite hashmark. A lot of quarterbacks can find a receiver along the sideline; very few of them can do it by beating the zone with an 18-yard laser in between a corner and safety sitting in the Cover 2. If you watch Mizzou's game tape, you'll understandably be assaulted by footage of screens and four-yard hooks. Don't mistake what Missouri does with what Blaine Gabbert can do. He steps into his throws regularly, he's largely accurate on his short and intermediate throws, and watching him throw a deep in is a simple pleasure in life."
Gabbert's other major strength is his ability to create plays with his feet.
"Scouts and analysts have also talked about his surprising fleetness of foot. No one is mistaking him for Cam Newton, and shifting direction isn't really his forte, but given an open lane, he can make you pay."
Taylor includes this video just for good measure:
As Taylor also notes, Gabbert's biggest weakness is his ability to read defenses and his pocket awareness.
"Scouts are also right about being concerned about Gabbert's ability to read defenses, and more importantly, feel pocket pressure," says Taylor. "Gabbert's reads improved as his career progressed, but Missouri's offense minimizes a lot of the heavy mental lifting that might be required at the next level. In the minds of Missouri fans, the pocket presence will perhaps forever stand out as the one defining criticism of Gabbert's time at Mizzou. In the same way Peyton Manning has an uncanny ability to take small steps to avoid pressure, Gabbert had a preternatural ability to scramble or roll into pressure. And, on a significant number of occasions, Mizzou's offensive line had Gabbert perfectly protected, only to see him roll into trouble when his early options didn't come open."
The amount of time Gabbert has missed due to injury or circumstance is playing a role in his unpolished presentation.
"Now, the pros may be correct in saying that Gabbert is unpolished, though I'm not sure it's entirely a knock on him," defends Taylor. Gabbert missed most of his senior season in high school to injury, played almost no time as a freshman, played with an ankle injury that murdered his mobility for the bulk of his sophomore season, and finally had a full healthy season to put it all together in 2010. Is there still room for growth? Absolutely. But while draft analysts evaluate "the final product," so to speak, Gabbert's growth continues to prove that he's still in his formative stages."
While prepared on the field, Gabbert is also ready to take on any microphone you push his way, says Taylor:
"If you want an interesting soundbite, draft instead. Everything Blaine Gabbert does seems modeled after an NFL quarterback. That includes his interviews, which range from "intelligently innocuous" to "mind-numbing cliche machine." He'll be a dream for your franchise's media relations crew and a frustrating puzzle for your reporters. Generally speaking, he says exactly what he's supposed to say. Every now and then, he'll give you a glimpse into both his personality and his intellect, making the other 99 percent of his interviews that much more frustrating."
Taylor wraps up his thought with a word to the wise.
"Gabbert has every single physical tool that makes NFL scouts tingly, including a rocket arm that can dent receivers' sternums."
Moving on to Connelly's comments, I asked him about Gabbert's true freshman year at Missouri. His coaches asked him to give up his redshirt freshman season to play in garbage time behind current New Orleans Saints backup QB Chase Daniel.
"Being that I assume he always had visions of going pro as quickly as he was ready, I doubt he minded the redshirt year much' says Connelly. "Lord knows he said all the right things at the time. That's actually one of the Gabbert calling cards: he's the foremost expert in enthusiastic coachspeak. He's never going to embarrass your team, he's never going to throw teammates under the bus, and he's never going to say anything that he shouldn't. He's an incredibly boring interview, really, at least if you're looking for fun quotes to use."
Gabbert was born and raised in Missouri but that doesn't mean he was a show-in to remain in his home state when he picked a college.
"Well, it helps that he was from St. Louis," notes Connelly. "Plus, Missouri was on its sixth consecutive year of solid quarterbacking with either Brad Smith and Chase Daniel. Beyond that, though, one of the recruiting strengths of Gary Pinkel and his staff is their ability to build relationships over a number of years. The staff got to know Gabbert and his family long before his senior year in high school, and when Gabbert started questioning his commitment to Nebraska as the wheels fell off of Bill Callahan's tenure there, he apparently realized that Columbia felt like home to him, and he made the switch."
If you get a chance, go look at the comments section on Taylor's original post. It's full of fan opinion on the QB Gabbert was at Missouri and how he might translate to the NFL. Thanks again to Rock M Nation, Bill Connelly, and Ross Taylor.