In my latest mock draft I had the Seahawks taking Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Tonight he and the Tigers take on Iowa in the Insight Bowl from Arizona.
This is a good opportunity to watch Gabbert against a solid defense. The Hawkeye’s are ranked 11th in the country for interceptions (17 in 2010) and own a solid defensive front which includes the likes of Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard. Three of those seventeen picks were returned for touchdowns.
Gabbert is only a junior but is already seeking advice from the draft committee. The excellent Draft Insider reports that Gabbert is weighing up his options and may be regarded as the #2 quarterback prospect by some teams behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck. A good performance tonight may make this decision a lot easier.
So what should we be looking out for?
Gabbert has the size (6-5, 240lbs) and arm to be a big-time NFL prospect. He’s not immobile and can make plays with his legs. I want to see if he can dominate a game like this, making pro-throws down field and avoiding too much underneath stuff (which Missouri’s system will almost certainly afford).
Speaking of the spread-system he works within – there’s a common issue that Gabbert will have to address at the next level like most college QB’s. He’s really only being asked to make one or two reads in each play. When those guys aren’t open, some have the athleticism to set off and run. Cam Newton does a very good job of that, Gabbert will try at times tonight but is nowhere near the athlete we see at Auburn or even with Jake Locker at Washington.
Can he show that ability to remain composed, step into the pocket and progress to a second or perhaps third read? How will he respond if Iowa’s defense gets in his head and confuse him with an unusual look? If they take away the first option does he panic?
He’s got the size to take a hit and the mobility to move away from pressure. Will he keep his eyes downfield or will he instantly look to break off a run?
At the same time, he can’t afford to hold the ball too long. Gabbert’s been sacked 21 times this year and 40 times in the last two seasons. He was sacked six times against Nebraska when not given the looks he wanted. It’s a fine balancing act, but will he acknowledge pressure, remain composed and if needed throw it away? It’ll show what kind of instincts he has which will be vital against a much more complex pro-defense at the next level.
The final thing I’ll be concentrating on is footwork. Gabbert will work predominantly from shotgun formations so can he set his feet, throw off the front foot and maintain balance?
There’s also the way Gabbert handles the spotlight in the public eye. He did very well against an unbeaten Oklahoma earlier this season, but struggled somewhat after that victory. Only he knows what his intentions are regarding the draft, but it may be weighing on his mind.
I’d also like to find some answers as to why – despite completing just two fewer passes in 2010 – he has thrown for less than 800 yards? His average per completion is down from 8.1 to 6.6 and he’s also passed for nine fewer touchdowns. Missouri went 10-2 this year so it’s nothing that can necessarily be pinned on a poor supporting cast. These problems probably won’t be solved tonight, but it’s worth considering.
Other prospects worth monitoring tonight:
Aldon Smith (DE, Missouri) has already signalled his intentions to declare for the 2011 draft – he’s currently searching for an agent. He came into the year a highly rated pro-prospect with eleven sacks as a red-shirt freshman. This year has been hampered with injury and he’s been limited to six sacks and a pick. We may still be looking at a first round prospect though and his stock drops no lower than the second round. Potential LEO rusher for Seattle at 6-5, 260lbs.
Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa) has had a disappointing year despite high expectations. Four sacks in 2010 is down from eleven last year. He was very impressive in the Orange Bowl last year and could do his stock the world of good with a similarly dominant performance tonight.
Christian Ballard (DT, Iowa) a potential 5-technique for Seattle who fits the Red Bryant mantra. Size (295lbs) and height (6-5) that the Seahawks would like in that role. Would be available after early rounds.
Ricky Stanzi (QB, Iowa) late round quarterback prospect who’s known for errors. Long release not preferable. Time has passed for Seattle to draft a guy like this with no immediate return.