I’ve just finished watching the tape from Missouri’s 36-27 victory over Oklahoma. My main area of focus was Mizzou’s QB Blaine Gabbert. He’s a junior and therefore a potential 2011 draft prospect. I anticipate he’ll return for his senior year unless the hype goes into over drive, but this was a solid performance to knock off the #1 Sooners. On the night he went 30/42 for 308 yards and a touchdown. For the year he’s on pace for 3255 yards and 20 TD’s.
The thing that immediately stands out are the physical qualities Gabbert has. He’s 6-5, 235lbs with a good arm. He’s able to get the ball out quickly with a nice release and he gets plenty of zip on his throws. He’s not immobile despite the size, but he’s not a factor as an athlete. There were a couple of really good throws in this game where he flashed the ability to drive the ball downfield into a tight window, splitting coverage for a nice gain. Overall his decision making was sound and there weren’t any bad mistakes.
His release point isn’t a problem, he’s throws nicely off the front foot. He’s an accurate passer and a lot of his throws over the middle were on the money and made life easy for his receivers. There was a lot of underneath stuff and screens, but it didn’t dominate the game plan and show a restriction on his ability to make a big pass play.
However, he also faced very little pressure from Oklahoma’s front four and had a lot of time in the gun to get the ball out. He comes from a spread system, working in the gun and he’s not going to walk in and be able to take snaps under center. He’ll need to work on that when he’s drafted, along with the usual stuff (pro-reads, footwork etc).
If he keeps winning with unbeaten Missouri, people will start talking. Right now I look at Gabbert and appreciate the work he’ll need to do at the next level to become pro-ready. If I had to project his stock I’d put him very firmly in round three, potentially round two. He’s so much better than a prospect like Christian Ponder. He appears to have a better mental make-up than Ryan Mallett. If he did declare for the 2011 draft, he could be the third or fourth QB taken.
Another quarterback who is getting hype at the moment is Auburn’s Cam Newton. I talked about him in more detail last week. He’s an amazing athlete, he’s fun to watch. He might carry Auburn to a National Championship and win the Heisman. He is not, however, a legitimate pro-prospect at quarterback. In a close win over LSU yesterday, he again ran more than he passed. He won’t be doing that in the NFL, however good he is as an athlete. When he passed the ball, his footwork was all wrong. When he actually does set his feet, he throws off the back foot way too much and it means his passes lose all velocity. He’s got a much better arm than he shows.
I’m not sure it’ll ever be addressed at Auburn whilst they win games. I wouldn’t feel comfortable drafting him early to play QB. With everything that’s happening this year though, it wouldn’t surprise me if he did declare - especially if he did win the Heisman and a big bowl game. He is, after all, a fourth year player who’s spent time in the JUCO ranks after a transfer from Florida. It also wouldn’t surprise me if one team fell in love with Newton the athlete rather than Newton the QB and drafted him in round one. It’d be an unwise move.
One player who does look like a first round draft prospect is Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn). He was consistently making huge plays in the 24-17 victory. Despite a breather mid way through the game where he appeared to be a little winded, he was absolutely dominant from start to finish. He abused LSU’s offensive line for pure physical power, showed a decent burst off the line and was permanently in the backfield. He ended the game with three sacks and another big tackle for a loss. That’s nine sacks in eight games for a defensive tackle.
Even on double teams he was too much for LSU. This was undoubtedly a career game for Fairley and one that will propel his draft stock. It’s important not to get too carried away because he certainly isn’t the physically dominating force that Ndamukong Suh was and he isn’t the elite, fluent disruptor that Gerald McCoy was. Suh was a once-in-a-decade time of physical specimen and it’s no surprise that he’s walked into the NFL and continued to dominate lineman. Fairley won’t be able to do that. However, you cannot ignore the numbers.
As of today I’d grade Fairley right in the 20-32 picks range. He fits a 4-3 defense as a three-tech, listed at 6’4″ and 299lbs.
I will watch Wisconsin vs Iowa tomorrow and have a few notes on Gabe Carimi (OT, Wisconsin) vs Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa). I also have Notre Dame vs Navy saved up.
-Brandon Harris (CB, Miami) has his first interception of the season in a 33-10 win over UNC. Not many teams have thrown at Harris which has restricted is ability to make too many big plays. He has, however, shown tremendous ability in run support. He could be a top-15 pick.
-Da’Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson) just continues to pump his stock up towards the top-5 picks. Another sack this weekend in a 27-13 win over Georgia Tech makes it ten for the year in just seven games. He’s always had the potential to explode into dominance as a one-time #1 ranked recruit. The sky’s the limit for him in 2011.
-Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)helped Stanford edge past Washington State 38-28. He passed for only 190 yards with a 3-1 TD/INT ratio. We’re not going to see Luck dominate a team with the pass unless he comes from behind in a big win. Against opponents like this, Stanford will lean on the run allowing Luck to manage at QB.
-A.J. Green (WR, Georgia) is his team’s entire passing offense. Georgia beat Kentucky 44-31 with only 113 passing yards. Green had 86 yards from six catches. He’s a lock for the top ten picks and a contender to go in the top five.
-Marcell Dareus (DT, Alabama) and Julio Jones (WR, Alabama)had big games in a 41-10 win over Tennessee. Dareus got his third sack in as many games and is back on top form. He also deflected two passes. Jones had an amazing 12 catches for 221 yards in a much needed big game. This will ease some concerns about his ability to dominate – he has all the tools to be a #1 NFL receiver.
-Mark Ingram (RB, Alabama) is watching his star fall at the worst possible time. After missing two games through injury, ‘Bama have split carries between Ingram and talented sophomore Trent Richardson. Neither is on target for 1000 yards rushing. Ingram’s 88-yard two touchdown performance isn’t bad by any means, but the mere factor he won’t even get close to his sophomore achievements might linger with some scouts who feel he’s played his best ball. Even so – if I was picking, I’d still select him in the top-15.
-It’s time to start talking about Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State).He’s a redshirt sophomore receiver who’s on pace for nearly 2000 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns. What’s even more impressive is he got 157 yards and two scores against Nebraska’s dominant secondary. He’s not physically elite in terms of size or speed (6-1, 207lbs) and it’s a favorable system, but there’s something there and he shows good hands when catching, competitive strength to challenge for the ball plus YAC ability.
-Jonathan Baldwin (WR Pittsburgh) is also finding form at the right time on a good weekend for receivers. He had 139 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers. It was his best game of the season after a bad situation at QB threatened to destroy his stock. He might be the best wide receiver available after A.J. Green. Ryan Broyles (WR, Oklahoma) looked solid against Missouri, but he’s strictly a slot guy in my opinion and works in a favorable system. He’s a 2/3 rounder.
-Not a great day for Jake Locker (QB, Washington) in a 44-14 blow out against Arizona and their backup QB. It started well with a brilliant 26-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse for a 7-0 lead, but Locker only finished with 17/29 passing for 183 yards and no further scores.