Blaine Gabbert has first-round potential

Gabbert threw for 434 yards in a losing effort


For the most part, this was a statement of intent. 

Not many people are talking about Blaine Gabbert as a first round prospect. That may begin to change after a largley impressive display against Iowa in the Insight Bowl, despite a 27-24 defeat. 

I’ll qualify from the outset that this wasn’t a faultless performance by any means. A lot of questions remain unanswered from the article I published ahead of the Insight Bowl between Gabbert’s Missouri and Iowa. The Hawkeye’s didn’t do a good enough job taking away his first read which allowed Gabbert to throw a lot of scripted passes that look good, but won’t be so easily accessible at the next level. 

When Iowa did get into Gabbert’s head, he tried to scramble out of trouble. He’s mobile (expressed with a solid touchdown run) but he isn’t a difference maker. On a couple of occasions he was too quick to bail on the pass only to lose yardage attempting to run. 

The big mistake of the night came on a pick-six with 5:32 remaining. His first read wasn’t on so he chose to run. As he struggled to find space, he changed his mind again and decided to pass. The result was an ugly mistake that led to a turnover and the game winning score. 

It’d be very easy to dwell on the error seeing as it essentially lost Missouri the game. It’s an issue he has to correct, but it doesn’t take away from a performance that most people were ready to compliment profusely before one big gaffe. 

He also took a couple of unnecessary sacks in the game – further evidence of concern that sometimes he does hold on to the ball too long and that he isn’t always the coolest under pressure. He needs to know when to just save the lost eight yards (or avoid the pick six) and lob the ball into row F. 

So what about the positives? There were lots of them and these shouldn’t be over shadowed. 

The big arm is there for all to see and that’s never been in question. A lot of guys have a big arm and never make full use of it. Gabbert over shot a couple of passes, but overall showed unique touch for someone who owns a rocket arm. This was perfectly highlighted with 6:27 left in the third quarter when he threw a beautiful 30-yard touch pass over the middle into a zone covered by three defensive backs. Everything about the throw – the touch, the accuracy, the placement. Stunning. 

You could pair this with a 20-yard bomb in the first quarter on 3rd & 19. With pressure in his face, this time he stayed composed with his eyes downfield and lobbed a perfect strike to his wide out for the first down. It flashed the quick, high release, accuracy and velocity that Gabbert is capable of. 

A lot of prospects will trust their arm too much and it leads to mistakes. Gabbert makes a full range of throws and understands when to bring out the cannon and when he needs to tone it down. 

Over and over again Gabbert was able to fit the ball into windows a lot of NFL quarterbacks couldn’t. He consistently found the soft-spot between safety and cornerback. He isn’t afraid to throw down the middle and whilst there were scripted plays and underneath completions – the Tigers could make any play callwith confidence. Gabbert flashed a full repetoire of passes. 

Missouri pretty much abandoned their running game after going behind early. During the initial comeback Gabbert remained cool and unemotional and kept his composure despite being asked to make a number of difficult throws downfield. He was responsible for a confident comeback and managed the rest of his offense. His first turn over came off a smart tip from a cornerback, although the second interception was his fault and his only. 

But what do you want from a franchise QB? Accuracy? Mobility? Character? Big arm? Gabbert has all of these things. 

Make no mistake – this was a game that will catch every scouts eye. I cannot see anything but a positive review from the NFL draft committee, making it more likely Gabbert’s name will be added to those expected to declare for 2011. I put Gabbert at #13 in my Christmas Eve mock. Expect to see him in every other mock draft over the next few days.


  1. Matt

    Really like what I saw. Almost afraid we might not be high enough to get one of the top3 QBs.

    • Alex

      Unless Luck doesn’t declare, I can see us drafting high enough to get one of the top 4 QBs (not including Luck since if he declares, he is no lower than #2). If Luck doesn’t declare, I’m pretty sure some team will overdraft and then there might be a quantity issue.

      Of the 4, I’m not fond of Newton. I know this blog likes him and he could be drafted like Vince Young, but I have some trouble seeing him being as a franchise QB. The biggest concern by far is his intelligence part. I know they blow away the academic thing, but it is concerning since NFL QBs need smarts to learn and process everything so quick.

      Mallet- High productivity, but I’m still wary of the character part and his fit (the mobility part and the greater emphasis on the horizontal pass) for our offense.

      Locker- when healthy, I can see him as a potential franchise QB. He truthfully didn’t play too well this year with all the injuries and dip in confidence. He is a fit and physically, he has everything you want. The key is accuracy and decision making. Though I’m absolutely positive that he’ll be drafted in the first round based on the Combine, which he should own, but if he is still there at the beginning of the 2nd round, I would be willing to trade up (without sacrificing a 2012 1st round pick). The character and leadership sector has me convinced that he can work out after sitting for 2 years.

      Blaine Gabbert- The main thing holding him down for me is the spread offense and footwork. As a comparison to a healthy Locker,
      Locker has better mobility, footwork, and athleticism. Also works out of the pro-system but both would still need to sit for at least 1 year. The other thing Locker is clearly better and actually better than just about everyone in the class (including Luck) is his throwing on the run ability.
      Arm strength, mechanics, touch, and size are all about the same.
      Gabbert has better decision making and accuracy (in the short range).

      I’m hesitant to grade poise because of the UW OL as Locker has shown great poise in the USC comeback, but at other times, he doesn’t even get the chance to show his poise.

      Overall, it’s a bit hard to grade Gabbert over Locker or vice versa, but I guess Gabbert would suffice too.


      • Rob

        Thanks for your thoughts Alex, some very interesting observations there.

  2. Alex

    First, I’ll say Adrian Clayborn disappointed.

    As for Blaine Gabbert, I only watched the second half. My review?
    1. Accuracy- solid, but I’m hesitant to grade it as great. He was great on the short/timed routes as the receivers caught the pass in stride, but I didn’t see enough vertical passes or intermediate routes to say that he is great in those. The majority of the passes were short passes.
    2. Touch- Solid. Much better than the Oklahoma game.
    3. Throwing mechanics- great. Compact and quick release.
    4. Footwork- Needs some work. He doesn’t operate out of the pro-system and he clearly needs to work on throwing on the run.
    5. Reads/Intelligence- Hard to say since it’s the spread system where it’s 1 or 2 reads (and they were the quick short passes), but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt based on his All Academic selection.
    6. Decision Making- could improve, but overall solid. I didn’t see the first inteception, but his second interception is simply a QB trying to do too much. He didn’t make disastrous throws like Stanzi did in the 2nd half.
    7. Size- Good. NFL size.
    8. Mobility- ok. He has good athleticism, but he doesn’t translate it the mobility and elusiveness category. I guess it’s more of a fact that he doesn’t operate out of the pro system and that he doesn’t have good footwork.
    9. Character? Unknown.
    10. Leadership- From what I read, at least above average. He also had good poise. I wouldn’t say he is Joe Cool or Matty Ice, but he is good.
    11. Arm Strength- forgot this one, but there’s no question that it’s at least as good as Locker’s, which is above average for the NFL. Good solid zip.

    Assuming character checks out, I would would give him a mid 1st round grade,-somewhere between 12-25, which is where the Hawks are picking.

    Overall, the main negative is the spread offense. It truly is harder to evaluate a QB not in the pro-system since you can’t see the decision making, reading ability required in the NFL, and the footwork. Gabbert has some of the former two negated by the All Academic Selection (just as Bradford was an extremely smart guy with unbelievable accuracy).


  3. David Schaefer


    I watched the game based on your recommendation. I saw a QB that had an incredible arm. Above average to great accuracy. Decent enough athleticism. Fit every throw he had to into double coverage. It’s hard to say how he’ll perform in a pro-style offense. Every snap he took was from the shotgun, and probably as a result (and not necessarily lack of ability), he looked really slow dropping back. If he’s taking snaps from under center, he’s not going to have that luxury.

    Kind of reminded me of Aaron Rodgers. Wasn’t that the big knock on Rodgers? Cannon arm…but athleticism and pocket awareness were lacking? I think the question is, if he’s on the board with the Seahawks pick…and it’s a toss-up between Newton, Locker, Mallett, and Gabbert, who do we go with? Gabbert has the arm and delivery, and it looks like the footwork issue can get corrected. Locker, reminds me of Whitehurst. I really like Mallett based on the adjustments he was able to make (isn’t a big part of being successful the ability to be coached).

    But man, watching Gabbert, I don’t see how he couldn’t be successful in Bates’ offense. Did this performance confirm McShay’s rating? #2 QB in the draft?

    • Rob

      Hi David,

      They are three very different QB’s but I don’t think there’s a great deal between Luck, Newton and Gabbert. I would have question marks with all three, but there are also huge positives too. Gabbert’s the real deal and whilst there are things you would want to work on and improve – and he has to learn to just throw the ball away as a starting point – there’s also a lot of major positives. For me he’s clearly a top-15 pick based on last night.

  4. ChavaC

    How does Gabbert rate in terms of on the run accuracy? The pick6 was while he was being chased towards the sideline wasn’t it? Seems like that will be a pretty important criteria for PC and Bates.

    He definitely looks the part, but a 6.5ypa spread guy, in spite of a big arm, seems a little too risky for a mfirst round.

    • Rob

      He’s not good throwing on the run at the moment, but I think that’s in part a fault of the scheme. He’s making one or two reads and getting flustered if his first look isn’t on. The pick-six was the perfect example where he’s flushed out of the pocket, caught in two minds whether to run or pass and ends up losing the game on a big error. At the same time, I believe this is an area he can improve. It’s not impossible. It’s a valid concern and a good point raised though that the Seahawks will want someone who can pass on the run and right now, it’s not a positive for Gabbert.

      But I think his best football will come in the pro’s. For me, he has everything you’d want in a franchise QB.

  5. Bill

    For those of you concerned with his experience in the spread offense, Gabbert was rated the top QB running a pro-style offense in the country coming out of high school. I know that high school is very different from college, but he does have experience in the pro-style system and was an Army All American while running that system. I wouldn’t be too concerned with his ability (or inability) to get away from the spread.

    This guy is a stud. I was hoping that he’d slip under the radar and give the Hawks a chance at him in the 2nd. However, there is a sudden Gabbert-surge that is happening and he’s going to be a 1st rounder no doubt.

  6. Kurt

    Greetings Rob, On your suggestion I took the time to watch this game and was quite impressed with Gabbert. No rookie is pro ready from day 1. Sure he will need to work in some areas but compared to what we have now, I would take him in a minute. If we can solidify our O-line next year with the running backs we have, it would go a long way in taking extra pressure off a rookie QB.

  7. Matt Q.

    Gabbert constitly only looked at one read, if that read was not open he would run a around and make poor disisions. Do other top QBs only make 1 read and is it easy to fix?

    • Rob

      There were a lot of scripted throws based on one read. A lot of college QB’s really only make one or two reads and it’s something nearly all of them have to handle when they turn pro. I wouldn’t say it was every time that Gabbert ran around and made poor decisions, we need to put one large error into perspective. Quarterbacks all have a learning curve going into the pro’s, it’s why ideally you dont want to start them immediately. Gabbert is no different. However, we also saw last night that he’s got everything you need for success… it’s just whether that translates. It’s a question we won’t be able to answer untl he’s in the NFL.

  8. Frankfrog

    Not bad at all. Gabbert has really missed Danario Alexander this year but looks and conducts himself like a Franchise guy. He’s a big guy but he seam to drop his weight and really spread his feet too wide when trowing, maybe just showing off that arm for scouts. Arm mechanics are nice but needs to take a little off some of those rocket balls. I thought he threw well on the run most of the time, but loved the ability to fit the ball into the smallest window. Given a deep threat receiver he may be really scary. I agree with David, he reminds me of Aaron Rodgers as a prospect. To steal a Mayockism He’s the kind of clay you want to make your Picasso.
    Locker vs Gabbert is interesting, since both are hampered by their cast so much. In the end though, Lockers accuracy is to much too over look. How is Locker a first rounder in this QB class?
    Newton is gaining ground regardless of the fact he should have been suspended this year, Mallets big arm and jaw dropping production, and now Gabbert probably going to declare. Who falls and do they fall to us in the round two?

  9. Kelly

    Draft order update: With Minnesota’s unexpected victory last night, that moved Seattle into the 11 spot in the draft.

    This also means that it is possible that Seattle could be picking as low as 6 now in the draft. A 12-15 pick swing will be on the line in the Rams game. For Seahawks to get the 6th pick in the draft the following would need to happen…

    1. Hawks lose to Rams. I’m giving us a 40% chance at the moment to win the game
    2. San Fran beats Arizona (should happen based off talent)
    3. Dallas beats Philly (Could happen with Vick not playing)
    4. Houston beats Jax (with as bad as JAX has played in 3 weeks, ya never know)
    5. Detroit beats Minnesota (Detroits won 3 in a row and Minnesota is Minnesota)
    6. Cleveland beats Pittsburg (Depends on how motivated Payton Hillis is)

    To me it looks as though a loss will slide us comfortably into the 8th-9th spot.

    • Kelly

      Added notes: I just read that both Garrard and MJD are out for the season finale. So theres no reason why houston doesn’t win that game. If the Hawks lose, its looking good that we will slide down the lowest possible.

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