Today we continue our series of looking at possible draft picks in terms of what it means for the future of the Carolina Panthers, and today's discussion centers on Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert.
Some of the points that could be applied to Cam Newton also apply to Gabbert, like the organization planning for the long term rather than the short term and putting the rest of the NFC South on notice about their QB play- but in the interest of changing it up and present some fresh points there wont be mentioned here.
1. His football IQ in unmatched by other 1st round prospects
With the exception of Christian Ponder it is widely regarded that Gabbert has the highest football IQ among the 2011 QB class based on his performance in white-board tests and what we've learned of team discussions. The last decade has proven that players don't fail in the NFL based on poor physical makeup, but rather a poor mental one. Two key areas Gabbert is said to excel in is football IQ and work ethic, and history has shown that when these two abilities combine players don't bust very often.
The common knock on spread QBs is that the spread offense stunts the IQ of players who play in it, but QB coach Terry Shea whose been working with Gabbert the last three months says that he is every bit as smart and ready as his last two projects- Sam Bradford and Josh Freeman. That goes a long way in my book.
More after the jump
2. Gabbert makes the life of his WR/OL easier
Though he does have a propensity of leaving the pocket too early, what Blaine Gabbert does possess is an ability to move around the pocket and buy his receivers as much time as possible. This both allows WRs to get open more often, and also allows his OL to not have to hold blocks exceedingly long. Gabbert has the ability to extend plays through the air, and his ability to scramble and throw on the run is extremely reminiscent of Aaron Rodgers' last year at Cal.
This is coupled with the quickest release in the draft and a solid release point meaning balls batted at the LoS will be a thing of the past with Gabbert under center.
3. He has a magnetic personality
On the surface this seems to be the kind of comment better suited for a dating profile than a scouting report, but one thing we learned from Jimmy Clausen last year is that being like-able and affable are important traits for a QB to have. Gabbert has spent time fishing with fellow prospects Christian Ponder, JJ Watt, A.J. Green and others- he has a natural ability to relate and get along with players from other teams and all walks of life.
He's described as being a laid back, country boy without any delusions of grandeur; he just lives and breathes football, fishing and cooking, wanting to be the best player he can be in the process. This attitude would quickly endure him to the blue collar players of the Panthers without friction.
4. Gabbert knows how to squeeze as much talent as he can out of the players around him
As it's currently projected the Missouri teams Gabbert has played on will only send four players to the NFL (WR C Tim Barnes, TE Michael Egnew and WR T.J. Moe). Despite playing on teams devoid of top end talent he led the Tigers to a 10-2 season. Two players typify just how much Gabbert meant to their development- Danarrio Alexander and Michael Egnew.
With QB Chase Daniel under center Danarrio Alexander caught 78 passes for 997 yards and 8 TDs in three years. When Blaine Gabbert took over Alexander caught 113 passes for 1,781 yards and 14 TDs in his final season.
Michael Egnew was considered a Two-Star recruit without much upside in the NCAA. With Gabbert under center he finished 2010 with 762 yards and 5 TDs while being named an All-American. In an offense that figures to use passes to the TE heavily, Gabbert already has a familiarity with getting good production from the position.
5. He's used to playing on an offense with a propensity to run the football
Missouri had one of the highest run percentages in the NCAA last year as their running backs ran the ball on 41% of their plays. This is unusually high for a spread offense like this to rely on RBs running the ball like this, and is one of the reasons Gabbert touchdown stat is lower than ideal, Mizzou liked to run the ball in the red zone.
What this means in the NFL is that he has a natural understanding and ability to take a step back, follow the play that is called even if that means he's not being featured in it. Gabbert has a smooth backpedal under center, and though it needs some work his PA fake is serviceable. Ultimately this means he can step in sooner, call plays with confidence in the huddle and be okay taking a back seat to the RB when needed.