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Just The Sports: Blaine Gabbert's NFL Prospects: What Kind Of Pro Quarterback Will He Be?

Just The Sports

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blaine Gabbert's NFL Prospects: What Kind Of Pro Quarterback Will He Be?

To borrow a scene from Anchorman, when former University of Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert declared he would forgo his senior season to enter the 2011 NFL draft, I thought he was kidding and that it was all a joke. I even wrote in my diary that Blaine Gabbert told a very funny joke today and I laughed about it later. However, as time passes and Gabbert remains committed to entering the draft, I am left with no other option but to take his intentions seriously and predict just what kind of NFL quarterback he projects as.

Gabbert's play in his two years as starting quarterback for the Missouri Tigers provides strong indicators that if an NFL team uses a high draft pick to select him, it will be both a waste of a high draft pick and a waste of a large amount of money, and if he is ever given the chance to start for an NFL franchise, he will play poorly.

Gabbert's 2009 sophomore season, his first year as a starter, was one in which he completed 58.9 percent of his passes, gained 8.1 yards per pass attempt and 8.2 adjusted yards per pass attempt, and posted a 5.4 touchdown percentage (24 touchdowns) and 2.0 interception percentage (nine interceptions).

A college quarterback in a pro-style offense who only completes 58.9 percent of his pass attempts is bad enough, but for a quarterback playing in a passer-friendly spread offense, that completion percentage can best be described as atrocious. Gabbert's completion percentage was also only good enough to rank 61st out of the 115 qualifying FBS quarterbacks, meaning he was below-average in accuracy.

Gabbert's only saving grace his sophomore season was his 8.1 yards per pass attempt, which ranked him 24th out of the 115 quarterbacks. Unfortunately for Gabbert, yards per pass attempt do not translate to the NFL game as well as completion percentage so the import of his impressive yards per attempt mark is lessened.

Following up his less than stellar first year as a starter, Gabbert actually regressed as a quarterback in 2010. Right away, NFL teams should question his decision-making ability. Any player who thinks the right time to play in the NFL, a far more difficult level of football than college, is after he has shown himself to be getting worse as a quarterback should not be trusted to lead a team.

In his second year as a starting quarterback, Gabbert did manage to improve his completion percentage to 63.4 percent (a 7.6 percent increase), but he did so artificially. A legitimate improvement in accuracy would have been an increase in a quarterback's completion percentage while maintaining or increasing his yards per pass attempt.

Gabbert's yards per pass attempt, however, fell in 2010 to 6.7 (17.8 percent decrease) and his yards per completion fell from 13.7 to 10.6 (22.6 percent decrease). The only reason Gabbert's completion percentage increased is because this season he was throwing shorter, easier to complete passes and even with those easier passes, his increase in completion percentage could not match the decrease he experienced in yards per pass attempt and yards per completion, meaning he had a worse passing season.

Additionally, Gabbert became less proficient at throwing touchdowns with his touchdown total dropping to 16 and his touchdown percentage dropping to 3.4 percent (37.0 percent decrease), a fact made worse by the fact his 1.9 interception percentage is almost identical to his 2009 mark.

Even if one were to judge Gabbert's career solely by itself, it is not the resume of a player any NFL team should wish to have on its roster, but Gabbert's play becomes decidedly more unacceptable when one takes into account the play of his predecessor, Chase Daniel.

Daniel and Gabbert both played in the same offense at the University of Missouri and if Gabbert were truly an NFL-caliber quarterback, it is not too much to expect he would have put together a better career than someone who was not even drafted.

Instead, it is Daniel who blows away Gabbert in quarterbacking proficiency. Daniel completed 68.5 percent of his passes as Missouri's primary quarterback, gained 7.9 yards per pass attempt and 8.1 adjusted yards per pass attempt, and posted a 6.5 touchdown percentage and a 2.5 interception percentage. All of those numbers, except for Daniel's interception percentage which he makes up for with a higher touchdown percentage, are superior to Gabbert's career 61.2 completion percentage, 7.4 yards per pass attempt, 7.4 adjusted yards per pass attempt, 4.3 touchdown percentage, and 2.0 interception percentage.

Daniel's advantages in completion percentage and touchdown percentage are actually statistically significant ones.

Daniel was a much better pro prospect for the 2009 NFL draft than Gabbert is for the upcoming 2011 NFL draft and the fact he was not regarded as such was a major oversight; the reasons why he was overlooked are the exact reasons why some foolish NFL team will draft Gabbert despite his middling college career statistics: height and arm strength.

Gabbert stands 6'5, four inches taller than Daniel, and supposedly has a stronger arm that is able to make all the NFL throws, which is what far too many think is all a quarterback needs to play in the NFL; although in Gabbert's case, he will not make those throws accurately. Almost every single NFL quarterback is tall and has elite-level arm strength and yet, there are still terrible quarterbacks. If height and arm strength were really so important, then quarterbacks of equal height and equal arm strength would have equal careers, but that is not how it is.

Accuracy, as measured by completion percentage, is what should be used to distinguish quarterbacks more than anything else and Gabbert does not possess enough of this attribute to warrant getting a chance to start for an NFL team, or even make an NFL roster.

Gabbert is destined for a very undistinguished, brief, and insignificant NFL career because college quarterbacks who in their better season were not even top 30 in production and were below-average in their other season do not perform well against the best football players in the world.

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