Under the advice of his agent, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert didn’t throw at the NFL Combine, but he did display some Hall-of-Fame hair.
(Quick aside: Several writers — myself included — agreed the blonde-haired, 6-foot-5 Gabbert was a quarterback straight off a Hollywood lot. Think stereotypical stud quarterback, “Kush,” in Jerry Maguire although the articulate Gabbert, I’m sure, had a higher Wonderlic score than Jay Mohr’s star client.)
Anyway, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he didn’t need to see Gabbert throw in Indianapolis. Based on the tape, he’s a huge fan. Mayock sees four quarterbacks with first-round ability: Gabbert, Auburn’s Cam Newton, Washington’s Jake Locker and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallet, but Gabbert is the only one he viewed as a top-10 pick coming out of the combine.
It’s possible Gabbert will be gone prior to the Niners’ pick at No. 7. And it’s possible the Niners won’t target a quarterback with their first-round selection. If they do address the quarterback situation first, however, Gabbert, if available, is obviously a logical candidate.
According to Mayock, Gabbert will have a more difficult transition to the NFL than other spread-offense college quarterbacks such as Sam Bradford and Matt Ryan because he operated almost exclusively from the shotgun at Missouri. As a result, Gabbert didn’t make five-step drops and half his throws, in Mayock’s estimation, were “catch, rock and throw where there’s no footwork whatsoever.”
If Gabbert’s footwork is behind the NFL curve, though, Mayock says he proved he could make big-boy throws in college. Missouri didn’t have a dink-and-dunk spread, which gave Gabbert plenty of opportunities to make the type of throws he’ll need to complete at the next level.
“The thing I like about the kid is I charted every throw he made in at least six games and (Missouri did) have an intermediate throwing attack,” Mayock said Sunday at the NFL Combine. “So it’s not just under 10 yards like a lot of spreads. He throws the ball in that 11- to 20-yard zone, which, to me, defines an NFL quarterback. I don’t care about the 10-yard throws. I don’t care about the 50-yard throws. Arm strength, to me, is not a 50-yard throw. Arm, strength, to me, is the 18-yard comeback. The 20-yard-dig. In between a window. Anticipating all those linebackers and safeties.”
• Is Gabbert a franchise quarterback? Not surprisingly, Mayock thinks so. A Cincinnati writer asked Mayock if it would be a reach to take Gabbert at No. 4. Mayock said he’s worthy of the first overall pick.
“If I’m telling you he’s a top-10 pick, I’m willing to put my butt on the line and say he’s a top-one pick,” Mayock said. “I mean one’s part of 10. Bottom line to me, if I’m telling you a kid’s a top-10 pick, I believe in Blaine Gabbert. And you know me, and you know my belief about franchise quarterbacks. They trump every other need. If you don’t have those guys, you don’t win in this league. You just don’t.”
To illustrate his Franchise Quarterback vs. Every Other Need philosophy, Mayock pointed to the 2008 draft. Miami took left tackle Jake Long, a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first three seasons, with the No. 1 pick. Atlanta took Matt Ryan two picks later.
Said Mayock, “You have two franchises going in different direction based on that one pick.”
• Mayock is withholding top-10 judgment on Newton while acknowledging the Heisman Trophy winner has some impressive qualities.
Big arm? Check. Mechancis? Very good. Certainly better than Vince Young or Tim Tebow coming out of college. Personality? Charisma? Mayock says Newton “lit up the room” when interviewed on NFL Network.
The questions that remain to be answered: Can he transition his game to the NFL after playing in Auburn’s grade-school-level spread and, of course, there’s the entertainer-and-icon conundrum.
“Once you get a certain baseline skill set as a quarterback, the most important thing to me is ‘What kind of kid are you?’” Mayock said in discussing Newton. “Are you the first one in the building in the morning? Are you a leader of men? Do you watch as much tape as your quarterback coach? Can you process and assimilate information? Those are the hard parts about evaluating a quarterback. Not looking at his feet or his arm strength.”
• On the subject of Newton’s focus, the issue came up indirectly during his media session Saturday when he was asked why he chose to work out in San Diego prior to the combine.
“For me, I felt like it was best for me to be isolated,” Newton said. “I know myself and I know how focused I needed to be, especially during this time, making the biggest interview of my whole life. I needed to be more focused than ever.”