Positives: Great size, arm strength and accuracy. Has solid mobility and while he might not look graceful as a runner once he gets going he can really pick up a lot of yardage. He has solid vision too and has a good feel for when he should just tuck it down and take off. He has plenty of zip on his throws to make passes from the left hash to the right sideline without a problem, and he can make just about any throw. He has overall terrific ball placement and does a great job of leading his receivers, even against good man coverage, to give them plenty of opportunities for yards after the catch. He has shown flashes of the ability to anticipate his receivers coming open and I have seen him throw a few of his receivers open, but his offense isn’t necessarily conducive to that. He does a good job throwing against man coverage and zone coverage alike because of his accuracy. He can carve up zone coverage with ease and does a great job of combining arm strength, accuracy, timing and touch to throw passes down the seam or down the sideline in-between two defenders for impressive completions. As I said before he is accurate enough to complete passes to his receivers even against blanket man coverage because of his ball placement. He has shown some signs of pocket poise and he has a solid feel for when pressure gets there. I think he progressed in this area as the season went on because he looked better in this aspect against Iowa than he did in all of the previous games I watched him in. And even when he scrambles or moves in the pocket he does a terrific job of resetting his feet and delivering throws with good footwork and mechanics. He has a quick release and he does a great job going from not being set to throw to setting his feet and delivering the ball. He seems to throw better on the run when rolling to his right than he does when he is rolling to his left. He also makes good decisions a lot of the time he throws the ball, which might sound simple, but he throws the ball a lot in his offense and thanks to a largely inconsistent running game he ends up in 3rd and longs more than most QB’s I have scouted this year. However he consistently delivers good passes after making a good decision on where to go with the ball. And if there isn’t a good place to throw the ball he will extend the play and 90% of the time he will throw it away instead of forcing a pass into coverage. That maturity to throw the ball away and not risk a costly turnover is one of the more impressive things about him as a prospect in my opinion.
Negatives: I hate the offense he plays in. It isn’t even close to a NFL offense. I kept track of how often he was working with four and five wide receiver sets and in the games I watched I would say it was at least 80 if not 90% of the time. That is one of my biggest problems with him as a prospect. He will have to work on his footwork on his drops because he rarely if ever made a three or five step drop from under center. That can be coached up though. I am not sure how well he reads defenses because a lot of his reads involve him simply looking at one side of the field and then throwing the ball. He isn’t usually asked to scan the field or go through a lot of progressions. How well he does in the NFL will have to do with how well he learns to use his eyes and how hard he works to learn how to read defenses better, etc. So the offense he plays in definitely makes me wary of him as a prospect. I have a couple other red flags that came up when I watched him. One is his trouble with pocket poise at times. As I said earlier I think he has gotten better in this department, but he still has work to do in my opinion. I would say the majority of the times that he scrambles he is leaving the pocket prematurely, meaning he could have stayed in the pocket or stepped up if he needed to buy more time. That is something I would like to see him improve on, but as I said he flashed the ability to do this more as the season progressed which is encouraging. He also struggles with deep balls. This might sound simple, but the vast majority of his deep passes end up incomplete because he overthrows his receivers. This might have something to do with all of his receivers running 4.5’s or slower (in my estimation) but he should still know to take a little off of it or put a little more air under it to let them run under it after playing with them for two years. But his deep passes, at least in the five games I saw of him, were really the only passes that he struggled to throw accurately with any kind of consistency. Perhaps this won’t be as big of a deal with faster receivers, but not everyone on the team is going to be a burner, so it is worth mentioning that he struggles with ball placement on his deep passes. And, while minor, I think he needs some work on squaring his shoulders when scrambling and attempting to throw on the run. He is pretty good at throwing on the run when moving to the right as he is right handed, but he struggles much more in this area when moving to his left. An additional concern I have is how well he will transition to the NFL because he won’t be throwing the ball as often as he did in college on a regular basis. I don’t think it will be a serious issue, but I wonder how well he will be able to get into a rhythm without throwing the ball as often as he did in college. I’m sure he would trade a chunk of his passing attempts for a more consistent and effective running game though, so this might just be me over-thinking things.
Overall: The mark of an effective or even great QB involves a few things: Winning, being effective in the red zone and making big throws late in halves, games and on 3rd downs. Gabbert won a lot of games for just being a two year starter, including an upset of then #1 Oklahoma this season. He is efficient in the red zone despite having almost no running game to keep the defense honest and he makes a lot of good throws late in the half, late in games and especially on 3rd downs. I have to say I was skeptical of Gabbert at first, especially because I am not a Todd McShay fan and he was high on Gabbert, but I was really impressed with what I saw when I watched him play. I took 13 full pages of notes on him so I could learn everything I could about him since I hadn’t seen him play much before, and he is now my #1 QB in this draft class because of Andrew Luck’s decision to stay in school. I would have had him ranked in my top 10 prior to this but probably at about 5 or 6, I just never thought he would declare this year. Now that he has and I have watched him a lot I feel perfectly confident ranking him #1 on my 2011 QB rankings. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to a NFL offense, and while I may be high on him there is no guarantee that the transition will go smoothly. But he has the size, the arm strength, the accuracy and the mechanics to be a successful NFL QB. I wish I could interview him to get a sense for his football IQ, but I think he has pretty good intangibles. I don’t think they are on Matt Ryan’s level, but I think they are adequate. If he has a good football IQ, good intangibles and a good work ethic like I think he does I think he will be a good starting QB in the NFL. Will he be great? I’m not sure. He has the tools to be a great QB, I just don’t know enough about his intangibles and work ethic to say he has that kind of ceiling.
Projection: Top 10. With Luck not declaring there is going to be a vacuum in the top 10 for teams looking for QB’s. Luck wouldn’t have made it out of the top three anyways, but I don’t think I could spend a top 10-15 pick on Locker right now, and I don’t like Mallett much in the top 20 and some teams figure to be turned off by him from interviews based off of what I have heard. That makes Gabbert a prime candidate to leap-frog them all and come off the board first of all the QB’s. I don’t think he warrants the #1 pick to Carolina, but I could definitely see Buffalo or the 49ers picking him in the top 10. He would get a top 15 grade from me, but thanks to the lack of quality QB’s in this class I think he has a great shot to go in the top 10. That makes his decision to declare this year look really smart in my opinion.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
ARM STRENGTH: 4.5
DECISION MAKING: 4.0
POCKET AWARENESS: 3.0
Sorry about the lull of posts lately, I am back and ready for scouting reports. I’ll have my A.J. Green report up tomorrow and my Justin Houston one up after that! I am also going through all of my Alabama games, so expect reports on Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, James Carpenter and Marcell Dareus soon! Hopefully you enjoyed my scouting report on Gabbert. He is a really intriguing prospect. It will be interesting to see where he ends up.
Thanks for reading!