2011 Draft Bust: Blaine Gabbert

This is copied and pasted from my original post over at Music City Miracles.  We had a good discussion in that thread, but I'm really looking for some additional feedback.  Specifically, I have yet to hear a good reason why Blaine Gabbert is a legitimate draft prospect other than, "Mike Mayock says so."

I cannot understand where this national recognition for Blaine Gabbert has come from.  Lately, there are even comparisons to Sam Bradford popping up.   I find myself watching NFL Network at night, and as Mike Mayock continues to pimp Gabbert I can't shake the feeling that Ashton Kutcher is just waiting to pop out and tell me I've been Punk'd.

Let me first start with a little background here.  My family has ties to Missouri, and, while I didn't attend the school, I have been following the football program for some time now.  And, as I developed an unhealthy obsession for the game of football over the past 5 years, I've watched a lot of their games.  So, this shouldn't be taken as a dislike for Gabbert, or anything of that sort.  I'm a fan of the kid, and really hope he pans out in the NFL.  That said, I still don't "get it".  

All of this stems from the fact that I don't get sold on the hyped combine metrics.  Big Arm.  Good 40 time.  Huge vertical.  Those things are great, but I need production before any of that matters.  Without production, these "measurables" mean nothing.  

Gabbert doesn't have that production.  To further that point, follow me through the jump.  We'll take a look at two examples:  Chase Daniel, as it gives us some comparison within the same system, and Sam Bradford, to illustrate the gigantic disconnect in production between the two players.

Completion % TD% INT% YPA

Sam Bradford (So.)

67.9 10.3 1.6 9.77
Chase Daniel (Jr.) 68.2 5.9 2.0 7.65
Chase Daniel (Sr.) 72.9 7.3 3.4 8.21
Blaine Gabbert (So.) 58.9 5.4 2.0 8.07
Blaine Gabbert (Jr.) 63.4 3.3 1.9 6.71

*Before we begin this first exercise, let's make one thing clear.  This is not, and should not, be an argument for the superiority of Chase Daniel as a college QB (even though the statistics would support that argument).  Rather, this is meant to illustrate a)  The type of production that is to be expected in the Mizzou spread offense and b) the disconnect between the idea that 4" in height and worse production should be the difference between a first round grade and being undrafted.  I'd also like to note that in both of Daniel's season outlined above he attempted more than 500 passes (563 as a Junior, and 528 as a Senior).  Gabbert never cracked 500 attempts (445 as a Junior, and 475 as a Senior).  With more attempts, you'd expect per play statistics to drop off, however that is not reflected in the data.

Watching Mizzou over the past 5 years, I've come to discount their gaudy statistics.  With the insertion of Southlake Carroll product Chase Daniel, Missouri increasingly began to put up inflated passing numbers.  Just as one would write off others production to the system (Timmy Chang, Graham Harrell, Colt Brennan), I began to do the same for Chase Daniel at Missouri.  So, it came as a bit of a shock when, as the college season progressed in 2010, Blaine Gabbert's name started moving up draft boards.

Not only was Gabbert not thriving in Mizzou's system, he actually regressed as a Junior.  His TD% as a Junior isn't even half that of Daniel's as a Senior.  Translated to the NFL, Gabbert's Junior Season 6.7 YPA would have been good for 24th in the NFL, tied with Chad Henne.  By contrast, Sam Bradford, who is compared to Gabbert more and more each day, had a YPA of 9.77 in his last full college year.  That's not even the worst of it, Gabbert's TD% would be 25th in the NFL.  His INT%, really the only highlight of his statistics, would just crack the top 10.  

The first reaction to this many will have is that college isn't the NFL.  However, that's precisely the point.  Gabbert, if he were a top talent in a pass happy system, should be putting up statistics that are out of this world.  Instead, he can't even surpass his predecessor who was deemed undraftable.  And, now we're supposed to believe that he'll be able to step into an NFL system and suddenly be more productive than he was in a system that is designed to inflate production?  Excuse me if I'm a little skeptical.

Last, but not least in my mind, the kid struggles when it matters.  With the Big 12 South Title in their control, Gabbert laid a huge egg against one of the worst defenses in the Big 12, Texas Tech.  12/30 95 Yards 0/0.  To his credit, he had a big game the week before against Oklahoma, but the wheels really fell off after that, culminating in a 1 TD/2 INT game in a loss against Iowa in the Insight Bowl.  Gabbert struggled similarly in his bowl game year before against Navy, completing less than 50% of his passes, and, again, throwing 1 TD and 2 INTs.  Are these really the types of performances you'd be willing to risk a top ten pick on?

Before taking the blind leap onto the Gabbert bandwagon just because Mike Mayock or Todd McShay says to, do a little research.  Watch the tape.  Look at the statistics.  Impressive interviews and 40 times are great, but none of that matters if it can't be translated to the gridiron.

As we wrap this up, I'll leave you with some final numbers to digest.  Below are how Gabbert stacked up against the rest of the nation this year in passing categories.

QB Rating:  64th

Yards/Game:  25th

Yards/Attempt:  78th

Completion %:  32nd

TDs:  57th

INTs:  41st

Yards:  21st

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