Gabbert inspires opposing views

March, 18, 2011
3/18/11
2:20
PM ET
Blaine Gabbert is now on our AFC West radar thanks to Denver’s John Elway and John Fox attending Gabbert's pro day on Thursday.

Couple the fact that the Broncos’ brass was at Missouri’s pro day with the news of their plans to conduct a private workout with Washington quarterback Jake Locker, we have to assume the Broncos will consider taking a quarterback in next month's draft. However, I still have a difficult time buying the idea that the Broncos would bypass major defensive needs and take Gabbert with the No. 2 overall pick.

I guess anything is possible. So, it may behoove us to take a deeper look at Gabbert.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay was at Gabbert’s pro day and came away impressed. Here are some of McShay’s thoughts on Gabbert’s performance:
He was quick and smooth in his drops and almost always threw with good balance, getting the ball out quickly while transferring his weight from front to back and following through well.

Gabbert's mechanics were much more natural than what we saw from Auburn's Cam Newton during his recent pro day, and because Gabbert is much more consistent with his feet he was more consistently accurate as a passer. Newton has the stronger arm (though Gabbert's arm is more than adequate), but I'll take accuracy over arm strength every day of the week.

It was not a perfect workout and there were some instances when Gabbert's timing with a relatively unfamiliar group of receivers was off, but overall he showed the expected accuracy and I come away still convinced that Gabbert is the top quarterback in the 2011 class. He is a more natural passer than Newton and is much cleaner from a character standpoint, and Gabbert has everything NFL teams look for in terms of intangibles, leadership, football intelligence and work ethic.

Gabbert also has a chance to separate himself from Newton a bit over the next few weeks as he interviews with various teams and gets on the white board to show off his X-and-O knowledge.

Of course, when it comes to the NFL draft, there is always an opposing opinion.

In an Insider piece, KC Joyner explains that he thinks Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett is a better prospect than Gabbert. Here’s part of Joyner’s criticism of Gabbert:
Gabbert's footwork in and out of the pocket was fine, but he seemed quite uncomfortable when situations called for him to freelance. Gabbert's mind seemed to operate in the same manner. For example, he was very successful for most of the game against Iowa because the Hawkeyes tend to sit back in coverage.

He ran into trouble when Iowa mixed things up. A great example of this occurred in the middle of the fourth quarter, when a Hawkeyes linebacker blitzed -- something that Gabbert didn't seem to expect. His reaction was to scramble to his left, even though one of the Tigers' offensive linemen peeled out to pick up the late blitz. Gabbert then put his head down while running toward the sidelines and didn't turn his head to look downfield until he had run nearly the entire width of the field.

Will the Broncos side more with McShay or Joyner on Gabbert? We’ll find out in 41 days. But I’d be shocked if Gabbert ends up a Bronco.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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