Blaine Gabbert's hype starts today

My longtime friend and former co-worker Tom Sorensen created quite a stir Wednesday when he wrote that all signs are pointing to the Carolina Panthers taking Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the first overall pick.

He also added a couple qualifiers that said the Panthers at least seem to be trying to convince the NFL world of that fact and maybe they’re hoping to trade down.

A lot of people took this to mean Sorensen was reporting the Panthers are -- almost absolutely -- taking Newton. But a lot of those people were taking things too literally and not getting what Sorensen was really saying.

Let’s start with a little lesson in the world of newspapers and journalism. Beat writers cover the facts. Columnists provide analysis of the news and opinions. The lines have blurred in some cases as the journalism world has restructured itself extensively in recent years. A certain blog network took a group of former newspaper beat writers and essentially asked us to stop being traditional beat writers and start using our past experience to write mostly analysis and opinion.

Sorensen’s a great columnist, capable of crossing lines some columnists, who write off the top of their heads, don't. He’s got some good sources, so he sometimes ends up writing news or columns that contain some strong hints at the news.

I think his Wednesday piece fell into the latter category. Sorensen was analyzing what’s already known. There’s no doubt the Panthers have been doing extensive homework on Newton, and that’s basically what he wrote. Does he have some vibe that the Panthers are leaning in that direction? I don’t know for sure, but Tom’s not the kind of guy to just throw things out without having some insight.

But let’s remember, this wasn’t written as a flat-out news story, and Tom didn’t definitively say whom the Panthers will be drafting No. 1. He just said the signs seem to be pointing in that direction.

The draft doesn’t start until April 28, and a lot of signs can change direction between now and then. Heck, that could even start happening Thursday.

You’re going to see all sorts of stories that Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert is having his pro day today and is scheduled to have a private workout with the Panthers this weekend.

Will the signs suddenly switch to the Panthers drafting Gabbert? Maybe so, or maybe it will just appear that way. Don’t read too much into that, because if you really think about it, it’s highly unlikely the Panthers have made any firm decision on either quarterback or even if they’ll take one with the first pick.

That’s largely because they’d be foolish if they didn’t wait until now to take a hard look at Gabbert. Today will be the first time he’s thrown publicly since he concluded his career in the Insight Bowl. He didn’t throw at the combine. Sure, the Panthers probably have watched hours of tape on him from college. But it wouldn’t be wise to make any decision until seeing Gabbert.

The Panthers will get two chances to see him throw extensively the next few days, and it’s likely they’ll at least narrow their thinking on quarterbacks after an up-close look.

Oh, by the way, there’s a little more on the quarterback front this morning. Our Chris Mortensen reports that Gabbert scored a 42 on the Wonderlic. That’s a great score and only one point behind Alabama’s Greg McElroy, who turned in the highest score of all the quarterbacks. Newton’s score was 21. That’s rather mediocre and only one point ahead of Washington’s Jake Locker, who had the lowest score of the high-ranking quarterback prospects.

Is the Wonderlic going to make Carolina’s final decision? Is Gabbert’s workout going to be the one deciding factor?

No, this is a process, and general manager Marty Hurney is a methodical guy. His signs have pointed toward Newton so far, but Hurney and the Panthers aren't going to be done until they read all the signs.