Monday, March 21, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Is Missouri's Blaine Gabbert Just Another Chase Daniel?

Blaine Gabbert could be the number one overall pick when the 2011 NFL Draft rolls around. Most scouts and experts praised his performance during his pro day last week and even more say he could be a starter in the NFL from day one.
In the words of the great Lee Corso, "not so fast my friend!"

I'm not going to bash the former Missouri quarterback because his numbers show what kind of quarterback he was for the Tigers.

Through two seasons as the team's starter, Gabbert amassed 6,779 total passing yards, 40 touchdown passes, and 18 interceptions.

His completion percentage improved from 58.9 percent in 2009 to 63.4 percent last season but his yards per attempt dropped from 8.01 in 2009 to 6.71 this past season. Another stat that jumps out at you, or at least it should, is his touchdown passes falling from 24 in 2009 to 16 last season but his interceptions stayed exactly the same (9).

While I'm sure there are teams who are drooling over this young man right now, I can't help but wonder if he's the spitting image of another Missouri quarterback who also came in to an NFL Draft after back-to-back huge seasons as a starter.

In fact, this quarterback was the starter before it became Gabbert's job.

From 2006 to 2008, Chase Daniel became a star for the Missouri Tigers. After passing for 3,527 total yards and 28 touchdowns in just his first season as a starter, he would trump those numbers in each of his next two seasons.

In 2007 Daniel finished with 4,306 passing yards and 33 touchdowns, throwing only one more interception (11) than the previous season (10).

For an encore, he finished the 2008 season with 4,335 passing yards and 39 touchdowns. His completion percentage that year was an astounding 72.9 percent (385/528).

His three years as a starter, Daniel set school records in just about every category. Yet, despite all that, there wasn't an NFL team who was willing to give him a chance on draft day.

He watched as pick after pick, round after round, went by and his name failed to be called.

Daniel would eventually sign as an undrafted free agent with the Washington Redskins in April of 2009 but he was cut by the team on September 5, 2009. The final day of cuts. One day later, he was signed by the New Orleans Saints' practice squad and eventually beat out Patrick Ramsey for the backup job to starter, Drew Brees.

With the kind of numbers Daniel was able to put up, he still went undrafted. However, his successor seems to be close to a lock to at least be a top five pick.

The question that seems to be stuck in my mind is, why?

If you look at the numbers Daniel put up and compare them to the two seasons Gabbert started at Missouri, why is one receiving a ton of hype while the other was left out in the cold?

One person I asked told me it had everything to do with the height difference in the two players. Gabbert is listed at 6'5" while Daniel is listed at just at even 6'0." If size is really what we're going to talk about, may I introduce into evidence a Super Bowl champion quarterback by the name of Drew Brees who is also listed at an even 6'0."

It seems there is a love affair going on with a quarterback who, to me, doesn't seem all that different from another Missouri quarterback who came before him.

They can hype this young man up all they want, but when it comes time for him to perform on the field will he disappoint and fall to a full-time backup who may never see a starting role.

I'm not going to sit here and jinx him at this point. Besides, Gabbert could be every bit as talented as the scouts and experts say and he could come out of the gate as the best rookie quarterback in a long time.

But, on paper, I just don't see where the hype is coming from.

Combine and expectations aside, is he really a better prospect than Chase Daniel was coming out of college? Or are they more alike than most experts are willing to admit?

The Carolina Panthers have the top overall pick in the draft next month. Do they believe they have a "do not miss" quarterback with this young man?

It will be interesting to see if the hype surrounding Blaine Gabbert continues or if another name starts to make his way up the draft board, pushing the former Tiger further behind everyone else. While I'm not questioning his talents or abilities, I am questioning if teams really believe he's as good as advertised.

As so many say about quarterbacks outside the BCS conferences, the NFL is a much faster game.

Follow Todd Kaufmann @T_Kaufmann and National Football Authority @NFAuthority on Twitter

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