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Blaine's NFL decision may surprise some. Then again, it really shouldn't.
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Blaine Gabbert leaves Missouri as the second highest rated passer in school history.

 Technically, he'll go down in the record books as one of the best quarterbacks in Missouri history.  In just two seasons the former five-star recruit racked up an 18-8 record, 40 touchdown passes (3rd best in school history), and nearly 7,000 passing yards (4th best in school history).  However, Gabbert was far from an unanimous fan-favorite.  Often the subject of message board debates and idiotic and obscene tweets, Gabbert is easily the most polarizing figure in recent Mizzou sports history.  Some fans loved him for what he was, others couldn't get past the his five-star label and the fact he wasn't Chase Daniel.

Today, Mizzou's most polarizing man made a polarizing decision when he decided to take his talents to the NFL.  Like fans do, some will question the move.  Except, there's really nothing to question.  Blaine to the NFL is as easy of a decision as throwing to TJ Moe in the clutch.  You just do it.  Sure, his numbers don't leap off the page.  Sure, every pass he's ever thrown has been from the shotgun.  However, his case for leaving is still a no-brainer.

We'll begin with what the scouts are saying.  ESPN ranks Gabbert as the nation's second best quarterback prospect behind Andrew Luck.  They rank Gabbert as the 20th prospect overall, certainly first-round material.  In a recent mock draft, Todd McShay had Gabbert going fifth overall.
Then throw in the fact that Gabbert has all the physical tools.  Gabbert stands 6'5 235 lbs.  He's bigger and faster than Tom Brady (Not saying he's the next Tom Brady).  Gabbert has a big arm and showed throughout his time at Mizzou he can make any throw on the field.
Finally, throw in the fact that the 2011 NFL Draft is loaded with teams in need of a quarterback and you begin to realize just how easy this decision was.  Here are the top 12 teams in the draft:

  • 1. Carolina (Could select a QB - Not sure if Clausen is the answer)
  • 2. Denver (Unlikely they'll go for another QB)
  • 3. Buffalo (In need of a QB - Fitzpatrick can't be their long term plan)
  • 4. Cincinnati (Needs a QB - Carson Palmer's getting old, only a year left on his contract)
  • 5. Arizona (In desperate need of a QB)
  • 6. Cleveland (Likely set with Colt McCoy
  • 7. San Francisco (In need of a permanent solution at QB)
  • 8. Tennessee (If Vince Young goes, they'll need a QB)
  • 9. Dallas (Set)
  • 10. Washington (Desperately need a QB)
  • 11. Houston (set)
  • 12. Minnesota (Desperately need a QB)
That's eight of the top 12 teams in the draft that could be looking for a quarterback.  Five of those teams (Buffalo, Cincinnati, Arizona, Washington, and Minnesota) almost certainly will be addressing their QB needs in the draft.  If NFL scouts are as high on Gabbert as McShay is, Gabbert could go as high as 3rd overall.  Even if a few teams pass on him, a worst case scenario could be Seattle at 21.  With his physical tools, Gabbert is going to kill it in the NFL combine.

A lot of people are quick to compare Blaine to Josh Freeman.  Freeman was selected 17th by Tampa Bay in 2009 and led the Bucs to a 10-6 record this past season.  Gabbert and Freeman are similar in size (Freeman 6-6 250, Gabbert 6-5 235) and arm strength but their college careers don't compare.

In three seasons as the Wildcats starter (Granted, this was during the Ron Prince era) Freeman threw 44 touchdowns, an astounding 34 interceptions, just over 8,000 yards and while compiling a 17-19 record.  Blaine nearly betters all those numbers in just two seasons at Mizzou, yet Freeman has developed into a solid NFL quarterback.  Blaine can certainly do the same.

Keep in mind also that Gabbert is still relatively inexperienced for his age. He sat out most of his senior year of high school with injuries, threw a whopping 13 passes as a true freshman at Mizzou and played much of his sophomore year with an ankle about as stable as the US economy.
Blaine is making a decision that is best for him.  I wish him the best and I truly think he'll succeed in the NFL.  Meanwhile Mizzou will move forward with its second first-year starting QB in three seasons.  James Franklin and Tyler Gabbert have tons of potential.  The future is still bright for Mizzou in 2011.  However, I think the future would be a bit brighter with Blaine at the helm for one more year.  It's only a matter of time before Blaine's critics at Mizzou realize just how good he was. 
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