It’s in Blaine Gabbert’s best interest not to throw at combine

Missouri Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert throws the football in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri on October 23, 2010. Missouri defeated Oklahoma 36-27. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

I just read an article written by Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic that left me scratching my head. (No, not because I can’t read. I readed good.)

In the article, Boivin draws comparisons between first round bust Matt Leinart, who decided not to throw at the scouting combine five years ago, and Missouri prospect Blaine Gabbert, who has decided not to throw at this year’s scouting combine.

This season’s quarterback class is an intriguing one, and eight of the best are scheduled to be in Indianapolis. Only one – Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert – has opted not to throw for scouts.

That’s the same Blaine Gabbert that some analysts think will be drafted by the Cardinals.

Many have done it, but it still is a red flag when a player opts to skip a workout. It screams, “I’m hiding something.”

Hiding something? Nobody questions Gabbert’s arm strength, unlike in 2006 when the majority of pundits wondered whether or not Leinart could make all the throws at the next level.

The main concern about Gabbert is whether or not he can take snaps from under center after running the spread offense at Missouri. That’s something you can’t really dispel at the combine and seeing as how he’s regarded as the top quarterback prospect in this year’s class, why wouldn’t Gabbert wait until his Pro Day to throw? He would be well rested and working out in a controlled environment while throwing to his own receivers. (Unlike at the combine, where he doesn’t know the receivers and would have to throw after a full day of poking and prodding by NFL officials.)

Scouts may be anxious to see Gabbert throw this week, but his agent Tom Condon has the right idea here. Choosing not to partake in certain workouts at the combine rarely hinder a prospect that is regarded as the best at his position. Gabbert’s stock may have fallen according to some pundits, but it’s unlikely that he falls out of the top 10 just because he chooses not to showcase his arm in Indianapolis. NFL teams look at the entire body of work when it comes to a player, as they should.

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Five players with something to prove at the 2011 NFL scouting combine

Honestly, there’s not one player who doesn’t have something to prove at this year’s scouting combine. Along with how they perform at their Pro Days, the combine might as well be a job interview for draft-eligible prospects. But below are five guys who stand out as players who have a lot on the line this week in Indianapolis.

Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Reports have surfaced that Mallett bypassed entering the 2010 draft because he had a drug addiction problem. There are also concerns about his decision-making, his leadership abilities and whether or not he can stand up to pressure when the pocket collapses. Some have even labeled him the next Ryan Leaf, which is the kiss of death for any quarterback prospect. But even with all the questions that surround him, he’s 6-6 and 238 pounds, is an ideal pocket passer and has a cannon for a right arm. He won’t run or do any of the agility tests at the combine, but he will throw and interview with teams. I have no doubt that he’ll impress scouts with his physical skills, but he better put his best foot forward during interviews because teams will want to know what kind of character he has. Passing the mandatory drug test wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
Quinn missed the entire 2010 season for his involvement in an agent scandal. If he played well last year (or played at all), he may have been the top pass rusher taken in this year’s draft and a surefire top 10 pick. But because of his suspension, he won’t be able to live on his physical skills alone. There’s no doubt that he has the talent to be better than Aldon Smith, Da’Quan Bowers, Cam Jordan and the rest of the defensive ends in his year’s class, but the time is now for him to start erasing doubts about his character.

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Top 5 most NFL-ready draft prospects for 2011

It’s difficult to gauge whether or not a prospect is NFL-ready heading into the draft because we have no idea where he’ll end up. I may like Ryan Mallett as a prospect, but if his best fit is in a vertical offense and he winds up in the West Coast, well then he might not pan out. And that’s not my fault if he doesn’t. It’s your fault, NFL Team.

But based on their physical skills and strengths as they apply to the next level, here are the top 5 most NFL-ready prospects in my eyes.

1. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Hands down, Green is the most NFL-ready prospect in this year’s draft. What I like most about him is his body control and balance. When he runs routes, he’s fluid getting out of his breaks and he uses his quickness to separate from coverage. He could stand to be more physical at the line of scrimmage and when the ball is in the air, but that’s not to suggest he doesn’t have great leaping ability or he doesn’t locate the ball well (because he does). He also catches passes away from his body, is good about getting up field after he secures the catch and he uses his hips incredibly well (an important trait that all players must have at the next level).
Best Fit: Cincinnati or Cleveland. Both teams run a version of the West Coast Offense, which relies on receivers to run a lot of horizontal routes (think sideline to sideline) and force defenses to stretch itself across the field. I would love to see Green wind up with the Browns because I think he would fit in well with the receivers they already have on the roster (i.e. Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs, Chansi Stuckey and Brian Robiskie) and he would give Colt McCoy a true No. 1. But if the Bengals release Chad Ochocinco, I could see them pulling the trigger on Green at No. 4.

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