Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com spoke to new Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert at the 2011 NFL draft.
A few years ago, when many NFL experts were heaping praise all over David Garrard, I never bought into the hoopla. Apparently, the Jaguars have finally and officially decided that Garrard will never live up to previous expectations. Of course, anyone with even a casual interest in the Jaguars has known for some time now that Garrard is nothing better than adequate overall. Garrard has shown great flashes of promise in the past, but will never be able to guide his team to any real significant success.
There is now realistic hope for the Jaguars and their fans. Newcomer Blaine Gabbert has the look of a winner in many ways. He has quality mechanics, excellent timing and can accurately place the ball right where he wants it. Gabbert is confident, very smart and very talented. He seems non-plussed by the aura and challenges of the pro game.
“I consider myself a sound decision-maker,” Gabbert said. “It’s a process. Once you get your feet wet in the games, you’re going to adjust.”
Gabbert then had a pointed message for members of the media who often ask rookies about how much of a learning curve they face when making the leap to pro football.
“College is a pretty fast game. You guys don’t realize it.”
Gabbert’s cocksure attitude about playing in the NFL could work for or against him. If he is not intimidated by playing at the next level, he can only succeed quicker than some expect. Of course, there is always the good chance he could get taught some hard lessons early in his career.
One of a quarterback’s most precious assets is his confidence, though, and Gabbert has been hailed as mentally tough. The Jaguars may not elect to start him right away, either, saving him some possible struggles early in his career. Gabbert is not viewed as an immediate impact pro starter, yet he is considered a student of the game and may truly benefit from sitting and learning for at least a little while before he starts to lead the Jaguars onward and upward.
Of course, Gabbert is ready to break camp and start contributing as much as he can, right away. He doesn’t sound like a guy who is going to get flustered under a heavy pro pass rush.
“I am excited to get down there, learn the playbook, and compete with all of the other quarterbacks on the roster,” he said. “I want to get in the playbook and learn that as fast as possible.”
Gabbert majored in finance at the University of Missouri, and his prime goal during the offseason is to finish his degree, he said. Gabbert performed well academically in college, and the Jaguars saw enough in him as both a player and a person to trade up for his rights in the first round of the NFL Draft. Jacksonville moved up six spots to No. 10, and it appears they may have secured their future with Gabbert, who may turn out to be the best passer in this year’s class.
Gabbert is an impressive package as a passer. He has a strong arm, and puts great touch on the ball while fitting his throws deftly into the desired windows. He can work well on the run without compromising his accuracy. He is athletic and strong. Yet he also has the intangibles that add to his outlook as a pro standout. He can mesh well into an existing system, has a fine work ethic and is regarded as a very sharp guy.
“It’s your responsibility to align the team in the right place and being a smart guy on the field and in school helps you pick up things and understand defenses faster,” Gabbert said of his role as a quarterback and team leader.
Gabbert is also very cognizant of his own strengths, and how they will help him gain advantages at the NFL level.
“Nothing is going to be perfect on any snap, and the ability to create something after your first, second, third read — it’s extremely important for a quarterback to have that ability. (Moving) in and out of the pocket is definitely one of my strengths.”
Of course, let’s not pretend Gabbert is going to instantly become the next superstar sensation, either. NFL experts have suggested he sometimes quakes under pressure and can have trouble moving through his reads at times. He sometimes locks on to one receiver and does not throw the deep ball well, some critics have said.
Still, Gabbert is not wavering in his approach to his new job.
“At the end of the day, football is football.”
That may not include Fantasy Football, though.
“That’s up to you guys,” he said to the media.
It appears Gabbert is ready to handle anything that comes his way. The Jaguars certainly made an admirable move to nab a guy who has all the tools, physically and otherwise, to take their team to new levels in the future.
Scott Engel joined RotoExperts.com in 2008 after four years at ESPN.com, where he was an Associate Editor and Fantasy Writer. He began his career as a Fantasy professional in 1996 at CBS Sportsline, where he served as Managing Editor of Fantasy Sports and Senior Writer during his tenure. In 2006, Scott was named Fantasy Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in his first year of eligibility. Since joining RotoExperts, Scott's work has also appeared regularly on NFL.com and Yahoo Sports. Scott hosts the RotoExperts morning drive program on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio. In 2011, Scott was inducted into the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame as a member of the inaugural class. You may email Scott @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @scotteRotoEx