Brian Billick's thoughts for April 18

BY foxsports • April 18, 2011

Billick examines Blaine Gabbert and ranks his draft prospects 50-41.

 

Blaine Gabbert | Draft Prospects 50-41

Gabbert is draft's top QB

 

Missouri's Blaine Gabbert is the best quarterback in an Alex Smith like draft. He may not be a franchise quarterback from the very first start, but because of the lack of overall quarterback talent in the draft, and with free agency being delayed, teams may be forced into drafting Gabbert as the savior of their franchise.

Gabbert is an outstanding athlete who shows great leadership and intelligence on the field, but he is inconsistent in his mechanics and doesn't throw an overly impressive deep ball. I do like the fact that he can make plays with his legs and doesn't have to have both set to get good zip on the ball, but in today’s NFL with teams stretching fields vertically, having a better deep ball would definitely make him even more attractive.

He has a slight hitch in his throwing motion that if removed would allow for a much quicker release. Coming from the spread offense, many times a quarterback is only given a single read or at the most two route reads and then pull it down and run. This is true for Gabbert as well, so him being able to read the defense and go all the way through his route progressions and then even dump the ball off the a check down tight end or running back will be a great maturation in his game.

When compared to Cam Newton, who is also drawing attention as the first quarterback to be selected, Gabbert has 933 passing attempts to evaluate on tape to Newton's 292 (12 of them coming from his time at Florida in 2007 and 2008). Having that bigger body of work, makes me more comfortable in determining how his game will translate to the NFL and seeing if he can make all the throws.

I have heard others comparing Gabbert to Matt Ryan, but I struggle to crown him franchise ready from Day 1 like Matt Ryan was. I think he can get there, but there will be much more of a transition period. Specific to this year's draft, I do think he is worthy of consideration for the first overall pick, but I think Carolina would be better off going with a defensive stalwart. To me, Gabbert makes most sense at three overall to Buffalo or five to Arizona.
 

Locker sits at No. 50

 

This week, I will be providing a top 50 prospect list leading into the draft. Remember, this isn't so much a mock draft, rather a player ranking of the best 50 prospects available.

In looking at rankings 50 to 41 what jumps out right away is the 50th player on my board is Jake Locker. Many believed that Locker could have been the first overall selection had he came out last year, and therefore him falling 50 picks would be surprising.

Not for me. With his career completion percentage of 54 percent, I wouldn't be comfortable taking him any higher than mid- to late second round. What may come as another surprise in the quarterback category is my placing of Christian Ponder higher than Locker. Ponder is my fourth ranked quarterback.

Ponder had the most "under center" snaps of all the top quarterbacks in this class and shows an elusiveness in the pocket with great footwork and keeping his eyes and shoulders downfield.

You will also notice the trio of wide receiver prospects in Torrey Smith (41), Titus Young (43), and Randall Cobb (48). In recent draft history, wide receivers who were selected in this same 41 to 50 grouping has been of great value to their respective teams. Players like Sidney Rice who was selected 44th overall in the 2007 draft and Eddie Royal at 42 in 2008. DeSean Jackson, arguably the most explosive big play receiver in the NFL, was selected 49th overall in 2008.

 

PLAYER RANKINGS, 41-50

 

Rank Name Pos. Height Weight 40-yard Bench Vert.
41 Torrey Smith WR 6'0 7/8 204 4.43 19 41
42 Ras-I Dowling CB 6'1 3/8 198 4.46 19 DNP
43 Titus Young WR 5'11 3/4 174 4.53 DNP DNP
44 Bruce Carter OLB 6'1 1/2 241 DNP 25 DNP
45 Christian Ponder QB 6'2 229 4.65 DNP 34
46 Ben Ijalana OG 6'3 5/8 317 DNP DNP DNP
47 Randall Cobb WR 5'10 1/4 191 4.46 16 33.5
48 Ryan Williams RB 5'9 3/8 212 4.61 19 40
49 Marcus Cannon OG 6'5 358 5.26 33 30.5
50 Jake Locker QB 6'2 1/2 231 4.59 DNP 35

 

 

For more analysis, follow Billick on Twitter at @coachbillick.



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