The Jacksonville Jaguars seem to specialize in drafting "unknown" players in the NFL Draft. It was no different for the majority of the 2011 NFL Draft. Their pick in the first round however, most of us know. Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert was widely considered as the best overall quarterback in this year's draft class. Most also didn't expect him to fall all the way to the 10th overall pick. I was able to catch up with Dave Matter, Missouri beat writer for The Columbia Daily Tribune and pick his brain a bit about Gabbert.
Blaine was one of the top "pro-style" recruits in the country, what made him wind up at Missouri?
Blaine developed a strong relationship with Missouri's quarterbacks coach David Yost during the recruiting process, and even though MU's spread offense might not have been the perfect fit, it was going to give him the chance to throw the ball 30 times a game and showcase his arm.
What does he excel at, what is he known for on the field?
He's smart. He understands defenses. His arm strength, pure velocity, is as good as I've seen from a college player. And he's a much better athlete on the run than you'd expect for a 6-5, 235-pound guy. He's not very quick laterally, but once he gets moving, he's actually pretty fast running in a straight line.
What is something he'll really need to work on at the NFL level?
I don't think the shotgun-to-under center transition will be that big of a deal. Missouri had at least two series during every practice where the QBs took under-center snaps. He was an under-center QB in high school and has taken thousands of snaps since the end of the season working out in Arizona. The real adjustment is going to be having to read defenses and going through his progressions from a different angle as he's dropping back into the pocket. An average pass rush seemed to spook him in the pocket sometimes the last two years, but MU's offense usually dictated that he go into scramble mode if his first two reads were covered. He'll have to develop some pocket awareness at the next level, but that's true for most rookie quarterbacks.
How is Gabbert known as far as being a hard worker, film study?
He's intense when it comes to preparation. In interviews he can come off as being nonchalant, but I've watched film with him and had him explain coverages and progressions, and I was impressed with how football savvy and how intense he was when it comes to knowing all there is to know about what's unfolding on the field. He came to Missouri with this reputation as a golden-armed five-star recruit who was a product of the national camp circuit, but I think he resented being cast in that light and that motivated him to become more than just a big body with a big arm. I think being a top-10 pick will give him the same drive, to know Jacksonville's offense inside and out.
What's something about Gabbert off the field Jaguars fans should know about, non-football related?
He doesn't have a really outsized personality. In fact, Jacksonville might be an ideal smaller market environment for him. He's definitely a kid from the suburbs, but he likes outdoors stuff, fishing especially. He likes to cook a lot and then tweet photos of his meals. He's apparently big on steaks and asparagus. I noticed the Jaguars' official Twitter site tweeted that he comes from a small town in Missouri, Ballwin, but it's misleading to think he's a country boy from some rural area. Ballwin is in an affluent part of St. Louis county, just west of the city.