Is he really the 1?

Blaine Gabbert has a chance to be the first overall pick in April’s NFL draft? But is the Missouri passer a true No. 1 quarterback?

There seems to be some debate, even after Gabbert completed his Pro Day workout today.

SI.com’s Tony Pauline – in a review labeled “Gabbert Excels At Pro Day” – said, “By all accounts, his day was a success and left teams with a lot to think about.” Pauline’s bottom-line assessment: “Overall the effort was a good one, so much so that teams basing draft boards on the results of Pro Days should now have the name of Blaine Gabbert atop Cam Newton’s.”

But another source from a “QB market team” told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that Gabbert was, “Solid, but not elite, certainly not Bradford or Stafford.” Those two – Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford – were the top picks in the draft the past two years by the Rams and Lions.

Gil Brandt of NFL.com was at the workout and offered, “Gabbert couldn’t have done better had he borrowed Drew Brees’ right arm.”

Yet another source characterized Gabbert’s workout as an “8 (on a scale of 1-10)” to NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang. The on-hand scout pointed to “little issues intermediate and deep,” but added “good velocity and accuracy on the move.”

How does this happen? How can scouts at the same workout come away with such a variety of opinions?

I was at Steve Emtman’s Pro Day at the University of Washington on March 25, 1992. Pretty much the entire NFL world turned out to see the Huskies’ highly decorated defensive lineman do his thing.

Emtman did not disappoint. His workout was – in a word – stunning. Checking in at just a shade less than 6 feet 5 and 289 pounds, he popped a 36-inch vertical jump, did 29 reps with 225 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds.

But during portions of the workout, I was standing near two scouts from teams selecting at the bottom of the first round. After Emtman rocked the joint with that 36-inch leap, one of the scouts turned to the other and said, “I’m not giving him that one. His feet weren’t completely parallel.” After Emtman powered through his 29 reps, and looked as if he could have kept going, the other scout said, “I’m not giving him the last two. His elbows weren’t completely locked.”

Those two exchanges got me thinking. If either of these scouts was to talk with a local reporter who asked about Emtman’s workout, I’m sure the answer would have been, “It wasn’t as good as you’ve heard. I wasn’t that impressed.”

The Indianapolis Colts were. They had five people at Emtman’s workout, including then-general manager and now owner/CEO Jim Irsay. “I think it seems very likely he will be the No. 1 pick,” Irsay said at the time.

The Colts then selected Emtman with the first pick overall. Injuries ended his NFL career before it could really get started, but that did not diminish what Emtman had done on that day in March.

Regardless of what some might have tried to tell you at the time.


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