I maintain that the most difficult assignment in sports is to identify a franchise quarterback through the college draft. Every year the teams that are looking for their QB of the future, scrutinize every play, interview, analyze and psychoanalyze all of the prospects to hopefully choose the right guy.
The year 2018 has been dubbed a great quarterback draft, but in reality, it is no different than any other year. Yes, there are talented players in college at that position, but all of them have question marks, and no one is a slam dunk obvious choice to make the transition from prodigy to franchise changer. Here are some of the questions scouts and analysts have about the potential incoming class:
- USC's Sam Darnold -- Is he ready to play in the NFL, or does he need another year in college?
- UCLA's Josh Rosen -- He might be the most talented quarterback in college but there are some character concerns.
- Wyoming's Josh Allen -- He plays on a poor team with no one around him. How will he handle processing information at the next level.
- Louisville's Lamar Jackson -- Incredible athlete with a great arm, but how will he translate at the next level.
- Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield -- Some compare him to Drew Brees or Russell Wilson, but his height is a concern, as well as some of his decision making.
I bring this up because Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert has walked this walk. In 2011, he was the 10th overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who the Cards play Sunday. Some thought he was a future star, others believed he would be out of the league in three years.
It didn't help that Gabbert went to a bad team, was thrust into the starting lineup before he was ready, and had limited weapons around him. The Jaguars tried to help him over the next couple of drafts, but the offensive players selected didn't pan out. Some questioned Gabbert's physical and mental toughness, or whether he could run an NFL offense. He showed flashes at his next stop, in San Francisco, but things eventually didn't work out there.
He made head turns this past August in Cardinals training camp, and Arizona believed that in Bruce Arians' system, with talented players around him, Gabbert would finally live up to his draft position. In his first start, he did not disappoint. Despite not having his best offensive player (David Johnson), his left tackle (D.J. Humphries), and several dropped passes by wide open receivers, Gabbert looked like an NFL starting quarterback. He had a career-high three touchdowns and gave the Cardinals a chance to win.
I'm intrigued to watch Gabbert this week to see if he continues to progress. If he plays like he did last Sunday, and continues to do so, he will be an interesting player to watch in the offseason. Will he be the Cardinals' next franchise quarterback? It's way too early to tell. One thing is for certain. While Gabbert may not have been ready to start coming out or college, or whether his supporting cast wasn't good enough in Jacksonville and San Francisco, he is a survivor. Those that doubted Gabbert coming out of college, and those who continue to doubt him have to take notice. His NFL story isn't finished being written just yet.