NFL Draft  


Newton might have critics, but some say Gabbert isn't special


At this point, everything about Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has been dissected. From his throwing motion to his collegiate system to his alleged indiscretions and yes, even his smile. It's part of what comes with the territory as a player who could be choosen at the top of the NFL Draft -- and because he's a quarterback.

Missouri's Blaine Gabbert has not faced as much public scrutiny, but some of the teams who are evaluating quarterbacks are picking apart his draft profile as well. We've all heard about Gabbert's issues with accuracy on deep throws and that his adjustment to playing under center could take some time.

I've recently spoken to scouts and coaches who simply haven't been blown away by Gabbert. In their film evaluation of Gabbert, I was told there is just nothing special that jumps out. He's good. Nobody is saying he can't play. It's just that typically, a top quarterback takes over a game or two, leads some signature drives and, at times, looks like the best player on the field, one person said. You just don't see that with Gabbert, he added.

When I asked if Gabbert's 16 touchdowns to nine interceptions was problematic, I was told many talent evaluators aren't looking at it closely. The feeling is there are a variety of reasons why touchdown numbers could be low, or that interception numbers could be unimpressive.

"It's just what you see on film," one person said of Gabbert.

Or what they don't see. The sources I have spoken with regarding these matters are people that I really trust and I always keep in mind that this is a period of disinformation. At the same time, when I hear similar things from multiple people it resonates.

I have yet to be told that Gabbert and Newton don't project to be great players. No one has that crystal ball. I'm regularly told that each has tremendous upside and the skills to function at a high level for years. That, frankly, might be enough for most teams. Although if teams draft a quarterback in the top 10, they want him to produce -- or at least show signs of it -- right away.

As one coach said, "That's what we're here for. To coach them up and make them better."

The varied opinions on Gabbert and Newton are very interesting. They are really all over the place, and it's what makes this so different than the recent drafts. Opinions on Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez and even Josh Freeman were all for the most part favorable leading up to the draft. That was especially true with with Stafford and Bradford, the first overall picks in their respective drafts.

You just have to wonder that if Gabbert or Newton were in the draft with any of those players - or even if Stanford's Andrew Luck had entered this draft -- if either would be under consideration as a top-10 pick.

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The 'other' top running back

Alabama's Mark Ingram has been almost the sole focus among running back draft prospects, at least when it comes to possible first-round options. But there seems to be a player who might be infringing on Ingram's turf: Illinois' Mikel Leshoure.

Leshoure (6-foot, 227 pounds) has piqued the interest of several teams, including the Dolphins, who hold the 15th pick -- and no second-round selection. Leshoure has a private visit scheduled with Miami and five other teams, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Leshoure -- "a big, talented kid," according to one general manager -- rushed for a school record 1,697 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2010. Leshoure can also carry a heavy load, averaging 21.6 carries last season. It also doesn't hurt that he comes from a system that recently produced productive running back in Pierre Thoams of the Saints and the Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall.

Huge pro day for Bowers

Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers might have the most important pro day of any draft prospect Friday.

Bowers must show he's healthy
Da’Quan Bowers has yet to take the field to audition for NFL teams since having arthroscopic knee surgery, so his workout on Friday is extremely important, says Gil Brandt. More ...

» Scout's take: Quinn vs. Bowers

At one time considered to be the potential No. 1 overall pick, questions about his health (he had knee surgery after the season) and one-year dominance have dropped his stock. The biggest questions surround his knee. I've been told multiple times by multiple sources that there is damage to the knee besides the meniscus injury that was arthroscopically repaired.

Some teams could be concerned about the long-term durability of the knee, but I've been told -- not by anyone affiliated with Bowers -- that structurally the joint and its main parts are sound. If Bowers shows well on April 1 and checks out medically in follow-up workouts, he will regain some traction.

The pro day isn't the end-all for Bowers because he can recoup any shortcomings in private workouts. But teams like to see how players handle themselves in front of large audiences -- and there will be one at Clemson.

The timing of the pro day could help or hurt Bowers. It comes a day after North Carolina's, where defensive end Robert Quinn, who is rated alongside Bowers as the top prospect at the position, will work out. Scouts will have a fresh basis for comparison between the players.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.



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