There's something that's really been puzzling me as we get closer to the 2011 NFL Draft: Where is the buzz surrounding Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert?
But what have you heard about Gabbert?
We know Gabbert is going to be one of the top two quarterbacks selected in the draft. Even that, based on draft history, enhances my point. Didn't we hear a lot of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco at this point when they were about to be drafted in 2008? What about Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman in 2009? And let's not even get into the Sam Bradford-Tim Tebow-Jimmy Clausen discussion last year.
There is just something peculiar about there being so little buzz about a quarterback who some believe is going to be a top-five pick -- or even No. 1 overall. The people in the league who I've spoken to about Gabbert generally have positive things to say and think he's going to be good as a starter for a long time. Then again, none of these people has been blown away by what they've seen on film, either.
The relative league silence could mean that teams really like Gabbert and are trying to divert attention. It also could mean they don't like him and are trying to divert attention. It also might simply mean there really isn't much to discuss that hasn't already been discussed, and the evaluations and vetting are complete. So, that's that.
With the lockout keeping players and teams apart, there is a chance that the current rookie class could be denied time during offseason mini-camps and OTAs to get acclimated to their coaches, playbooks, and the simple intricacies like practice and training tempo. Should that be the case, all of the immediate-impact talk that myself and a lot of my media brethren keep talking about could be minimized.
Could Newton, Gabbert, Mallett or Christian Ponder be expected to start Week 1 with a month's worth or work? Maybe, but the offense likely would have to be scaled back, which could restrict other players. How about cornerback Patrick Peterson learning coverages or Anthony Castonzo managing new protection schemes against zone blitzes he's never seen?
Rams general manager Billy Devaney doesn't see it as an issue because he views the draft more as a process, not a quick fix. Free agency and trades are the quick fixes.
"It's not going to change our approach," said Devaney, whose 2010 first overall draft pick, Bradford, started the entire season and won Offensive Rookie of the Year. "2011, it's an important season, but there's going to be a 2012 season, a 2013 season. Come draft time, that's what it is. You try to find the right player for the short term and long term, especially high picks.
"They have to be long-term fixtures. People always say we want guys to come in and start right away. This is a hard league for rookies to come in and play for a lot of reasons. People aren't going to alter their draft boards (because of the lockout). Plus, everybody is in same position, and we're operating under the same rules."
Even so, last season, a boatload of rookies -- particularly first-rounders -- stepped in and helped their teams immediately. Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Eric Berry, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Maurkice Pouncey, Earl Thomas, Rob Gronkowski, and Devin McCourty were among several first-year difference-makers.
There is little doubt some rookies will step up because of veterans who could start slowly, especially those on teams that have changed head coaches or coordinators. Still, the limited offseason could steepen the learning curve.
On the move
One prospect who seems to be currying favor with some teams is Clemson defensive back Marcus Gilchrist. The appeal not only is that Gilchrist can play three positions -- cornerback, nickel cornerback and safety -- but that his knowledge and acumen have been very impressive during interviews. Gilchrist is also a punt and kick returner.
Gilchrist is projected to be a third-round pick with a shot of getting into the second round. Because of his ability to play special teams and learn quickly, you'll probably hear about him possibly competing for a starting sub-package role shortly after he's drafted.