Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been considered a possible top overall selection by the Carolina Panthers in the upcoming NFL Draft since the draft's rumor mill started churning full-time several weeks ago. Yet in recent days, the overall stock of Gabbert has taken a hit, leading several high-profile writers from ESPN to Sports Illustrated to The Sporting News to believe Auburn's Cam Newton is the top quarterback target for most teams. The key question: is this real or is it a draft smokescreen?
Just today, Peter King wrote, "It feels like Blaine Gabbert is fading. I keep thinking the Bengals might give him a parachute at number four." King isn't the only one sensing such a trend, and given the dearth of NFL news with the labor issues in place, the only thing anyone is talking about football-related is the upcoming draft. This only makes Gabbert's fall echo even louder.
Yet any NFL fan who's been around long enough knows that the "news" that comes out concerning a player's supposed stock on draft boards is hardly ever credible. Instead, front offices use their sources as smokescreens a la Spy Hunter to throw other teams off of the trail. For every one choice clearly seen in the crystal ball (i.e. Tony Gonzalez to the Chiefs), there are 100 never-saw-that-coming moments in a typical draft. So the news surrounding Blaine Gabbert could simply be a product of teams wanting to lower his stock and preclude anyone from trading ahead of a certain team afraid he might not be there.
Then again, the quarterback class is particularly intriguing in a year without a clear standout prospect. Every QB from Newton to Andy Dalton has pros and cons, and it only takes one team to fall in love with a guy. Gabbert's potential could be enormous, but is it worth using such a high draft choice when another guy also entices? Therein lies the drama of the NFL Draft.
When all is said and done, there's enough smoke around Gabbert for enough time to believe there's a legitimate fire beneath his stock and he will turn out just fine. If Gabbert "falls" it will still most likely be within the top five draft choices. Then again, we've seen stranger things this time of year and Lord knows we could use some NFL news to get us talking about anything other than a depressing labor situation.