The draft order has been set. Soon, the players will start declaring. But in the overanalyzed world surrounding the NFL draft, the stock of Blaine Gabbert seems to have already been set very, very high. So high in fact that we might as well come out and predict a proper placement now: the Buffalo Bills.
There are two things standing in the way of the University of Missouri quarterback falling to the No. 3 pick in the draft. First, Andrew Luck might actually go back to school and stick around for another season. Most commendable young players will say this, as if the college experience and earning that four-year degree is really worth putting off millions of dollars, chancing an injury, losing your head coach (Jim Harbaugh) and three starting senior linemen. Yet when it comes down to draft time, I'd still expect Luck's name to be on the list and consequently heading to the Carolina Panthers.
If Luck is there, Gabbert becomes the second-best quarterback in the draft. Ryan Mallett has a killer arm but question marks about some his decision-making ability. Cam Newton is the big name, but Gabbert's widely regarded as the better pro talent. Jake Locker should be laughed off of boards after his failure to come up big game after game this year. Luck, however, is the only quarterback that will force the Panthers to forget about Jimmy Clausen.
So if Luck isn't available, the Panthers will look to fill another position. The Broncos, with the second pick, have already invested in Tim Tebow (more than Carolina, so that's not a viable comparison), leaving the Bills next. The Bills have a major lack of depth and playmaking ability at the most important position on the field, so taking a QB should be the right step -- especially when choosing so high. Some fans have become enamored with Ryan Fitzpatrick and rightfully so, but when you have a top spot like this, you grab the franchise quarterback and worry about who makes it later on.
Better yet, Gabbert doesn't have to play immediately if Fitzpatrick is still in house and making plays. But the ceiling is much higher with Gabbert than it is with Fitzpatrick, so the Bills should strike early and make the choice. Offensive line is the Bills' greatest need, but there's no one to warrant the payday that will come with the No. 3 position in the draft, so unless they trade out, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Gabbert taken with the pick. Of course, anything can happen between now and draft day in late April, but it never hurts to get it out there.
After all, "I told you so" has a nice ring to it.