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With Potential To Be 1st Round NFL Draft Pick In 2011, Will Blaine Gabbert Leave Missouri?

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Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert is being predicted by some as a first or second round draft pick. But will he return to Mizzou for his senior season?

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Mizzou football has had a nice run of quarterbacks in recent years. From Brad Smith to Chase Daniel and now Blaine Gabbert. He's just a junior right now so, more than likely, he'll have a major decision coming up in a few months.

Gabert can stay in school and make a run at a national championship with Mizzou (unlikely?) or he can take the money and head to the NFL draft next April.

Right now, NFL draft prognosticators are predicting Gabbert to be a first or second round pick -- if he decides to come out. Here's what ESPN's Todd McShay has as his top five quarterbacks entering the 2011 NFL draft.

a. Andrew Luck, Stanford (1)
b. Jake Locker, Washington (10).
c. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (17).
d. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri (return to school for senior year).
e. Christian Ponder, Florida State (46).

McShay's prediction is that he returns to school but is that the best prediction? I generally lean towards wanting players to leave school early if they'll be a first round pick, particularly a quarterback, since so much can change.

The advantage to being a low first round pick, like some think Gabbert could be, is that you're probably placed into a nice situation. If a team is picking at the bottom of the first round, more than likely they have their quarterback and are looking for a replacement a couple years down the line. That would be ideal for Gabbert, if he comes out early. Generally, juniors need a little more time to adjust to the pro game.

Gabbert has put up major numbers, like Chase Daniel did, but, unlike Daniel, he's got the NFL size. He's 6'5" and 235 pounds which is Peyton Manning size. Having the right size, and the arm strength which Gabbert clearly has, is usually the first obstacle in looking at the draft. He's got those things down.

Now he can focus on having a big time junior season as Mizzou. But at some point, the questions will start coming more often and at some point he'll have to make a decision.

Pinkel's last two quarterbacks -- Chase Daniel and Brad Smith -- stayed at Mizzou their entire careers. But neither of those guys are the prospect that Gabbert is.

We'll see how the season goes but I think Gabbert is going to be facing a very good problem in a few months.