The best things come to those who wait. That might be exactly what happens for new head coach Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers when it comes to the draft stock of Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. With so many quarterback needy teams in the top of tonight’s first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the proposition seemed ridiculous in recent weeks. Yet that’s exactly what ESPN’s Mel Kiper believes might take place in just a few hours.
Ultimately, it’s less about Gabbert’s falling stock or great questions surrounding his game than it is about the great defensive talent available in this year’s draft. Patrick Peterson is a surefire shutdown corner, a highly valuable commodity in the pass-happy NFL. The same can be said for great pass rushers, and names like Von Miller and Marcel Dareus are taking up spots on draft boards that Gabbert might occupy in another given year. As Kiper explains:
While Jim Harbaugh has taken the dignified route and stated how much he wants to work with Alex Smith, I think it’s pretty fair to assume the Niners will be looking for a long-term solution for their new coach. Harbaugh’s track record says he should have confidence he can turn Gabbert’s solid skill-set into something at the NFL level. Like Newton, this isn’t a quarterback you want starting games in 2011, but if San Francisco is patient, Gabbert is a player it can build with.
That last part I would disagree with, given that no one seems to sit a rookie quarterback anymore. The new way to solve quarterback issues is to throw them at the wall like pasta and see what sticks — that’s what happened last year in Carolina and Arizona. Even late round rookie picks like John Skelton, Tony Pike, Joe Webb and Rusty Smith saw immediate action. If San Fran selects Gabbert, you have to believe he’ll see plenty of action in 2011.