Former Ravens head coach Brian Billick calls it an Alex Smith-like draft. The rough definition of an Alex Smith-like: a draft in which quarterback-needy teams are forced to take a passer despite having no elite prospects. The best of the bunch, says Billick, is Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, who has scheduled a visit with Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers, according to CSN Bay Area.
Gabbert is entering the draft as a junior, he played in a spread offense in college, he aced his Wonderlic, he's represented by Tom Condon and he wears No. 11. If this is an Alex Smith-like draft, then he's Alex Smith. Smith, however, had considerably better stats coming out of Utah in 2005. His completion percentage was better (67.5 vs. 63.4) than Gabbert's and he threw for more touchdowns (32 vs. 16) and fewer interceptions (4 vs. 9 for Gabbert). He also was the better rusher, albeit in a softer defensive conference. Smith ran for 631 yards and 10 touchdowns his junior year. Gabbert ran for 232 yards and scored five touchdowns.
Gabbert took more pass attempts, 475, and threw for 3,186 yards. But he averaged fewer yards per attempt (6.7) than Smith. Smith attempted 317 passes for 2,952 yards with a 9.3 yards-per-attempt average. One of Smith's biggest critiques in the NFL is that he is too cautious and too reluctant to throw the ball down field. His highest per-attempt average came last season -- 6.9 yards.
In mock drafts, Gabbert most often goes to Buffalo or Arizona. However, the beat writers in those cities, notably Arizona, don't see their respective teams taking a quarterback. If they're right, Gabbert could wind up dropping to the quarterback-starved 49ers at pick No. 7. If he does, what do they do ...?
-- Matt Barrows