The new SB Nation 2011 NFL Mock Draft is out with the NFL Combine finally in the books, and while Julio Jones is off the board early the major national story would be Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert cutting through the top 10 all the way to number one, to the Carolina Panthers. That’s quite a move for a guy who didn’t throw in the Combine, though he did almost outrun Cam Newton in the 40.
Gabbert is a seriously talented quarterback, and at just 21 he’ll have plenty of time to develop in whichever system drafts him. (It’s interesting that the prejudice against spread offense quarterbacks like Gabbert appears to be finally receding, now that NFL teams are looking more and more like their high-scoring college counterparts.) But I’d worry, if I were a Panthers fan, about Gabbert getting thrown into the fire early when Jimmy Clausen continues to scuffle; in terms of NFL-readiness he’s not quite Sam Bradford.
Cam Newton, if you’re interested, falls to the Minnesota VIkings at 12 in this latest mock draft. Because two years with Brett Favre wasn’t enough of a circus atmosphere for the Metrodome faithful.