Big Ten? Bah. ’11 draft talk is all the rage By Dave Matter Tuesday, May 4, 2010 http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2010/may/04/big-ten-bah-11-draft-talk-is-all-the-rage/?sports Advertisement A recent story on Sports Illustrated’s website created a buzz among Missouri fans — and it had nothing to do with Big Ten expansion. In fact, the next 700 words will be refreshingly free of any Big Ten speculation. But last week, SI.com’s Andrew Perloff looked into his crystal ball and projected every first-round pick of the 2011 NFL draft, an adventure in forecasting that seems about as reliable as predicting the end to tonight’s episode of “Lost.” Granted, mock drafts are made to be mocked — especially a year in advance — but the fact that one year ago the same writer correctly guessed five of the first six selections in last month’s draft gives him a smidge of credibility. Anyway, relevant to all things MU was Perloff’s pick at No. 9: Buffalo Bills, Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. Gabbert will be a junior this fall, making him eligible for next year’s draft. Wrote Perloff, “The knock on Gabbert will be the Missouri system that helped Chase Daniel put up huge numbers. But because of his size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds), Gabbert is a different kind of prospect than Daniel and teams will believe more in the stats.” That might seem a bit premature based on Gabbert’s erratic 2009 season, though in fairness, his worst outings were performed on one working ankle. Nonetheless, as a sophomore, Gabbert nearly threw for 3,600 yards, tossed 24 touchdowns to nine interceptions and completed 59 percent of his throws. Not bad considering MU’s running game was a mess most of the season and his receiving corps usually amounted to Danario Alexander and … well, Danario Alexander. After last night’s ROARS Awards show at Mizzou Arena, I asked MU offensive coordinator David Yost if he was aware of those early 2011 draft projections. He didn’t seem surprised, nor concerned. Yost said he’ll discuss any draft decisions with his quarterback when the time’s right. “I’ll tell him, ‘You’ve got to have a great season this year, and after the season, like we do with all our guys, we’ll evaluate what’s best for you. We’ll sit down with our coaches and family members. But our whole hope is getting you to become the best quarterback you can be and leading us to as many victories as you can,’ ” Yost said. Yost doesn’t have to read a magazine’s projections to know that Gabbert’s measurables and passing skills will stand up against most draft prospects, whether that’s in 2011 or 2012. Regardless how Gabbert’s junior season turns out — barring a complete regression or another injury — he’ll more than likely impress scouts with his size and ability to uncork a football, just like Kansas State’s Josh Freeman did last year, when, despite a lackluster college career, his measurables earned him the 17th overall selection to Tampa Bay. Also, Gabbert should benefit from the NFL’s more tolerant approach to quarterbacks from spread offenses. Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Florida’s Tim Tebow were first-round picks last month despite playing predominantly in the kind of spread formations that for years have carried a stigma with NFL coaches. Prejudices against shotgun quarterbacks from no-huddle systems seem to be thawing. “Whatever you do,” Yost said, “you better get good advice that’s truthful and be realistic about where you’re at so you’re not surprised or shocked after making a bad decision.” Gabbert might not be Missouri’s only underclassman with a draft decision to make. As Aldon Smith walked to the stage last night to accept his award as MU’s male rookie athlete of the year, a highlight package replayed all four of his sacks from last season’s win at Colorado, a day Smith spent terrorizing NFL prospect Nate Solder. Smith laughed at the idea of entering the draft early, though with such a premium on gifted pass-rushers, the defensive end could earn such an opportunity with another strong season. “Not on the radar at all,” he said. “I’ve had a couple people mention it, but I want to see how next season goes. And the season after that and the season after that.” But, in the same breath, Smith admitted he thinks about the NFL every day. The dream fuels his workouts, and seeing former teammate Sean Weatherspoon become a first-round pick two weeks ago only made the dream more palpable. “That’s what you start with when you’re young and just learning how to tackle,” he said. “You always want to get to the NFL. That’s the goal. I was playing against Spoon just a couple months ago, and now he’s making money. So it’s reachable.” So there you have it, Missouri fans, another storyline to distract you from the latest Big Ten conjecture. Reach Dave Matter at 573-815-1781 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.