|Considered one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2011 draft, Blaine Gabbert works out for NFL scouts at Missouri's pro day.|
The crowd at Missouri's pro day Thursday included Denver Broncos vice president John Elway and coach John Fox, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee coach Mike Munchak.
The Carolina Panthers, who have the draft's top choice, sent several representatives. Coach Ron Rivera was scheduled to attend but did not.
Gabbert is a likely first-round pick and hopes to be the first quarterback chosen in the April 28 draft ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, Washington's Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas. Some draft analysts project him as the overall top pick.
Gabbert, who is leaving Missouri following his junior year, said he embraces the prospect of being a top pick. He's represented by powerhouse agent Tom Condon, whose QB clients include former first-round picks Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman, Matt Stafford and Sam Bradford.
Bradford was selected as the top overall draft choice in 2010 by the St. Louis Rams, and, like Gabbert, was a quarterback who had to convince scouts he could transition from throwing out of the shotgun in a college spread offense to taking snaps under center.
Like Condon's other clients, Gabbert chose not to throw at the Indianapolis combine in late February, making Thursday's showcase even more important for the NFL talent evaluators.
"This is fun,'' Gabbert told a throng of reporters after his workout. "I'm going to be happy with whoever picks me.''
Gabbert completed 44-of-49 throws in a scripted sequence laid out in advance by private quarterbacks coach Terry Shea. The script included hitch passes, fades, deep outs, five- and seven-step drops, rollouts to his left side and more - with a makeshift cast of four small-college, draft eligible receivers whom Gabbert had to rely on thanks to restrictions under the NFL lockout.
The receiving corps from Division II schools Central Missouri and Northwest Missouri State and Lindenwood of the NAIA had three drops. But at least one of the crew - wide receiver Jamorris Warren - turned enough heads to earn an invite to private team workouts, including an Arizona Cardinals' session next week in Columbia where he will again play catch with Gabbert.
Not all the NFL contingent came to see Gabbert. Sculpted defensive end Aldon Smith, also projected as a first-round pick, impressed scouts with his athletic ability, agility and untapped potential. Center Tim Barnes is also expected to be chosen in the draft.
Both Condon and Gabbert said that they have not decided whether to sit out next month's draft ceremony in New York should the labor impasse still be in place.
"I'm not really educated on the subject,'' Gabbert said. "But the draft is a month-and-a-half away. I'm confident they're going to work things out.''
In the meantime, the courtship continues. Gabbert dined with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday night, with the Vikings picking up Thursday night's tab.
Shea said that he doesn't expect his latest pupil to wait very long before hearing his name called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"I see him as the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft,'' Shea said. "I remember the journey we traveled last year with Bradford. When I first met Sam, the Rams were talking nothing but two great defensive tackles. By the time it was over, Sam Bradford was the No. 1 pick. Blaine Gabbert is in that same class.''