NFL DRAFT 2011 ~ Statistical Analysis of Blaine Gabbert


News: Blaine Gabbert 2011 - Fantasy Football Draft 2011

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By R.C. Fischer

NFL Draft 2011:  Statistical Analysis of Blaine Gabbert, the Likely Bust QB

*An on-going series of putting college QBs in our mathematical analysis. We don’t have all the needed data until the 2011 NFL Combine results, but we can assume some of it (for now) and we have all the game performance/statistics.

See this link for details on the College QB rating system -- Predicting the Unpredictable…Projecting a College QB to the NFL with a Mathematical Formula

Blaine Gabbert, Missouri - NFL Draft 2011

Almost everyone is in love with Blaine Gabbert right now...

He is the "hot" QB prospect of the moment. I'm not exactly sure why. He has the prototypical QB size (6'5, 240), he "looks like a QB". A closer look into Gabbert's 2010 statistical passing performance compared to other QBs of this past decade will reveal some serious questions on Gabbert's pro prospects. The thought process for the "Gabbert-detractors" is the fear that he is a by-product of a "spread" offense/a shotgun offense -- and that has merit as a concern. However, I would submit that even playing within a high pass attempt offense at Missouri -- that Gabbert really underperformed within it from a statistical standpoint.

Our QB mathematical/algorithm system looking at college data to project success in the NFL would reveal that Gabbert is not the best QB prospect available in the 2011 NFL Draft, and in fact our data would project that he may not make it as an NFL QB at all. There are some major statistical red-flags that jump right out on Gabbert that I am shocked draft analysts are not talking about. Future NFL elite QB's did NOT have red-flag metrics when we developed this system. Gabbert has a major one -- a red-flag passing metric that no QB had in college and then went on to be a success in the NFL (of the 60+ QBs we have studied to this point in the past decade). Let's look at a few of the Gabbert red-flags in detail:


RED FLAG -- Performance against best opponents

Gabbert had 9 games against opponents with a winning record in 2011 that we analyzed for his comparison ratings, but there were 3 specific games within those 9 key games that really stood out for me. A game at home vs. Oklahoma (12-2), followed by an away game with Nebraska (10-4), and finally a Bowl Game vs. Iowa (8-5). Three top-level opponents, facing more pro-talent level defensive players, and battling against more elite coaching staffs as well.

In those 3 key games (OKL, NEB, Iowa):

  • Gabbert had just 3 Passing TDs with 3 INTs

  • just 1 passing TD in each of those key 3 games, no multi TD games

  • 3 games with 141 passing attempts -- and just the 3 passing TDs

  • a pace of just 1 Passing TD for every 47 pass attempts, which as I have studied over 60+ QBs now in their final college season, is a terrible passing metric/indicator for Gabbert projecting forward. A passing metric that is way off the pace of the college performance of current NFL elite QBs (and more of the pace of future bust NFL QBs).

Some will say…"But, Gabbert had 434 yards passing against Iowa in the Bowl Game...that's awesome!" We don't focus in on just stat compilations, they are very misleading -- we look at the fact that in the 2010 Bowl Game vs. Iowa he also had 57 pass attempts in the game!! That’s only 7.6 yards per pass attempt. That would project to 266 passing yards in a game at a more normal 35 pass attempts. What's scarier is 57 Pass Attempts with only 1 Passing TD.

Looking at those 3 "key" games is not to also mention Gabbert's 12 of 30 passing game for just 95 yards against Texas Tech (8-5). Gabbert had 0 TDs (or INTs) in that game.

Future big-time NFL QBs are more apt to throw for 2+ TDs in a game, in almost every game they play in their final college season -- no matter who the opponent is (tough or not). Gabbert had only 3 of 9 key 2010 games (tough/winning record opponents) with 2 or more Passing TDs. Tom Brady was 7 of 7 with 2+ Passing TDs in key games his final college season, Sam Bradford did it in 9 of his 9 key games his final full season. The elite NFL QBs (Brady, Brees, Manning, etc) had 84.3% (group avg) of all their key games their final season with 2+ passing TDs  a game -- where as Gabbert had only 2+ passing TDs in 33.3% of his key games. A major red-flag on passing prowess. 

I don't typically look at games beyond the current/final season for a QB, but as a Junior in 2009, Gabbert had 4 "top" opponent matchup games to look at = vs. Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma State and Navy (Bowl). Guess what? No games with 2+ Passing TDs. In fact, 3 TDs and 7 INTs in those 4 games. There are no signs of elite passing prowess digging further into Gabbert.

Sam Bradford played in the same conference (Big-12) right around the same time period as Gabbert and "ripped up" every opponent no matter how tough they were. Gabbert has really not "ripped up" any tough opponent…he's barely been mediocre against tough opponents. Not only has he not shown a passing TD prowess, he plays in a system that passes all the time. Given the "spread" offense and high levels of passing attempts, Gabbert should have had double the passing TDs (Gabbert had only 16 Passing TDs in 13 games in all of 2010 games played).

His Passing TD metrics are so bad, I can’t believe more attention is not being drawn to it.


RED FLAG -- Overall TDs per Pass Attempt metric

Gabbert has one of the worst overall Pass Attempts per Passing TD metric of the 60+ QBs I have studied so far (key games/opponents only). A look at the 7 worst QB's so far in our system:

  1. 52.5 Pass Attempts per TD = Kevin O'Connell (2007 San Diego State/NY Jets, via released by NE Patriots)

  2. 47.0 = John Skelton (2010 Fordham/Arizona Cardinals)

  3. 46.8 = Jevan Snead (2010 Ole Miss/undrafted)

  4. 32.9 = Charlie Whitehurst (2005 Clemson/Seattle Seahawks)

  5. 31.9 = Matt Leinart (2005 USC/Arizona Cardinals)

  6. 30.4 = Zac Robinson (2010 Oklahoma State/New England Patriots)

  7. 30.3 = Blaine Gabbert (2011 Missouri/2011 class)

  8. 29.0 = Colin Kaepernik (2011 Nevada/2011 class)

  9. 26.8 = Colt McCoy (2010 Texas/Cleveland Browns)

  10. 25.7 = Mike Kafka (2010 Northwestern/Philadelphia Eagles)

Not exactly a Hall-of-Fame roster of QBs. No QB of all the ones we have studied so far this past decade has been over 30+ Pass Attempts per Passing TD against winning record/tougher opponents and then made any impact in the NFL. A few of whom had high hopes and totally busted.

When we refine the look at this metric in the key games and add weighting to the data for the level/strength of the opponents faced...Gabbert falls to an even lower 6th worst on our list.

How important is the TDs per Pass Attempt number? The elite QBs (Brady, Brees, Manning, etc) are all at 15-19 Pass Attempts per every Passing TD (again, in key games). There is some correlation passing TD prowess around 15.0 Pass Attempts per Passing TD in college (in key games) -- something Gabbert is way off on. The best of the future "elite" NFL QBs in college was Tom Brady at 15.0 per, the worst was Aaron Rodgers at a still very good 18.6 per.

NFL QBs throw about 30-35 passes per game on average, which would have Gabbert on a pace to throw about a TD per game in college (using college key matchup pace). Not good for the supposed best QB in the 2011 NFL Draft, when so many have done better and all the future elite QBs weren't close to that pace in college.


The QB Blaine Gabbert most compares to statistically...

I think Gabbert’s physical size and nice throwing "release" may be wowing people, but a closer look at his college performance is likely to point out a future bust in the Matt Leinart mold. Gabbert plays it safe in a spread offense and gets to a 60%+ pass completion rate and has a lower yards per completion metrics than we see from the better QBs. Gabbert has decent games against weak opponents -- but he has shown (statistically) that he will wilt under pressure and is potentially not aggressive enough to be an NFL QB.  

If Gabbert scores low on the Wonderlic he is going to fall from a probable NFL bust QB rating, to flat out bust. I'm assuming he will score OK at this point for our ratings system. Gabbert is at best a potential good NFL QB, with a lean toward being a "bust". In our mathematical system, his college metrics is most like that of NFL QB Matt Leinart. Not only metrics, but also both were about the same size physically as well.

Leinart vs. Gabbert college metrics vs. key/tougher opponents:


Comp Pct

Yds per Comp

Pass per TD

Pass Per INT

TD to INT Ratio


Gabbert, Blaine







Leinart, Matt








Blaine Gabbert Overall Score = 0.559 

*see historical rating chart on link to original study =  Predicting the Unpredictable…Projecting a College QB to the NFL with a Mathematical Formula

Blaine Gabbert is going to be a great first test of the rating system we have developed for projecting college QB success to the NFL. Everyone is in love with Gabbert now, because Kiper and McShay are...but we are looking to go on record as Blaine Gabbert is going to be a bust at this point (waiting for NFL Combine data to make official). Don't be shocked to see Gabbert fade down the draft charts as smarter teams/researchers vet this out, maybe a draft fade a la Jimmy Clausen or Brady Quinn -- both started high on early NFL Draft Boards in Jan/Feb...and you know the rest.

It's great that Gabbert looks the part and many love that about a QB, but just like Leinart looked the part (and also fell further than people had thought he would in the Draft) and flopped in the NFL...I think the same could happen with Gabbert, according to the numbers.


By R.C. Fischer
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