Colts eyeing QB; Gabbert worthy of top-five pick?

Posted April 20, 2011 @ 6:31 p.m.
Posted By Nolan Nawrocki

Q: Should the Colts draft a quarterback to groom behind Peyton Manning?

Nawrocki: The Colts should be more concerned with drafting an offensive lineman who can better protect Manning and a running back who can help open up a stagnant ground game. With Manning hitting age 35 and showing no signs of slowing down, the Colts could feel very comfortable moving forward with him for the next 3-5 years. It would be wise to land a developmental quarterback who can benefit from learning alongside the game's top passer and soak up some of his vast football knowledge. The Colts will not win a championship with Curtis Painter captaining the ship, and football czar Bill Polian has been one of the best in the league building for the future. If a solid quarterback is available at any point in the draft outside the first round, it would be a wise addition, and they could consider one early with Manning not under contract. However, they do have many more pressing needs.   

Q: Blaine Gabbert had a 16-9 TD-to-interception ratio and a 44 percent completion percentage on third downs in a spread offense against college competition. It's puzzling why he is mentioned as a top-five QB. The question is, why Gabbert is considered a top-five QB based on his body of work?

Nawrocki: Quite simply, the answer is upside. When it comes to evaluating collegiate talent, the name of the game is projection. Chase Daniel produced much better statistics and ran the Tigers' offense more capably in college. However, he was also deficient in the areas of height, foot speed, arm strength and escapability and his skill set did not translate well to the NFL game. Gabbert is not nearly as accomplished or experienced, but his ceiling is far greater. He has all the physical tools to become a solid starting NFL quarterback. He also played through injuries most of the past two seasons, which often gets lost when strictly evaluating statistics or scrutinizing his production under durress. In the three games that PFW charted, Gabbert converted 60 percent of his third-down throws — a winning percentage — and consistently sustained drives and moved the chains.

Q: Is there a chance the Broncos will draft Von Miller?

Nawrocki: Yes, the Broncos could have their choice of any defensive player in the draft. But with John Fox shifting from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense and Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers projecting from outside linebacker back to the DE position that they played in college, it's more likely that the Broncos look elsewhere. Miller is most ideally suited to line up as a 3-4 rush linebacker and better fit the odd front previously installed by Mike Nolan in Denver than he does Fox's preferred 4-3.

Q: Will the Bills go for a quarterback or defense?

Nawrocki: It all depends on who is available. If the Panthers stand put and select Cam Newton, the Bills' focus very likely will shift to selecting the best defensive player available, and their needs are greatest in the back seven. If Newton slides past the Panthers, the Bills could be faced with a dilemma that owner Ralph Wilson is surely to weigh in on given the struggles of the franchise to find a replacement for Jim Kelly. In the 14 years since Kelly retired, they have cycled through 10 starting quarterbacks (Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick). Chan Gailey runs a quarterback-friendly offense that does not require an elite triggerman to function adequately, and the Bills' most pressing need remains creating pressure on the opposing quarterback. Adding an impact defensive performer would make the most sense — but emotion often overrides logic when Wilson forces his opinion into the equation.

Q: Do you think the Packers should take Mark Ingram if available at No. 32, instead of an offensive guard, defensive end or outside linebacker?

Nawrocki: GM Ted Thompson has long been a value-driven decision maker, and should Ingram slide to the back of Round One, the Packers would likely pounce on him. I do not consider running back to be a core position generally worthy of drafting in the first round with the exception of rare talent such as Adrian Peterson, Bo Jackson or Earl Campbell. There are a lot of talented runners available in this year's draft and teams could find solid contributors in the middle-to-late rounds. The Packers could just as easily find one-cut, zone runners later in the draft that fit their stretch-zone, slide-protection ground game. Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray or Nebraska's Roy Helu could be available in the fourth round and allow the Packers to match talent to their scheme. If Ingram lasts until No. 32, however, he figures to be the best player on the board and could be a slam dunk to become a Packer.