This story appears in the March 21, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
He was just being polite. Perched on a podium at February's NFL combine, former Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert told reporters that he expected a spirited competition to determine this year's top draft pick at his position. Yes, Cam Newton, Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett all have their strengths, but Gabbert also understood that nothing was going to be decided during his time in Indianapolis.
What he kindly left unsaid is that the combine, for all its hype as the most critical event on the predraft calendar, doesn't mean as much for quarterback prospects as it once did. Pro days, personal workouts and team interviews -- that's where reputations and draft positions are now truly made. "Everybody I talked to told me to go into the combine with the mind-set of having fun," Gabbert says now. "But pro day and the personal workouts are where you separate yourself from the competition."
Of the past 12 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the draft, eight didn't throw at the combine. This year, Gabbert, who is battling Newton for the top spot on most draft boards, joined the no-throw club (though he did work out for teams).