A year ago at this time when some of you NFL fan folk were busy taking steaming craps on Blaine Gabbert (sorry), I gave a timid defense, and reminded you that despite the first-year brilliance of Cam Newton (and now Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson), the norm for rookie quarterbacks is still often painful struggling mixed with fleeting flashes of promise. Think of what we saw from Ryan Tannehill last year, or to a lesser extent, Brandon Weeden. Expecting every rookie QB to pull your franchise from its burning ashes immediately is foolish, and unhealthy.
A year later, we have little ammunition left for any such Gabbert defense which leans on inexperience. Prior to the 2012 season he hadn’t quite started a full year yet (14 games in 2011), and worse, he was supported by pretty much no one aside from Maurice Jones-Drew. Now he’s started 24 games, and Justin Blackmon has been added, Cecil Shorts has emerged, and Jones-Drew is healthy again.
The excuses are over, and Gabbert is down to his final opportunity to save himself from an eternal burial in the first-round pick graveyard. Hey, at least one guy thinks he doesn’t completely suck.
That man is Marcedes Lewis, who did the thing that teammates do when he spoke with the NFL Network recently. But the way in which he did it is notable.
Lewis said that Gabbert’s slow development has been far more mental than physical.
“It’s been a little maturity issue there,” Lewis went on, “just growing up and owning the offense and taking everybody under your wing and leading us to where we want to go and so far this year from OTAs and quarterback school and being there, he’s taken that step forward.”
The difficulty here is that for any discussion, a “maturity issue” is a game-ender. We can’t quantify or assess something psychological, and therefore all we can do is lean on a tired narrative. As much as this induces an insta-cringe and sounds like the routine line of Skip Bayless robots the world over, it’s true that quarterback is inherently a position where leadership is vital. Being mature enough to have a strong voice is very much a part of that makeup, something Gabbert has only acquired now during his third offseason.
So ends the amateur psychology lesson for this day. From a fantasy perspective, no one wins here, especially after both Henne and Gabbert inserted balls deep into the turf throughout the offseason. Although both Blackmon and Shorts will still post fine numbers as they often did last year despite the general incompetence and inconsistencies of the quarterback play in Jacksonville, the winner of the QB competition (either Gabbert or Chad Henne) will ultimately limit their ceiling.
Currently, Shorts has an ADP of about 82.9, while Blackmon’s value has fallen to 118.6, partly due to his suspension and the four games he’ll miss. Those are both the proper valuations, making them no more than WR3′s, with Shorts sometimes creeping into low-end WR2 territory due to his terrific after the catch ability which minimizes the impact of his shoddy quarterbacks. He had four catches of 50 yards or more last year (979 yards overall and seven touchdowns despite missing two games), and also four games when he averaged over 20 yards per catch.
Jones-Drew remains the only Jaguars offensive piece worth a high investment, and those selecting him with a second-round pick are hoping they’re buying the running back who’s a year removed from posting 1,980 all-purpose yards. Hope is a dangerous drug.