On Monday, Missouri junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert elected to forgo his senior year and declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Gabbert's decision to enter the draft early does a few things that could shakeup the quarterback selections when April rolls around. First, and most importantly for the Seattle Seahawks, Gabbert's addition to the draft class bolsters a quarterback class that's looked less than stellar thus far. Second, Gabbert's rise in the draft rankings throws off the order quarterbacks may be drafted, again helping the Seahawks.
Gabbert declaring for the draft doesn't come as a huge surprise. The Missouri quarterback has seen the buzz about his play steadily increase throughout the 2010 season, hitting a boiling point before the Insight Bowl. A look at some of the expert rankings, especially the rankings done by ESPN's Todd McShay, does reveal a bit of surprising news. Gabbert, according to McShay, is the second-best quarterback, behind Stanford's Andrew Luck, in the 2011 NFL Draft.
When the 2011 NFL Draft does finally kick off, it's more than possible that Gabbert ends up going in the top-10 as the second quarterback off the board. Had the Seahawks lost to the Rams on Sunday, they may have had a shot at the Missouri quarterback. Now that the Hawks are in the playoffs, and guaranteed to pick No. 21 or lower, the chance for a player like Gabbert may be gone, but there may still be a quarterback of the future on the board in the late first round, depending on who else declares.
Ryan Mallett, Jake Locker and, perhaps, Cam Newton could all be around in the late first round, giving the Seahawks a chance to steal away a quarterback with their low-end draft pick. For more on the quarterbacks available, visit our 2011 NFL Mock Draft StoryStream as we evaluate the Seahawks options ahead of the 2011 NFL Draft.