The Oklahoma Sooners were favored by 8.5 points against Kansas in college football’s Week 9 slate but lost 38-33. The sixth-ranked team in the nation couldn’t beat the Jayhawks despite Kansas starting their backup quarterback.
At the forefront of the Sooners’ struggles was quarterback Dillon Gabriel. We’re diving into why Gabriel’s performance in the loss was especially damaging to his NFL Draft stock.
Dillon Gabriel’s Draft Prospects Drop
Gabriel is one of the most statistically accomplished passers in college football history. Across his time at UCF and Oklahoma, Gabriel has made a career of deep bucket throws that land gently in his receivers’ hands. But that has not led to him having a great NFL Draft outlook.
The 6’0″ dual-threat has very pointed strengths and weaknesses as an athlete. While he’s dangerous and confident in throwing deep passes to single-covered receivers in an RPO offense, he is exclusively stellar at those throws. His struggles on shorter and intermediate throws that require more velocity, anticipation, and precision have exposed concerning weaknesses since transferring to Oklahoma.
Saturday’s effort against Kansas was especially shocking, though. Gabriel started the game by throwing a pick-six on his second pass attempt. He attempted only 19 passes through the entire game and four in the second half until the final desperation drive.
While the weather in Kansas was bad enough to delay the game significantly, Kansas QB Jason Bean attempted 32 throws and had little issue cutting through the rain and wind when he needed to. Instead of adopting the same strategy, Oklahoma essentially took the ball out of Gabriel’s passing hand, running the ball 55 times as a team.
Seeing Gabriel shoulder 14 carries for 64 yards and three touchdowns was an impressive way to compensate for his struggles throwing the ball. However, concern already exists over his hand size, ability to grip and rip a ball in bad weather, and ability to control games as an NFL QB should do in college. This performance all but confirms Gabriel will struggle mightily at the next level.
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Gabriel, who had the seventh-best Heisman odds entering the day, has one year of eligibility left and would be a sixth-year senior in 2024. Although he’s seen an uptick in his completion rate, yards per attempt, and QB rating in 2023, he wins one way and struggles to adjust his game when needed. That doesn’t work without elite traits at the next level.
Gabriel has a late-round, priority free agent grade as the 2023 season winds down, and his Week 9 stinker all but seals his limited upside projection.
Gabriel’s Scouting Report
- Gabriel has rare confidence in his ability to throw catchable passes to receivers in single coverage.
- Displays great arc and manipulation of the ball on deep passes, despite not boasting a strong arm. Completes bucket passes with unique regularity.
- Has a quick release that allows him to avoid negative plays in the backfield.
- Enough mobility to evade oncoming defenders and scramble to gain positive yards.
- Dictates the pace of the game because of his downfield throwing prowess.
- Master of the RPO attack.
- Still young enough to enter the NFL after four or five seasons and not be behind his peers.
- Has a smaller frame that causes him to break outside of the pocket to find clear passing lanes.
- Arm talent is below average for an NFL quarterback, as he struggles to generate velocity on short and intermediate throws without loading up and delaying his release.
- Struggles to set his feet and deliver pinpoint passes that beat tight coverage when under pressure.
- Loses effectiveness when his playmakers aren’t dynamic enough to win at the catch point.
- Lacks experience in a different, more NFL-ready scheme. This shows when he makes full-field reads.
- Drifts out of clean pockets or into pressure more often than necessary when his read isn’t there.
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