Blaine Gabbert elects to enter draft

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert has elected to make himself available for the NFL draft.

Gabbert has started the past two years, and is coming off a standout performance in the Insight Bowl, when he was 41 of 57 for 434 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Iowa.

"This is definitely a bittersweet day for me," Gabbert said in a statement Monday. "I was really looking forward to having a chance to do some special things next season with my teammates, but in the end, this is the right decision to make for myself and my family.

"These last three years have been an unbelievable experience for me, and I'll miss being at Mizzou, but I'm definitely looking forward to this next stage of my life. "

Various early draft predictions have rated Gabbert as a first-round pick and the second-best at his position behind Andrew Luck of Stanford.

Gary Pinkel said the time was right for Gabbert to go pro.

"We're very proud of Blaine and how hard he's worked to put himself in position for this opportunity," Pinkel said in a statement. "He's been an outstanding leader for our team.

"It's been a privilege to coach him and have him as part of our program."

Missouri totaled 18 victories the last two seasons, and this year's 10-win season was only the fourth in school history. Gabbert passed for 3,186 yards and 16 touchdowns.

In 31 games at Missouri, Gabbert passed for 6,822 yards, fourth best in school history.

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danario Alexander, who led the nation in yards receiving last year for Missouri, called Gabbert a "prototypical quarterback."

"He's got the size, the big arm to make every throw," Alexander said.

Missouri has had three first-round picks the last two years, with linebacker Sean Weatherspoon taken with the 19th pick by the Falcons this year, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin taken by the Eagles in 2009 and defensive tackle Ziggy Hood taken by the Steelers last year.

Three other Missouri players, defensive ends Aldon Smith and Jacquies Smith, and tight end Michael Egnew, have been evaluated by the NFL to help decide whether to declare.

Freshman James Franklin, Gabbert's backup this season, is the likely frontrunner to replace him next season. Gabbert's younger brother, redshirt freshman Tyler Gabbert, also is on the roster.