The 2012 NFL Draft is just around the corner and the Indianapolis Colts are on the clock. It’s a foregone conclusion that Jim Irsay and the Colts are going to select former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall selection to replace Peyton Manning, who after being released signed with the Broncos.
The talking heads on various sports sites want you to believe there is indecision on the Colts part on who they should draft, but it’s a done deal. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for debate on who the Colts SHOULD use their #1 overall pick on.
It’s not often for me to believe the top two QB’s in any draft class are going to be franchise players. I feel like Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III are sure-things in the NFL. I watched a lot of both in college, and the Colts and Redskins respectively should feel great about their future moving forward with these two guys under center.
I’m hard on QBs. Always have been. Admittedly I wasn’t high on Cam Newton’s pro prospects last season, and chances are you weren’t either. Personally I didn’t see any great QBs in last year’s draft class, and I still don’t like Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, or Christian Ponder. I have come around on Cam Newton though.
Again, it is exceedingly rare that I’m this high on two QBs. These two aren’t going to be the next Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. Both of these guys have the potential to be Peyton Manning’s. I won’t go as far as saying they are going to be on that level, but I could see either leading their team to a Super Bowl win, winning an MVP or two, and being selected to multiple All Pro teams. They are both that talented.
So, what should the Colts do when Roger Goodell officially puts them on the clock on draft night? Should they take Andrew Luck like they are almost surely going to do? Or should they take last season’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Robert Griffin III?
Andrew Luck presents the safer option for Jim Irsay and company. Luck was a three year starter in Palo Alto for the Cardinal running a pro-style offense. Luck led the resurrection of the Stanford football program, leading the Cardinal to a 31-8 record in his three seasons as a starter, including a 23-3 mark over his last two seasons.
Luck would have been selected over Cam Newton as the #1 pick last season had he decided to leave school after his redshirt sophomore season. Instead, he returned to Palo Alto in search of a Pac-12 Championship. Luck and Stanford ultimately fell short of that goal, but still enjoyed an extremely successful season.
Luck couldn’t lead the Cardinal over the hump against Oregon yet again, but Stanford was still invited to their second consecutive BCS Bowl game, where they fell short this time around in a 41-38 overtime loss to Oklahoma State.
Luck is a tremendous talent, and widely thought to be the most pro ready quarterback to come through the draft in years. He has a good arm, while not elite, and is a great decision maker. Want to know who ran the Stanford offense out there last year? It wasn’t David Shaw or Pep Hamilton. It was Andrew Luck. He helped diagram the plays, and he made all the right audibles at the line of scrimmage.
Andrew Luck sacrificed his own numbers a year ago for the betterment of the team. Instead of throwing 35-40 passes a game, Luck was content with pounding the rock and picking his spots to throw passes. You know why? Because he knew that was Stanford’s best chance of winning games.
He threw over 35 passes only three times last season. Once in a blowout win over Washington State, another in a triple overtime win over USC, and then when Stanford was thumped by Oregon, and Luck was forced to throw more with the Cardinal playing from behind.
Add all that together with the fact that Luck rated out similarly as an athlete to last season’s #1 pick and former Heisman Trophy Winner Cam Newton, and Luck seems like an obvious choice to be selected #1.
At 6’4” 240 pounds, Luck ran an impressive 4.69 40-yard-dash officially at the NFL Scouting Combine. His broad jump was just short of Cam Newton’s mark last season, and his vertical was actually an inch higher than the Panthers QB.
My biggest concern with Luck is suffering from the well known “David Carr syndrome” in Indianapolis. Carr, a former #1 pick in his own right, was sacked out of the league in Houston playing behind a terrible offensive line. The Colts offensive line isn’t that terrible, but it certainly isn’t at the level Luck is used to.
Luck spent the last two years in Palo Alto playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation. But then, you watch him do something like this and those worries go away. He obviously won’t be trucking many NFL defenders in the open field, but he has shown the ability to take hits and he doesn’t shy away from contact.
Another concern some have with Luck is his lack of elite arm strength. While true, plenty of quarterbacks have succeeded in the NFL without having an “elite arm”, while others with an elite arm (JaMarcus Russell, anyone?) have been huge busts. The only thing that matters is if Luck can make all the NFL throws, and he most certainly can.
While Luck is the safer pick for Indianapolis, Robert Griffin III, in my opinion, has the higher upside and greatest potential reward. With all great rewards come great risks. And Griffin III presents a great risk as well.
Like Luck, RG3 led the resurrection of a program while in college. Watching Griffin grow from his freshman season in 2008 to winning the Heisman in 2011 was remarkable. I loved watching Griffin as a freshman throw for nearly 2100 yards while running for 846 yards, and him bringing excitement for football back to Waco was fun to watch.
After suffering a setback with a torn ACL in 2009, Griffin returned in 2010 to lead Baylor to their first bowl game since 1994 while throwing for over 3500 yards while completing 67% of his passes.
Then came 2011 when Griffin busted on to the National scene in a Thursday night game against TCU in the season opener. Griffin had 5 touchdown passes to just 6 incompletions in the game. Through the first three weeks of the season, RG3 had more touchdown passes than incompletions. He finished the season with over 4200 passing yards while completing 72% of his passes, with 37 touchdown passes and just 6 interceptions. He also ran for 699 yards and 10 touchdowns for good measure.
Not surprisingly Griffin won the Heisman Trophy and led Baylor to 10 wins.
The arm strength concern does not apply to Griffin. He has elite arm strength, and nobody in college football threw the deep ball better than the Baylor QB. Without watching him, and just looking at the stats a 72% completion percentage might not seem that impressive knowing he ran a spread offense for the Bears.
Griffin wasn’t dinking and dunking the ball down the field in Baylor’s spread. Griffin routinely chunked the ball deep down the field last season, and did so with great success. And sometimes, just for the hell of it, he made pinpoint touchdown passes flat footed to win games.
With that kind of arm strength and the fact that he ran a blazing 4.41 40 at the combine, Griffin would be a lock to be the #1 pick in the draft most years. Unfortunately for him, this isn’t most years. Although, one could put forth a pretty good argument about Griffin being the top pick.
The good news for Griffin is that the Redskins run an offense that should be a perfect fit for his skill-set.
Obviously, there are some red flags for RG3. He doesn’t have great size at 6’2” 220 pounds (Although he’s the same height and only 5 pounds lighter than NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers) for the type of game he likes to play. Will he be able to withstand hits from NFL defenses over the course of a season? He does have an injury history with the torn ACL in 2009, and he suffered a concussion against Texas Tech last season.
Another red flag is obviously that Griffin did not run a pro style offense at Baylor. He ran a spread offense that didn’t force him to have to read the entire defense. That’s a concern, but Griffin is smart and should be able to pick up any offense pretty quickly. It might take some time, but I have no doubt that he can make the transition to a pro style offense.
That was one of the biggest concerns for Cam Newton coming out of Auburn’s offense last season, but I would say he performed pretty well during his rookie season.
Obviously the reward far outweighs the risk in RG3’s case, and that is why the Redskins paid such a bounty to the Rams to move up to the #2 pick.
I feel pretty confident in saying that neither of these quarterbacks will turn out to be busts, but considering picking QB’s in the draft has been such a crap shoot over the years, who really knows. I’d be shocked if either struggled in the pros though.
In conclusion, despite my thinking of Griffin having a higher ceiling than Luck, I think the Colts have to take Andrew Luck with the first pick. That’s exactly what I would I do if I was in Jim Irsay’s position. After releasing one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL in March, I believe the Colts have to play it safe and take Luck, who has a much higher floor than Griffin.
That’s exactly what Indianapolis is going to do, and I would say that the Redskins are going to be pretty happy with that decision.