It’s time to start our evaluations as my favorite time of the season begins to roll around. Yes, it’s draft season once again and this year we have our first major debate – Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III.
We’re still early in the draft process, so we’re still basing a lot of stuff on rumor and opinion (but really what part of draft season isn’t that), but we do have a season of play from both these players to judge from. Let’s start with Andrew Luck.
Let’s face facts. 82 TDs to 22 picks is a very good ratio. Combine that with his rising completion percentage and the fact that he went through a regime ‘adjustment’ when Jim Harbaugh left and was barely phased and you can see why Mel Kiper Jr. calls him the best prospect since John Elway. Rob Rang of CBS has called him the best prospect he’s ever scouted.
Luck brings a football pedigree (son of former Houston Oilers quarterback Oliver Luck) and ridiculous intangibles. Remarkably, he was listed as only a four star prospect coming out of high school by Rivals.com and wasn’t highly recruited by major football powerhouses (he turned down Northwestern, Purdue, OK St, Rice, and Virginia for Stanford). He redshirted his first year and took over in 2009 without looking back.
The other big thing about Andrew Luck is what you see when you watch him. He looks like a quarterback. He’s Peyton Manning with a better arm. He’s a big guy who can shrug some tackles, but also quick enough to run for almost 1000 yards in his college career. He’s a cerebral quarterback who reads defenses before the snap, and has spent his whole college career operating out of a pro style offense. He’s ready now to step in and succeed.
He’s not perfect though. The first grime came in the form of criticism from Phil Simms, criticism which I agree with. Luck has a cannon for an arm. It’s not Matt Stafford or Joe Flacco (70 yards from his knees), but he easily has a 55-65 yard range when he can stride into his throws. He can hit all the targets outside the hash marks and shows great accuracy, but he has a tendency to guide passes. You’ll see him try to hit spots at some times where he should throw a bullet. He also has a tendency to throw from his back foot and puts a lot of air under throws. These are not killers, but he does need to be able to fire a dart through traffic and get the ball there in a hurry.
Luck also has benefited from working with very experienced coaches who are brilliant at developing quarterbacks. I question whether Indianapolis has such personal on staff currently. Former offensive coordinator Tom Moore, who is widely attributed for Peyton Manning’s success has moved on to New York, and there is a belief that Peyton developed himself as much as anyone else. Luck has the same potential, but it is worth noting that he has benefited from very talented teams and coaches around him (recall Toby Gerhart and a slew of good receiving options at Stanford).
All in all, Luck has to be considered the best prospect in at least a decade. I believe he is very much like Peyton Manning, but even more prepared for the NFL. Quarterbacks today are much better prepared to enter the NFL. The growing pains for many quarterbacks have diminished (see Flacco, Ryan, Sanchez, Newton, Dalton, etc). Now evaluators are learning how to win with young signal callers and the focus of the draft has become how high a ceiling is for a prospect. With Luck, considering him the next Peyton Manning is probably an understatement.
RG3 has had a more traditional path to the NFL Draft. While Luck has been riding an ever increasing hype train to the number 1 pick, RG3 has been developing and progressing for four years. His completion % has increased year to year, as well has his touchdowns and yards. At the same time, he has lowered his interception totals. His biggest asset is his mobility. He ran for 2100 yards in his college career for 32 rushing touchdowns. He’s not quite as agile and elusive as Michael Vick, but shows a lot of that same presence when under pressure. He can evade tacklers with almost an almost supernatural sense of pressure and turns busted plays into highlights.
He’s not all legs though, as his ability to throw the ball down field has developed and progressed. Whereas Vick became fixated on his mobility, RG3 has nurtured his arm and now posses a very good NFL arm. I would consider it akin to a Carson Palmer or Matt Ryan – he can make all the throws, but won’t wow you with a rocket 60 or 70 yards down field.
He brings a good skill set, though not nearly Andrew Lucks. He’s still developing his pre-snap skills, like most rookies coming into the NFL, and still relies on coaching more than his own preparation. That’s not to say he doesn’t work. There’s never been word of lack of interest or time in regards to his preparation, but he is also not touted as much as Luck for being a film nut. With the right coaching he can develop those abilities and become a very polished quarterback.
The knock on RG3 is that, while he has improved every year, he is also something of an unknown. His consistency has been good, but not great and he has had some durability issues (in 2009 he tore his ACL and missed the majority of the year). Even with those questions, he has such talent that it will be hard (and probably unlikely) for teams to pass him up.
I will say that the Rams have a more polished prospect in Sam Bradford on their team, which is why they will likely look to move that pick. With several teams below them hungry for a new, talented quarterback they shouldn’t have a hard time finding bidders for the number 2 slot. Bradford compares highly to Andrew Luck still and with a quarterback with some experience and a higher ceiling (in my opinion) on the roster, it wouldn’t make sense for the Rams to do anything but build around him.