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Lucky Horseshoe

It seems like a match made in heaven. The Indianapolis Colts lose a franchise signal caller and an all-time great in Peyton Manning, and chance just so happens to land them the #1 overall pick in this month’s upcoming NFL Draft. Only this year, the best quarterback prospect, well since Peyton left good ‘ol Rocky Top as a Volunteer after his senior season, is ripe for the picking. The parallels are quite similar. The former Colts’ starter was known for his cerebral ability, perfection of an offense, and a tireless work ethic to match. Luck has some big blue shoes to fill, but by all accounts, he has the tools and work habits to at least partially resemble Manning in many aspects. Last heard sporting a 3.48 GPA in Architectural Design at Stanford University (as well as earning a rumored high score of 41 on the Wonderlic test), it appears Luck indeed has the smarts. Likewise, teammates rave about his work ethic. With prolific passing numbers at Stanford that would make even Manning blush, it seems almost too good to be true.

Then, why is there so much deliberation with the pick? Picking a quarterback is like picking your favorite snack. Once you see it, you know, and you simply refuse to let go. If he’s your guy, he’s your guy. There should be no hesitation. I understand Baylor’s Robert Griffin III (RGIII) is a tremendous quarterback prospect himself, and the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner projects to be a very good pro with a shocking combination of skills and athleticism. He’s an extremely gifted athlete, who put up nothing short of impressive numbers and wins during his time at Baylor University.

However, Luck was made for the Colts, just simply look at his last name. Joking aside, the Colts do not need to over-think this one. Replacing a legend is never easy, but Luck should be a sure thing to become at least a pretty good, Matt Ryan-esque quarterback at the next level. He’s not just the smart pick, but he’s the safe one too. No one will blame newly appointed Colts’ GM Ryan Grigson if he takes Luck, and he busts. Just like no sensible person blames former Portland Trailblazer GM Kevin Pritchard for taking Greg Oden over Kevin Durant in the 2007 NBA Draft. Mostly everyone agreed that Oden was the consensus pick, just like everyone believes Luck is now. The difference between taking Griffin over Luck and having him bust could mean a very short-lived front office career that is marred by infamy, as being known as simply “the guy who passed on Andrew Luck”.

What is with the hype then? I get it, RGIII is a freak athlete. His 4.41 forty time is what running backs and wide receivers should run, not typically the guy that’s directly aligned right behind center. However, in a game that is quickly evolving into continued success for QB’s that can escape from the pocket, throw on the move, and avoid ferocious pass rushers, encouraged mobility is starting to become the new prototype for the quarterback position. Lost in all of this, is the fact that Andrew Luck is no slouch in this department either, having run a 4.67 forty time at the combine, or .08 slower than Cam Newton’s 4.59 forty time last year. Andrew Luck is a tremendous athlete himself, as who can forget that impressive, instant youtube classic, 58-yard run against Cal ┬áduring his collegiate career. Point being, it’s important to acknowledge that terms like “potential” and “forty time” do exist and remain part of the evaluation process, but they should not be obsessed over. Let the play on the field speak for itself. Besides, it wasn’t too long ago that Paul Zimmerman, formerly known as Sports Illustrated’s Dr. Z, wrote this summary in his April 14, 1998, NFL mock draft:

1. Peyton Manning, Tennessee and Ryan Leaf, Washington State. A paired entry, since they’ll go one-two in the draft. Manning, poised, professional, heady, offers the quick fix for now. Leaf, with the bigger stature and bigger gun, shows greater untapped potential — which, as we know, doesn’t always pan out.

This sounds eerily similar to the Colts’ current situation. In one corner, there’s the intelligent, highly regarded, safe, and play-right-away prospect in Andrew Luck. In the opposing corner, there’s the big potential, big armed, (albeit somewhat raw) prospect in Robert Griffin III. While I’m not indicating RGIII’s career will pan out even remotely close to Ryan Leaf’s, the best athlete does not always make for the best quarterback. The best quarterback is the one that can run an offense, find the open man, and make the big throws when they’re needed the most, not necessarily run a track meet. The Colts know this more than anyone, as they’ve seen it firsthand.

Additionally, I’m a big proponent of longevity. The Colts were lucky in that they didn’t have to worry about a quarterback for the past 13 seasons (2011 excluded), a lifetime in the NFL. With so few good, sure fire quarterbacks in the league currently, it makes sense that a franchise would like to be in good hands at this position with as little turnover as possible. At 6’2 3/8, 223 pounds, and mobile, RGIII is closer to a lean Mike Vick (6’0, 215 pounds) than a big bodied Cam Newton (6’5, 248 pounds). The question remains just how long RGIII can hold up. Mike Vick is already showing signs of breaking down as he enters his earliest thirties, as mobile QB’s simply tend to undertake more hits and punishment from opposing defenders. While nimble himself, Luck leaves the pocket when appropriate, but he won’t make a living out of it. As more of a pure pocket passer, he will not have to withstand many of the hits that a mobile quarterback endures. Consequently, it appears reasonable to assume that Luck projects to have a longer career, playing at least into his mid-thirties healthy, barring something unforeseen.

Whether it’s simply a negotiating ploy for Luck’s impending contract or just extra incentive for him to work hard, the Colts’ decision should already be made. In my honest opinion, Luck is clearly the next guy in line to adorn the horseshoe. He has everything that should be sought after in Manning’s successor: smarts, poise, exceptional athletic ability, as well as the numbers to back it up. Not to mention, all he’s ever done is wins games. For the heir to #18’s throne, he sounds almost too good to be true. Let’s just hope the Colts don’t over-think this one and make such a premonition so.




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