Late March is a tough time for football talking heads; the Super Bowl has long since stopped garnering as much airtime as the ads that debuted during it, college football programs are just starting to hold Spring Practices, and Mel Kiper Jr. has only recently awoken from his annual hibernation. Unsurprisingly, then, this is the time of year when football news stories are often made, not born.
Cue the sports-media hailstorm over the rise in stock of Robert Griffin III, the longtime consensus #2 previously-consensus Messiah Andrew Luck as we approach the April 26 NFL Draft. Through all the pro days and try outs, RGIII is – wait for it – right behind Luck on the big board! Similarly, the number 2 is directly located behind 1. But no such logic could quell rumors that the Colts might do better to draft Griffin instead of Luck, bolstered by the Redskins’ bold trade to acquire the second pick in the draft. ESPN analyst Merril Hoge recently made his case for drafting Griffin first, managing to only mention the fact that he’s watched footage of the two quarterbacks back-to-back six or seven time in the span of two minutes.
Don’t get me wrong: RGIII is a very good quarterback who will likely have a long and fruitful career. But Andrew Luck has been talked about not as the best prospect to enter the draft this year, but as the best prospect in the history of the NFL. Sure, he stayed at Stanford a year after a Junior campaign that would have left no doubt as to who was going first; NFL scouts who were interviewed about his decision to stay on as a senior looked like they were in mourning. But a so-so year at Stanford (which, keep in mind, lost head-coach Jim Harbaugh and remained Stanford, perhaps the most academically rigorous college football team to contend for a title,) and an incredible year from Griffin at Baylor have Luck being second-guessed by some.
But setting last-minute intrigue and Donovan McNabb offering up perhaps the saddest sports-commentary display of the year aside, let’s just set the record straight:
The Indianapolis Colts would be stark raving lunatics to not take Andrew Luck with the first pick of the draft. Andrew Luck is the no-doubt, sure-thing wunderkind who spent his college career playing in a pro-style offense and making the Stanford Cardinal a BCS contender. While RGIII certainly put up a better statistical display last season than anyone on the board, his Baylor offense were men playing with boys for the bulk of Baylor’s 2011 campaign. Griffin’s passes, no matter how many of them ended up going for six, make Luck’s look like actual bullets; Griffin demonstrated an incredible aptitude for throwing lofting passes that landed right in the hands of his receivers, whose superior speed had put them yards ahead of opposing defensive backs, but NFL defensive backs aren’t going to be so easily cowed. RGIII’s a great athlete, but he’s no Michael Vick. Hoge himself concedes that Griffin and Luck are equals on the ground. The team that passes on Andrew Luck when given the chance is a team that will live to regret it for a long time.
Washington’s trading for the second pick had Griffin in mind. Maybe coach Mike Shanahan is hoping that Griffin is the quarterback he somehow thought McNabb was going to be, or maybe he just knows serious pro-level talent when he sees it. After all, ESPN gave Griffin a blistering rating of 97 in their draft rankings. But they gave Luck a 99. Indianapolis didn’t give first-ballot hall of famer Peyton Manning the ax to settle for second best, and it’s a little silly to keep pretending otherwise.