Now that the 2012 NFL draft has concluded and the formality of the Indianapolis Colts selecting Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck first overall has become a reality, the team can now set its sights towards the upcoming season and what they hope will be a successful rookie campaign for the 6'4" All-American.
For his part, Luck sounded ready to get down to work in Indianapolis, and although league rules will prohibit Luck from participating in any practices outside this weekend's rookie minicamp until Stanford's classes conclude on June 7th, ESPN reports that the first overall pick in the 2012 draft will be doing everything he can to get a head start on making the jump to the National Football League.
Between now and [June 7th], though, Luck will be doing his NFL homework.
He now has a Colts playbook and is already trying to arrange some individual work with Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne. With the Colts taking his college teammate, tight end Coby Fleener, in the second round, he won't have to go far to find another receiver to help out.
Still, Luck promised he would be creatively cramming, something team owner Jim Irsay promised to help with.
"We'll try to be as creative as we can be with planes or helicopters or what have you," Irsay said. "We'll do what we can within the rules."
Luck has been called one of the most NFL-ready prospects at his position in years due to his extensive experience in Stanford's pro-style offense, but Luck still faces a very tall order in turning around a Colts offense that ranked 27th in the NFL in passing last year en route to a miserable 2-14 record.
It also doesn't help that the Colts purged several veteran players on offense such as tight end Dallas Clark and watched others such as wide receiver Pierre Garcon depart in free agency. The team still has wide receiver Reggie Wayne and did add some young talent around Luck with the selections of tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and wideout T.Y. Hilton in the draft, but with a rookie throwing to rookies there are apt to be bumps in the road.
In fact, judging Luck's "success" this season by wins and losses would probably lead to his being deemed a relative disappointment, as it's unlikely that even a player as talented as Luck will be able to immediately reverse the fortunes of a team that floundered as badly as the Colts did last year.
It's also likely that Luck will turn the ball over quite a bit more than he was accustomed to at Stanford, where he threw 22 interceptions over the past three seasons. Peyton Manning threw 28 picks in his first NFL season with the Colts, and Cam Newton turned the ball over 19 times as a rookie last year with the Carolina Panthers.
The most accurate barometer of Luck's progression as a quarterback will likely lie in examining the "little things." How Luck fares in picking up NFL blitzes and reading defenses may not be reflected on the scoreboard most weeks, but his completion percentage, passer rating and sacks allowed will all provide a measuring stick as to how Luck is acclimating both to the Indianapolis offense and to the more complicated defensive looks he'll see as a pro.
Andrew Luck is one of the most highly-touted pro prospects under center in some time, and his arrival in Indianapolis has given Colts fans renewed hope for the future of the franchise. However, by keeping expectations realistic and knowing what to watch for in the rookie's play, fans of the team can minimize the odds that optimism turns to disappointment when Luck hits the obstacles that he will undoubtedly face in his inaugural NFL campaign.