Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is uniquely talented, but if there's one NFL quarterback he can most appropriately be compared to, it's Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
In fact, it works both ways. You could also argue that there isn't an NFL quarterback who compares more closely to Vick than Griffin does.
What makes that particularly interesting is that the two flame-throwing speed demons should have many opportunities to face one another in the years to come, starting with matchups in Weeks 11 and 16 in 2012.
So although the two quarterbacks are exactly a decade apart in age and experience, let's go over some of their similar attributes.
Speed and Elusiveness
If we're comparing them at the same stage of their careers, Vick was probably faster at the age of 22 than RG3 is now. He ran for fewer total yards than Griffin did in college, but on far fewer carries. And Vick's 40-yard dash at the scouting combine was 4.33 seconds, which was 0.08 faster than Griffin's this past February.
Vick has probably lost at least a small step over the last 11 years, but he can still burn rubber. He had nearly 600 yards on just 78 carries last season. Only once in his prime years with Atlanta did he have an average that high. And the guys at ESPN Sports Science determined that Vick's top speed from a run in 2010 was still faster than Adrian Peterson's combine speed when he ran a 4.38 in 2007.
If that's the case, a healthy Vick might still actually be faster than Griffin, who ran a 4.41 this year.
Regardless, once Griffin steps onto the field in Week 1, he'll immediately become, at the very least, the second-fastest quarterback in NFL history.
I've seen mobile quarterbacks do a lot of great things with their legs, but I've never seen anyone do the kinds of things Vick has. This run from Virginia Tech is my personal favorite:
But look at this, a whole decade later...
But then you see RG3 make plays like this and you wonder if they're clones...
Some will argue that the meat of the comparison between Vick and Griffin stops here, but I beg to differ. Aside from the fact they both have cannons (more on that in a moment), it's their athleticism that sets the two of them apart. Beyond the stats, Vick can take over a game and impact the outcome like few others, and that was especially the case when he was at Virginia Tech.
I see the exact same quality in RG3.
Vick is an inch shorter and about seven or eight pounds lighter than Griffin. But if we're comparing the two as rookies, RG3 actually has 13 pounds on Vick, per their combine measurements. At this level, that could make a huge difference.
Arm Strength and Accuracy
Vick throws one of the best deep balls in the league, and his release time is outstanding. The guy was drafted by the Colorado Rockies despite having not played baseball since middle school. That said, it took him a lot of time to hone his deep passing ability.
I don't know that Griffin's right arm is stronger than Vick's left arm, but I do know that he's much better equipped to make big-time throws right now than Vick was in 2001. And he has better technique too.
RG3's college passing numbers were more gaudy, which is somewhat circumstance-based, but he still completed 72.4 percent of his passes as a senior. Vick's completion percentage during his final year with the Hokies was 54.0, and when he did crack the Atlanta starting lineup as a rookie, he completed only 44.2 percent of his attempts.
They're already raving about "The Arm" in Redskins practices as Griffin continues to prove that he's a pass-first quarterback, while Vick was certainly more of a scrambler early.
Here's where they actually differ a fair bit, at least now. Griffin overreacts to pressure, which is a classic problem inexperienced quarterbacks deal with. I'd say that while Vick is better than Griffin at going through his progressions, he actually under reacts to pressure.
Griffin has a tendency to try to do too much, which is what hurt Vick early in his career. Both resort(ed) to scrambling hastily, which sometimes results in big plays but often also results in sacks and/or big hits. Griffin has to learn to stay calm and go through his progressions, then either scramble or throw it away. The 2012 version of Vick has become very good at going through his progressions, but still hasn't fully grasped when to give up on a play.
The rookie Griffin is light years ahead of the rookie Vick in this realm.
While he possesses speed, agility and arm strength that is similar to Vick, Griffin might be a better decision maker than Vick was at that stage. In fact, he'll have some growing pains, but based on some of the plays Vick made in 2011, the two might not even be too far apart in this area right now.
While Vick threw 3.2 interceptions for every 100 pass attempts in college, RG3 had just 1.4 per 100 throws. Griffin also completed 67 percent of his passes to Vick's 56 percent.
Numbers obviously don't tell the whole story here. Griffin still took a lot of unnecessary risks at Baylor, which, as a result, caused him to take far too many hits. In the pro game, he'll have to make adjustments. Usually, as quarterbacks mature, we see those adjustments being made, but so much of what makes Griffin special involves toeing that line. Vick has never been able to master the difference between bold and reckless. Jury's still out on Griffin, but he still possesses the benefit of the doubt.
Vick, even at this stage, might be a little quicker, but Griffin is bigger, stronger and obviously fresher. They're fairly similar players, but Griffin is more NFL-ready than Vick was as a rookie, especially in terms of touch and discipline as a passer. At this stage in his career, Vick might actually take off less than Griffin does as a rookie, but Griffin might have the build to avoid injuries a little better than No. 7 has been able to.
In a radio interview with 980 ESPN in D.C. this week, Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall didn't shy away from stating what a lot of people is RG3's biggest edge over Vick:
"I feel like [Griffin's] light years ahead of Michael Vick because he understands mentally what it takes to be great. Mike felt like he could go out athletically and be great."
I'd argue that the ceiling's slightly higher for Griffin now than it was for Vick in 2001, primarily for those reasons and that mental edge, but also because Vick was a guinea pig. How much will Mike Shanahan and his staff take from what Vick went through in Atlanta in order to get the most out of Griffin's talents while protecting him as best they can?