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NFL Draft 2012: Dissecting Myths About NFL's Top Rookies

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NFL Draft 2012: Dissecting Myths About NFL's Top Rookies
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Leading up to the 2012 NFL draft, there were many statements made, valid and not, about the prospects in question.

Some of the observations were, arguably, rather lazy, and put mythical labels on some of the best prospects that universities had to offer.

These prospects include but are not limited to the No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Luck, of the Colts; the Cowboy's first-round pick, Morris Claiborne; and the enigmatic Brandon Weeden, of the Cleveland Browns.

But are any of these myths true?

 

Myth No. 1: Andrew Luck lacks arm strength

The first myth deals with Andrew Luck and his arm strength. It's long been in question, and when a top prospect who is billed as the next John Elway or Peyton Maning enters the draft picture, critics are quick to pick him apart in order to identify the one weakness that will knock him down draft boards.

Former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms tried to do just that when he spoke to Adam Schein and Rich Gannon on Sirius/XM Radio (h/t PFT) on record about Luck's arm strength prior to the draft:

I just don't see big time NFL throws. I don't care what anybody says. I've watched a lot of him. He never takes it and rips it in there. And you can say what you want but, man, you've got to be able to crease that ball every once in a while.

I briefly criticized Simms' comments about Luck in the past, and still don't agree with him on his (or anyone else's) take that Luck lacks a strong arm.

Luck has quality velocity, which is requisite for an NFL quarterback.

Luck doesn't have a howitzer by any means, but he does throw a strong and quality ball that can get to the target. As Peyton Manning once put it to Mayock when the draft analyst questioned Luck's arm strength (h/t Peter King of Sports Illustrated): "But it gets there."

Manning was right–it does get there, and it did multiple times throughout Luck's career, whether you go back to the difficult throws he's made against the Oregon Ducks throughout his career or the stick throw on a post route that he made against the lesser-talented Duke defense this past season.

Or the throw he made 70 yards into the wind on his Pro Day prior to the draft.

 

Myth No. 2: RG3 is the next Michael Vick or Cam Newton

One of the most frustrating aspects of draft prospect evaluation can be comparisons. They're very hard to do (I personally dislike them), so I understand and appreciate when someone puts in the work to put up a quality comparison, even if I don't always agree with it.

However, one issue that I have with some individuals is when they compare lazily, as was the case with Robert Griffin III of Baylor this April.

Griffin III, who goes by the moniker "RG3," was often compared to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and Carolina Panthers phenom Cam Newton during the draft process, which was admittedly very frustrating to constantly read, hear and see.

For starts, RG3 is far more talented than Michael Vick is or was coming out.

Griffin III is a much more accurate passer than Vick and also has a better feel for the passing game. He's a more natural passer than Vick, who is more of a thrower.

He also is more of a pocket passer than Vick ever was, and the reason is because he's willing to stay in the pocket despite pressure barreling down, as witnessed vs. the Oklahoma Sooners last season.

One could argue that he's also a more talented passer than Newton is (although he has lesser pocket presence), but each side can put up a quality debate.

Moreover, the comparison between the two is done when discussing their mobility.

Newton and RG3 are able to force defenses to account for their legs as much as their arms, which makes them a deadly dual-threat on Sundays. Despite both having great mobility, they are not the same kind of runner.

Newton is a much more agile runner who can make defenders miss. RG3 is more problematic in a straight-line.

RG3 is also significantly weaker in the lower body than Newton is, which sees him tumble to the grass more often.

 

Myth No. 3: Brandon Weeden's age will make him a better starting quarterback

Brandon Weeden comes into the NFL nearly the same age as Aaron Rodgers despite a seven-season disparity between the two. Weeden's life experience has led some to believe that he'll be better served as a quarterback in the NFL.

Unfortunately, that's unlikely to be true, because NFL maturity and life maturity are not the same. All quarterbacks, even Andrew Luck, have a significant learning curve when they come into the NFL, and it's no different for Weeden.

In some cases, selective quarterbacks will have less learning to do because of their exposure to pro-style systems in college, (like Luck), while others will have more learning to do because of their lack of exposure and experience to those kind of systems.

The latter is the category Weeden falls into because of his inexperience in a pro-style system while at Oklahoma State.

Jason Miller/Getty Images
Snaps under center were not popular in Oklahoma State's offense.

In short, Weeden comes from an Air Raid offense that can be viewed as a simplified West Coast offense. It features a significant amount of horizontal patterns that have vertical routes mixed in to create oblique stretches.

The offense gets the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly through quick drop-backs and half-field reads, thus simplifying the game and not giving him experience executing NFL-level plays on a consistent basis.

Some may point out the offense Cam Newton came out of. It is true that Newton had a simplified offense at Auburn as well, yet he transitioned well to the NFL.

However, despite his outstanding season, Newton still had many problems, some of which he was able to overcome through sheer talent. Others he simply could not.

This will be the case with Weeden too, who I don't believe is as talented as Newton.

 

Myth No. 4: Trent Richardson wasn't worthy of a Top 5 pick

The Cleveland Browns made headlines on the draft's first day by trading up one spot from their original pick to draft Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

The trade itself had many criticizing the Browns' front office, because it was a mere (although very important) one spot, but the bigger issue that many saw was that the Browns made another draft blunder–they selected a running back high in the draft.

Running backs have lost value in recent years because of their short career spans and the style that teams have adopted at the position—running back by committee. This means that there are few workhorse ball-carriers, and consequently less investment in them.

Despite the drop in value, the Cleveland Browns made the right move.

They selected arguably the second-best player in the draft (behind Luck), a safe pick that they can build their offense around.

Furthermore, Richardson is a complete player that doesn't fumble, can run inside and outside of the trenches and can catch and block.

What more could you ask for?

Some voiced the opinion that the Browns should have taken Justin Blackmon with their pick instead of Richardson because they need more weapons in the passing game.

However, Blackmon was a character risk prior to the draft (alcohol, maturity issues) and proved the doubters right when he got a DUI recently.

 

Myth No. 5: Melvin Ingram's and Riley Reiff's short arms will make them busts

Last but not least: "T-rex syndrome."

In a league that emphasizes length and strength, first-rounders Melvin Ingram and Riley Reiff fall short of the mark; they have short arms, thus have to carry around the hefty label "T-rex syndrome" that some media pundits have applied.

Kent Horner/Getty Images

This label has spelled doom for many prospects that operate in the trenches in the past. It's said to have caused them to not pan out in the NFL because they lacked the short arms to gain leverage against blockers as well as disengage from them.

It's true, some short-armed players have had that exact issue in the NFL, and personnel have pointed them out on a consistent basis.

However, there have also been some that have short arms, yet found success.

Case in point: Jared Allen and Bryan Bulaga. Two players in the trenches that have done well in their careers thus far. Allen has more experience between the two, thus serving as a better example, but Bulaga has been very good as well.

But how have they been good if they have short arms?

Because short arms are not the sole reason a player struggles.

A few inches does not distinguish a player from poor-to-average, nor good-to-great. Arm length is simply a piece of the puzzle. It's debatable what kind of piece of the puzzle it is—a simple end piece that is a minor detail in the larger picture, or a crucial heart of the puzzle-type piece?

David Purdy/Getty Images

Melvin Ingram has had success against long-armed blockers at times because of his explosiveness off the line and his quick hands. He is able to bat the hands of the blocker away and beat them to the edge when pursuing the quarterback.

He's also displayed surprisingly good strength.

Riley Reiff of Iowa, and now the Detroit Lions, is a very impressive blocker. He does an excellent job of anchoring against defensive linemen. This means he is able to hold his ground at the point of attack and sink his hips into his stance with power.

Reiff is very similar to the previously mentioned Bulaga, in the sense that he lets blockers into his chest, which is what blockers don't want to do, but he can still hold his ground because of his strength.

 

Overall

So what do these myths and labels mean for the prospects?

They most certainly don't mean that they will be busts, nor future Pro Bowlers, because the myths are simply part of the puzzle. 

Many of the myths attached to these first-round picks are false or based off of their collegiate tape, which is the best indicator of future performance.

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