2011 NFL Draft: Is Andrew Luck a Better NFL Prospect than Sam Bradford?
At the beginning of the 2010 college football season, the constant debate among NFL Draft gurus Todd McShay and Mel Kiper concerned the quarterback position.
Who was the better prospect: Andrew Luck or Jake Locker?
The two Pac-10 gunslingers were using this season as a showcase of their talents, with the winner likely securing a spot as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Well, fast forward a few months into the season, and Locker has all but disappeared from that conversation.
Luck is the quarterback who's likely going to be chosen first overall, the guy who has the ability to turn a franchise around much like Sam Bradford seems to be doing with the St. Louis Rams.
So maybe that's a more fair comparison. Forget Luck vs. Locker.
I'm talking Luck vs. Bradford.
Here's a breakdown of the two stud quarterbacks and a final decision that should settle the debate.
Who's the better pro prospect: Bradford or Luck?
Andrew Luck and Sam Bradford both redshirted during their freshman year before taking over at quarterback the following season.
While at Oklahoma, Bradford started all 31 games in which he appeared in before injuring his shoulder early in his junior year and missing the rest of the season.
Luck, in his second season as Stanford's starter, has started 20 games for the Cardinal and will up that number to 25 by season's end, barring injury.
If Luck declares for the 2011 NFL Draft, he'll enter the league with about half a season's worth of experience than Bradford.
Injuries are just a part of the game, and both Andrew Luck and Sam Bradford have missed time because of them.
Luck injured a finger on his right hand in Stanford's regular season finale in 2009 and underwent surgery that caused him to miss the team's appearance in the Sun Bowl against, oddly enough, Oklahoma.
But that is the only game Luck has missed due to injury during his entire college career.
Bradford, on the other hand, missed the majority of his junior season in 2009 after having season-ending surgery on his throwing shoulder.
Bradford injured the shoulder early in the year against BYU. He returned briefly, and then reinjured the shoulder against Texas, prematurely ending his prolific college career.
Sam Bradford must be the hitting the buffet line, the weight room or both lately because he has bulked up quite a bit since finishing his career at Oklahoma.
Bradford is currently listed at 6'4", 218 pounds but was more in that 205-210 area during his days as a Sooner.
But Andrew Luck is just a redshirt sophomore and already has the size of a prototypical NFL quarterback that scouts drool over.
He's listed at 6'4", 235 pounds, putting Luck in the same category as Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Luck has the big build that helps NFL gunslingers absorb the impact that comes along with getting blasted by defensive linemen over the course of a 16-game season.
7. Adjustment to NFL Game
Sam Bradford doesn't look like he's having much trouble adjusting his game to the NFL.
But during his time at Oklahoma, Bradford ran the spread offense and often operated out of the shotgun formation. This raised questions about how well his game would translate to the NFL.
At Stanford, however, Andrew Luck has run a pro-style offense and has the added advantage of doing so under the tutelage of former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh.
Similar to Matthew Stafford at Georgia two years ago, scouts love Luck's ability to run those three, five and seven-step drops that he'll run in the NFL.
Neither of these quarterbacks are going to be confused for Tim Tebow or Cam Newton.
Unlike those guys, you won't have to gameplan to stop Sam Bradford and Andrew Luck from running wild on your defense.
They're not scramblers, and they're not very elusive in the open field.
But Luck was sacked just once every 49 dropbacks in 2009, and has only been sacked three times over the course of the first eight games in 2010.
While he's not a run-first quarterback, he certainly has the quickness and agility to avoid pressure in the pocket and make something out of nothing.
When scouts analyze Andrew Luck and Sam Bradford, one of the things that they always bring up is intangibles.
And in this case, both quarterbacks pass the intangibles test with flying colors.
They're intelligent, hard-working, high-character and well-respected guys who have the leadership ability that is so crucial in succeeding at the NFL level.
You'd be hard-pressed to point out one thing that these guys don't do well in that category.
4. Arm Strength
Neither Andrew Luck nor Sam Bradford has out-of-this-world arm strength.
But if college football fans learned anything from JaMarcus Russell, it's that arm strength doesn't necessarily translate to success at the NFL level.
Luck and Bradford won't ever be confused for having cannons for arms, but both quarterbacks have above-average arm strength.
Is Bradford's arm quite as strong as it was before the shoulder injury? Probably not.
And he can still stretch the field. Just not quite like Luck can.
Admittedly, Luck will probably have the weakest arm of the three quarterbacks chosen in the first round this year (Luck, Locker and Ryan Mallett).
But I'd still give Luck the slight lead over Bradford in this category.
Like most highly-touted prospects, Luck and Bradford both have a very quick release.
This allows them to make passes that quarterbacks with drawn-out throwing motions would struggle with.
For the most part, both quarterbacks come over the top with their release. But they've also had the tendency to drop their release point over the course of the game, negating the advantage that their height gives them.
Dropping the arm to the three-quarters position has been the biggest lapse in technique for both Luck and Bradford in the past. But it's one thing that Luck seems to do a bit more frequently.
You can probably chalk that up to his relative inexperience at the quarterback position.
But for now, that's something Luck has to work on to exceed at the next level.
Both Andrew Luck and Sam Bradford did an excellent job in college of going through their progression reads.
The two quarterbacks had no problems checking off the safety. They limited their mistakes (rarely turning the ball over) and managed their offenses to near perfection.
But both quarterbacks also have a knack for trusting their arm more than they should and forcing balls into tight spaces.
However, Luck does a much better job avoiding blitzes and backside pressure, and has a better overall awareness in the pocket.
This one's close, and both excelled in this area, but the edge goes to...
Andrew Luck struggled during his freshman year with his accuracy, completing just 56.3 percent of his passes all season.
But Luck has limited his mistakes—he has just thrown just 10 career interceptions—and showed steady improvement getting the ball to his receivers.
Luck has completed 67.3 percent of his passes so far this season. But that still doesn't quite live up to Bradford, who is one of the most accurate passers in recent memory.
He has an uncanny ability to hit his wide receivers on short, intermediate and deep routes, and he completed 69.5 and 67.9 percent of his passes in two full seasons as Oklahoma's starter.
For those keeping score at home, I had Luck rated higher in six categories, gave Bradford the edge in three categories and had one end in a draw.
Bradford was slightly better in a few aspects of the game, like accuracy and mechanics.
But Luck is the better athlete, has a better arm and has the experience of playing in a pro-style offense at Stanford.
Based on the math, it would seem like I think Bradford doesn't really compare to Luck. But that just isn't the case.
These are two of the finest pro prospects of the decade, and this is just a fun way to look at the future of two potentially great NFL quarterbacks.
That being said, logical math says that I'd go with Luck being rated as a slightly better pro prospect than Bradford.
Better Pro Prospect: Luck