With the college football season finally over, it is time for the most fun part of college football: evaluating and analyzing college players for the 2011 NFL Draft. Even with labor strife threatening a holdout, that is not excuse for teams, and even fans, not to do their draft homework.
Now there is a possibility that the threat of a lockout will prevent a lot of prospects, like Andrew Luck, to return to college for another year so that they aren’t stuck out of school, unable to play college football while NFL players are locked out, earning no money.
Still, the 2011 draft features a weak crop of seniors, probably because all the good juniors last year declared in fear of the possibly looming lockout. So if underclassman stay in schools this year en masse, this draft could be the weakest since 2005.
But if the Collective Bargaining Agreement is accepted and the underclassmen feel comfortable enough to declare, this draft could be one of the strongest in years.
And the draft is the representation of hope for many NFL fans. It is becoming one of the highest rated sporting events in America, and it doesn’t even include any actual sports.
As such, I will begin a series of scouting reports, which I will release sporadically leading up to the draft. The release of the prospect reports will not be in any order, but to start it off with a bang, I decided to start it off with the player that will in likelihood be the No. 1 player chosen overall should he declare, Andrew Luck.
What stands out immediately about Luck is that he has one of the quickest throwing motions since Dan Marino. When Luck lets it fly, his passes are laser fast and accurate—truly beautiful. Aside from that, Luck has quintessential NFL measurables: 6’4”, 230-plus pounds, very intelligent and instinctual.
The red shirt sophomore has wonderful footwork in his drop backs and when throwing the football. Luck has light and graceful feet that give him unexpected mobility, allowing him to almost glide through the pocket to avoid would-be sackers. As such, Luck has underrated scrambling ability, and his feet also allow him to take a very low number of sacks or have his throws affected by pass rushers.
At Stanford, he is currently playing in a pro-style offense and getting pro-style coaching under head coach and former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh. That gives him a leg up on prospects who play in spread offenses with everything called from the sideline.
One thing that NFL coaches will love about Luck is that he does not give up big plays to the defense. His footwork allows him to avoid sacks and still throw beautiful passes which defenders cannot intercept. His quick release also prevents defenders from getting a quick bead on his throws, which along with his accuracy makes Luck very difficult to intercept.
Luck also has “it”, the ability to play well in big games and in big moments, which is a must for NFL quarterbacks. In other words, Luck does not just feast on weak Pac-10 opponents; he saves his best for the likes of USC and Oregon. Luck has a very strong arm, he is not all release; he can easily drive the ball down the field and has little trouble fitting the ball into tight windows.
Not only did the Stanford signal caller put up some impressive numbers, but also he was the one mostly responsible for taking Stanford’s football program from obscurity to a BCS bowl.
The Texas boy also has the intangibles. The high school valedictorian is one of the brightest student athletes in the nation, and despite his youth, Luck displayed leadership skills from day one, which he backs up with work ethic and toughness.
The biggest issue with Luck is that he has one of the weirdest throwing motions in college football because it is one part beautiful and one part hideous. And this is not about his occasional tendency to somewhat sidearm the ball—I actually don’t mind that.
Luck has an occasional wind-up in his throwing motion that causes him to drop the ball beneath his waist before he throws the ball.
His wind-up is so weird because unlike say, Tim Tebow, Luck’s wind-up adds no momentum to the ball and is in many ways completely separate from his actual throwing motion.
Also unlike Tebow, Luck doesn’t always have a wind-up. It's like he winds the ball around and then brings the ball into a normal throwing motion and lets it fly. Luck has to learn to just cock the ball without throwing in a wind-up beforehand in all situations.
It must be said that there has been a noticeable decline in the rate of his wind-up in his throws from his red shirt freshman to red shirt sophomore year.
The total elimination of this wind-up will not affect his actual throwing motion in any way but dramatically speed up the delivery time from decision to release.
Luck also has a slight tendency to float balls when throwing 15-yard outs, digs and back shoulder fades. It’s not that Luck lacks the throwing motion to put the ball on more of a rope, but it’s that he is aiming it. If he does that in the pros more often than not, those balls will be batted down or worse intercepted.
If Andrew Luck chooses to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, he will, regardless of which team has the pick, be the No. 1 player chosen overall. He is the caliber of franchise quarterback who can single-handedly change a team’s long-term prospects and give a franchise its previously lacked focus and direction.
While Luck isn’t perfect—he needs some refining of his mechanics and his tendency to float the ball—he is the cleanest college quarterback I have ever analyzed.
And the fact that he is intelligent, coachable, has incredible physical talent, toughness and an incredible work ethic give credence to the notion that while he is a very refined quarterback, he is still only scratching the surface. This kid doesn’t just have it, he is it.
*I also run analysis for NFLDraftBible.com, check out their website for excellent 2011 NFL Draft coverage.