Andrew Luck: Could He Stay in School To Avoid Carolina Panthers?

Ryan FallerAnalyst IDecember 28, 2010

According to his coach, Jim Harbaugh, quarterback Andrew Luck will be back for another season at Stanford.
According to his coach, Jim Harbaugh, quarterback Andrew Luck will be back for another season at Stanford.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Andrew Luck and the Carolina Panthers, it seems, are on a collision course.

If the Stanford quarterback declares himself eligible for the NFL Draft, Luck figures to be the first taken at his position in April, while the Panthers’ long list of issues is headlined by a glaring need for a franchise player under center.

It makes for perfect synergy.

But that won’t ward off the threat of a possible NFL work stoppage which allegedly has given pause to Luck, a redshirt sophomore and Heisman finalist who has thrown for 3,051 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, about his immediate pro prospects.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who reiterated in a column Monday what he had originally reported on television Sunday, recently asked Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh to confirm reports that Luck’s family—including Luck’s father, Oliver, a former NFL quarterback—had expressed concerns that labor issues could potentially prohibit Luck from practicing with an NFL team until Labor Day.

“I don’t think that’s the current logic,” Harbaugh told King. “But I do think it’s more likely he’d come back. If I had to bet one way or the other, I’d bet he’s coming back.”

Harbaugh then continued on to gleam about Luck’s professional potential.

“I’m absolutely convinced he’ll make it in the NFL,” he said. “He’s got no negatives. He’s athletic—he’ll run the 40 in the high 4.5s. He’s instinctive. He’s accurate…He’ll be perfect for the NFL.”

Sorry, Carolina. It sounds like you’ll have to find your savior at some other position, because the man closest to your Plan A, other than his parents, of course, is insinuating you should start preparing for Plan B.

Luck, for the moment at least, seems content on returning to school. Or is he simply avoiding getting drafted by the Panthers, who have the league’s worst offense and face a steep climb back to respectability?

Not likely. Who’s to say the Panthers won’t pull a night-and-day act and improve immensely in 2011, leaving a team like the Bills, who are just as sad, to select first overall in April of 2012?

And I’m not sure I buy the whole work stoppage excuse, either.

So what if Luck is prevented from picking up an NFL playbook until August? Rookie quarterbacks seldom start out of college anyway, even for a team as desperate as the Panthers, who would presumably groom him along.

And never mind that league owners are attempting to scale back rookie wages—whatever Luck would get paid as a rookie would be substantial. It would not be Sam Bradford money, but his paychecks would certainly draw no sympathy from you or me.

Outside of winning a National Title, Luck has little left to accomplish at Stanford—other than obtaining his four-year degree the old-fashioned way.

He’s clearly ready. And assuming he is currently leaning toward another season of college football, he could light up Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl and undergo a change of heart instantly.

But, at this point, that seems like an awful big “could.”