Luck's move is puzzling, most notably because with the uncertainties surrounding the NFL's CBA talks, Luck could potentially lose out on tens of millions of dollars should the NFL and NFLPA agree upon some sort of rookie wage cap.
It's also interesting considering the recent history of potential top picks who have returned, most notably Sam Bradford, who endured (or so we all thought at the time) the ultimate kick in the gut: suffering a season-ending injury. Luckily for Bradford, things worked out pretty well.
Luck's move shakes up things in a very big way. Here's who/what it benefits the most.
Granted, I think Stanford was going to be pretty good next season anyway, even without its top player and one of the best coaches in the country, but with Luck coming back it is a serious national championship contender. Everyone, from the school president to the athletic director, has to be thanking their lucky stars that they have a school and program that is worth forgoing millions of dollars for.
Having Luck return also allows the school to use him to generate even more revenue. There will no doubt be a huge Heisman campaign for Luck in 2011, as well as billboards, t-shirts and coffee mugs galore.
2) Jim Harbaugh
Harbaugh is a competitor; everyone knows this. Watch him on the sideline and you can see the fire that burns down deep in his soul. That's part of what has made him such a target for NFL teams, some of whom are reportedly offering him close to $8 million per year.
Still, with Luck returning, you know that Harbaugh will have to give some thought to returning to Palo Alto to try to bring home the Cardinal's first national title since 1926.
Not only would he have Luck to fall back on, but also an impressive rushing attack and a top 10 group of recruits. If Harbaugh does decide to pass on the NFL, his best bet to win a national title in 2011 is most likely Stanford.
3) Stanford's 2011 Recruiting Class
Wouldn't you want to go ahead and declare early to play for a school that retains the potential No. 1 overall pick in 2012? Think of how much you would learn and how much attention you could possibly garner playing in his shadow.
Stanford is already looking at a top 10 to 15 recruiting class and having Luck return will only improve its class ranking.
4) Blaine Gabbert
The junior QB from Missouri, who has already declared for the 2011 draft, is undoubtedly the player who benefits most from Luck's decision. Gabbert has already started earning some serious love from scouts and experts who feel that he could end up as a top 10 pick.
Take Luck out of that draft and you know some of the teams at the top of the draft board will start dreaming about Gabbert even more.
5) Marcell Dareus
Alabama's huge defensive presence was already going to be a top five pick, but now that the No. 1 QB in the class has dropped out, that might leave Dareus as the top overall talent available. He'll demand nowhere near as much money as Luck would have and is probably the smarter pick anyway.
6) Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker
Thanks to Luck's decision, both Locker and Mallett should see their stock rise dramatically. Both looked like they had flaws that could have dropped them out of the first round, but with one less QB (and the best one at that) available, there could now be a run on signal callers in the first round, boosting both players' stocks back into the first round.
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