This year, a unique opportunity will be offered to the absolute worst team in the NFL.
Andrew Luck, a quarterback considered a "can't miss" prospect by pro scouts, will in all likelihood forego his senior year at Stanford and enter the NFL Draft. Luck will almost certainly be taken with the first pick in the draft, as he has been praised as an elite prospect since his redshirt freshman year at Stanford.
Luck's impending draft status comes at a unique time for Bill Polian and the Indianapolis Colts, as Indy is experiencing its first losing season in a decade. The Colts will not only have a losing season, it is possible that they won’t even win a game.
The loss of All-Pro quarterback Peyton Manning has exposed holes at nearly every position on the Colts roster, and Manning’s future durability has now come into question.
As the losses pile up, Colts fans are also placed in an unusual position: being out of the playoff race in November. As is accustomed for a fan of a losing team, one begins to look forward to the draft, when one’s team is consistently failing to get it done on the field.
As Luck would have it, Indianapolis is now in position to draft the most cerebral quarterback since Manning himself.
Because of this unprecedented wealth at quarterback, the Colts will be left with many options. Four such options will now be broken down with the given assumption that Indianapolis can “Suck for Luck” enough to “earn” the first overall pick.
The most boring of the scenarios may be the most likely as well.
The past decade has made one fact very clear: In order to win a championship in the NFL, a team must have an elite quarterback.
Teams will be lining up for the chance to bid on the first pick, offering draft picks and veteran players for Luck’s draft rights. The actual asking price is difficult to estimate, but some draft experts have predicted no less than three first round draft picks.
This number may seem exorbitant until one considers the ramifications of drafting a player of Luck’s caliber. Luck is a player that has already been compared with the NFL’s best.
Also, the Chicago Bears were willing to give up two first round picks for an older, interception-prone Jay Cutler. The Colts will consider this option, as an influx of young talent may be just what is needed to reignite this aging franchise.
In what would be possibly the most poorly run draft ever, the Colts could use their first pick to draft an elite defensive player such as North Carolina’s Quinton Coples or Morris Claiborne of LSU. This would make almost no sense when compared to the other options.
This scenario may seem optimal at first. Allow Luck to sit behind one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and allow Manning to complete his career as a Colt.
However, upon closer examination, the situation offers a litany of possible dilemmas. The success of rookie quarterbacks in the NFL has increased exponentially since the drafting of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. The early success of the two created an expectation for all rookie quarterbacks to come in immediately and succeed, and for the most part, rookie QBs have done well.
Andy Dalton has the Bengals in the playoff hunt, and Cam Newton is breaking rookie records on the fly. If these rookies, who were both denied practice time because of the lockout and did not receive the praise of Luck, can succeed, Luck himself will almost certainly be ready to play.
Also, Manning’s legendary competitiveness may get the best of him and cause him to undermine Luck’s development. The simple value that would be placed on both these players by quarterback-hungry teams makes this scenario extremely unlikely.
A year ago, this proposal wouldn’t have even been whispered.
Unfortunately, Manning has undergone three neck surgeries in less than two years. It appears that Manning has failed to heal as projected, and although he has not been placed on injured reserve, he will almost certainly not take a snap until 2012 at the earliest. Neck injuries are difficult to overcome, and one hit could undo whatever procedures have been performed on Manning.
Keeping Manning may actually offer a more indeterminate quantity than drafting Luck. However, the simple possibility of having a quarterback of Manning’s caliber would have teams offering up a king’s ransom similar to the aforementioned Jay Cutler trade.
Manning is still worth the first- and second-round pick given up by the Raiders for Carson Palmer, and he may even be worth more depending on his recovery. Ultimately, the Colts would be replacing a can’t-miss prospect with perhaps an even greater one in Luck, thus all but securing the stability and success of the franchise for the next 15 years.
The Colts would be extremely fortunate to be placed in such a fortuitous position. Almost every scenario leads to a renewed success for the franchise when looking toward the future.
Indianapolis now faces a golden opportunity. Nearly every option leads to a king’s ransom in either draft picks or players and a secure starter at the game’s most vital position. Although each option has its advantages, the unthinkable act of trading Peyton Manning is, in my opinion, the most feasible and profitable for the franchise.