Robert Griffin III, the quarterback of the Baylor Bears, has had a tremendous college football season. Also known as RG3, Griffin has been recognized as the best player in college football this year as the recipient of the 2011 Heisman Trophy.
Griffin III has emerged this season from being a dynamic athlete with questionable NFL prospects, to his current status where he is to be a top-10 draft pick. That said, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has been set to be a No. 1 overall draft pick since he was first eligible to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Griffin’s evolution as a quarterback has been tremendous. Since emerging as Baylor’s starting quarterback as a true freshman, Griffin has been one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in all of college football. Griffin is a tremendous athlete (as a true freshman, Griffin finished third at NCAA Track and Field Championships in the 400-meter hurdles) who possesses a great ability to run the football, but Griffin has developed from a run-first quarterback to an efficient pocket passer.
In this season, as a redshirt junior, Griffin has the best passer rating in the entire NCAA and also leads the nation in yards per attempt. Griffin’s mechanics improved considerably this season. He has displayed that he has both arm strength and accuracy. On numerous occasions this year, Griffin has completed passes 40-50 yards in the air, hitting the exact spot where the ball needed to be placed for his receiver.
That is an impressive ability that few quarterbacks possess and is sure to impress NFL scouts. Considering the draft value placed upon a potential franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III would be a potential No. 1 overall draft pick in some draft classes. However, if RG3 declares for the 2012 NFL Draft, he will not be the top quarterback selected.
Luck was eligible to declare for last year’s draft as a redshirt sophomore but chose to stay in school. This year, Luck does plan to enter the draft, and his status as the top draft prospect has not changed.
Luck is an truly elite quarterback prospect, considered by some to be “once-in-a-generation." Luck has all of the prototypical traits one looks for in an NFL quarterback. He has ideal size (6’4’’, 235 pounds), a strong arm, the ability to make accurate throws into tight coverage, the ability to place passes where only his receiver can make the play. Luck is also a great athlete—he even made a one-handed catch in a game this season!
Robert Griffin III did have a better season collegiately this year than did Luck, but that does not mean that Griffin is a better NFL prospect than Luck. While Griffin put up better numbers than Luck this season, he had a much faster group of receivers to work with.
Additionally, Griffin has played in a spread offense, which is statistically friendly for collegiate quarterbacks, while Luck is much more prepared for the next level having played in a pro-style offense, playing his first two seasons for current San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Griffin is listed at 6’2’’, but that may be a generous mark, so height is a concern with Griffin. Additionally, while Griffin has displayed his ability to throw a strike downfield to a spot, he does not have as much experience throwing to receivers running NFL routes as Luck does. Also, Griffin has not displayed as much touch on completing passes to receivers within tight windows.
The fact that Griffin won the Heisman Trophy over Luck is not any indicator of draft standing. Since 1990, 14 quarterbacks have won the Heisman. Only three of them—Cam Newton, Sam Bradford and Carson Palmer, all of whom were No. 1 overall draft picks—were the first quarterbacks taken in the year they were drafted.
The Heisman is meant to recognize the best player in college football, and in this past college football season, Griffin was the best quarterback in the nation. That said, this was Griffin’s first great year as a collegiate quarterback: While he did throw for more than 3,500 yards last season, his passer rating was nearly fifty points lower. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck has been an elite collegiate quarterback for each of the past two seasons, taking Stanford from a subpar FBS football program to a team in two-consecutive BCS bowl games.
Griffin’s draft stock has risen meteorically. Before the season, I was honestly uncertain of how to rate him but considered him to be a third or fourth-round talent with the potential to rise but also a player who was possibly best suited to switch to wide receiver. Just three months later, I now rate Griffin as a top-10 draft value, who is worthy of being a top-five pick by a team in need of a franchise quarterback.
That said, it is highly unlikely that Robert Griffin III is going to move ahead of Andrew Luck on any NFL team’s draft board, or at least on any draft board of one of the tree teams who could potentially have the No. 1 overall pick (Colts, Vikings, Rams).
Additionally, if the team who holds the No. 1 pick decides they do not need a franchise quarterback, the pick will become a very valuable trade asset, but that will be because of the superstar prospect status that Luck holds. A team interested in trading up for Griffin could pursue trading for the second or third overall selection but would not consider the top draft pick, knowing the value that pick will hold with Luck attached to it.
If there is any quarterback who can challenge Luck for the top spot in the 2012 NFL Draft, that quarterback would actually be USC’s Matt Barkley. Like Luck, Barkley has a prototypical skill set, great mechanics and has played in a pro-style offense. Luck’s stronghold on the top spot in the draft is unlikely to be broken by anyone, but Barkley could make it an interesting debate if he declares for the 2012 NFL Draft.
Which quarterback will be selected first?
Of course, Griffin III still has a year of eligibility remaining, as do Luck and Barkley. Luck has already said that he will declare for the 2012 NFL Draft, but Griffin and Barkley have not. It should not be taken a formality that they will, with both quarterbacks having aspirations of leading their college programs into BCS bowls, which neither of those two quarterbacks has yet had a chance to do.
If RG3 were to stay at Baylor for one more season, he would become the early favorite to be the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft (unless Barkley also stays, then Barkley would be in line to be the No. 1 overall pick). But as it stands, if Griffin declares for the 2012 NFL Draft, he will become part of what could end up being one of the best quarterback classes in draft history, but he will not be the first selected from the class.
Correction added to last paragraph on Dec. 20, 12:04 PM ET
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