The 2012 NFL Draft Dilemma: Welcome to Prime TimeThursday, May 24, 2012 By Zach thebner
April 18, 1998, the first round of the 1998 NFL draft is about to begin. Radio City Music Hall is filling up with hundreds of fans wearing their NFL team’s garb. The lights are on; excitement is in the air. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue approaches the podium ready to speak. The audience is energetic; the moment has finally come for the draft prospects in the green room and around the country, who are watching with their families and friends, to finally find out the drafting results in which the anxious college prospects will finally find out where they are going. As Commissioner Tagliabue is about to speak, the crowd grows quiet in anticipation. The most crucial eight words are then uttered from Commissioner Tagliabue’s mouth, “The Indianapolis Colts are now on the clock”. It is time for the most vital decision to be made. Soon to be NFL players, welcome to prime time. The Colts have been on the clock since the regular season ended for them at the end of December. With the NFL’s worst record at 3-13, the Colts have the first pick in the draft. For 4 months the Colts have evaluated countless prospects, and have finally decided on their top two: Tennessee’s, Peyton Manning and Washington State’s, Ryan Leaf. While enduring poor quarterback play during the season, the Colts decided that they need a franchise quarterback, so Manning and Leaf were the Colts top two options. The San Diego Chargers, who have the 2nd pick in the draft, decided that they will take the Quarterback that the Colts pass up. Ryan Leaf was viewed as the quarterback with the most potential to become a star NFL Quarterback, while Manning was viewed as the safer pick who was NFL ready from day one. Leaf was athletic, a great passer, and a proven winner, while Manning was more of a pocket passer and a great leader. However, Manning had much more knowledge of defensive game plans and had the intangibles, which great quarterbacks possess. These intangibles include composure under pressure, the ability to be clutch in adverse situations and to have total governance over the offense. Both Manning and Leaf were viewed as franchise quarterbacks for teams to build around and quarterbacks who would lead the organizations who picked them to future football glory. The Colts made the right pick by taking Manning, who won the NFL MVP 4 times, made 11 Pro Bowls, became a Super Bowl champion and MVP in Super Bowl 41, and who is a lock to be a future Hall of Famer. Leaf, who was taken second by the San Diego Chargers, turned to be immature and selfish, a terrible teammate and leader, as he blamed his teammates for his poor play throughout his career. He was out of San Diego by 2001. He was plagued by injuries and won a total of 4 games in his career as a starter, throwing only 14 touchdown passes. Manning has won 141 games and counting, thrown for 399 touchdowns and counting and at one point had not missed a game in 12 straight seasons. Leaf is now in jail because of theft and drug abuse, while Manning is continuing his stellar 14 year career with the Denver Broncos. The Colts made the correct pick back in 1998 taking Manning; however, they were in the same situation recently in the 2012 NFL draft. They held the first pick in the draft, and had to choose between two potentially future star quarterbacks. The Colts have had four months to decide on the pick and it has been a grueling process of evaluation, including interviewing and ranking top prospects. April 26th has already passed, and the Colts have already made their pick. Only time will tell if the Colts again made the right pick, and chose the quarterback who will bring the Colts a Super Bowl championship, a ten plus year career as the starting quarterback and a Hall of Fame resume. During the last few weeks leading up to the draft, the player who should be the first pick in the draft had been debated on countless sports shows, radio shows, and sports websites. The only thing that was definite was that the Colts were going to take a quarterback. This brought the debate to Robert Griffin III (RG3) of Baylor, against Andrew Luck of Stanford. Both Quarterbacks have great futures ahead if the teams they join can hone their skills. A little less than a week before the draft, the Colts announced that they would take Andrew Luck with the first pick. Since the Redskins decided that they would take the quarterback the Colts pass on. The Redskins took RG3 with the 2nd pick. The Redskins pulled off a colossal deal to move to the second pick to get RG3, by swapping first round picks with the St. Louis Rams (6 overall for 2 overall) and gave the Rams their next two first round picks for the 2013 and 2014 drafts, and their second round pick for this years draft. They believed RG3 was their guy; hopefully he will be worth the massive price they paid for him in draft picks. This is almost the same situation which occurred in the 1998 draft, when the team behind the Colts, the San Diego Chargers, took the quarterback that the Colts passed on, Ryan Leaf. Luck is the more complete and safer pick, as he ran a pro-style offense at Stanford during his entire career as a Stanford Cardinal. He was rated as the best Quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning. Todd McShay, who has evaluated NFL draft prospects since 1998, said that Luck was the most complete prospect that he had ever seen. He explained that Luck has no glaring weaknesses. Even with Luck’s intriguing physical skills, which will someday make him an elite quarterback, Luck scored a 37 on the Wonderlic test, which measures intelligence, and demonstrates that the quarterback from Stanford has all the physical skills and mental capacity to succeed in the NFL (Wonderlic test is out of 50 points. A 20 is average intelligence and scoring a 10 or below suggests a player is illiterate). On the other hand, RG3 scored a 24 on the Wonderlic. A 23 is the average for a quarterback going into the NFL, so RG3 is no dummy either. As Luck may be the greater quarterback taken in the draft right now, RG3 is looked at as the player with the most upside. He is viewed in this way, as he is extremely fast (4.4 in the 40 yard dash) and is able to make amazing plays out of the pocket, with his speed and his arm. He has been compared to Mike Vick, when Vick was coming out of Virginia Tech in 2001 (By the way, in the 2001NFL draft, Mike Vick went number one to the Falcons). RG3 is viewed as a better prospect then Vick because of three main reasons. The three main reasons are: stronger arm strength coming out of college, comparable speed and scrambling ability to Vick, and great quarterback intangibles. In the passing game, Vick would look for his first option during a passing play while playing at Virginia Tech. If his number one option on a play wasn’t open, Vick would scramble. RG3, on the other hand, would look at all the options, and if no one was open, then RG3 would run. In other words, RG3 is more developed in the passing game then Vick when he was picked number one overall in 2001. When comparing both quarterbacks, most of their physical skills are very similar, with the speed advantage going to RG3, and the height and passing ability going to Luck. However, the main difference between the two is that Luck has had more experience in the Pro-style offense, which he will run in the Colt’s system. RG3 ran the spread in college, which is taking a lot of snaps from the Shotgun formation and using many different formations. He will have to adjust to the pro-style offense which he will run in Washington as a Redskin. The biggest challenge for RG3 is that he will have to learn and perfect the art of taking the majority of the snaps directly from the center, learn to read much more complicated defensive schemes and learn how to protect his body while scrambling down field. Both quarterbacks are elite passers and can make plays with their feet. However, in college, RG3 was much more aggressive in making plays with his feet. Due to this, RG3 took a lot of shots to his body. Luck was much more conservative and played much of his game while in the pocket and throwing on the run. He did not take the vicious hits RG3 took during his career at Baylor while scrambling. Luck is truly an elite pocket passer. Another factor contributing to success is that RG3 is 6’ ‘2 and Luck is 6’ 4’. Luck has the height advantage, but RG3 is more explosive. A main decision why the Colts selected Luck was because he has only missed one game due to injury during his career at Stanford. RG3, on the other hand, missed the majority of his sophomore campaign due to an ACL tear while playing at Baylor. The media, sports analysts and Colts fans, believe the Colts took the safe pick with selecting the more polished player who has had more experience running an NFL based pro-style offense. Luck is currently the most ready to be an NFL starter from day one. When we look back on this draft in 10 years, we will be able to see if the Colts made the right pick with taking Luck, or if they should have taken RG3. The Colts made the right decision when they chose Peyton in ’98, but did the Colts make the right choice by taking Luck? Only time will tell.