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RG3 over Luck? It's close, but no

1/3/2012

Stanford's Andrew Luck (Scouts Inc. Grade: 99) and Baylor's Robert Griffin III (Scouts Inc. Grade: 95) are both expected to be in the 2012 NFL draft field, and the debate is underway as to which prospect the Indianapolis Colts should take with the No. 1 overall pick.

Luck has been considered a slam dunk as the top pick since deciding to skip the 2011 draft and play another year at Stanford, but Griffin has gained all kinds if momentum in recent weeks, winning the Heisman Trophy after an impressive performance down the stretch this season.

I spoke highly of Griffin in a blog entry a few weeks ago, and let me be clear that I believe he has the physical tools to realize his enormous potential. All indications are that he is also a high-character leader and exactly the kind of player an NFL team would want as the face of its franchise.

However, after Luck's standout performance in a Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State (27 of 31, 347 yards, 2 TDs) there is little question he remains the better prospect and should be the pick for the Colts.

What makes the difference? For me, it begins with Griffin's frame and injury history. At a shade under 6-2 and 218 pounds, he's slightly undersized for a quarterback prospect. He also tore the ACL in his right knee in the third game of the 2009 season and missed the second half of the 2011 Texas Tech game with an apparent head injury.

Griffin's mobility means he takes some big hits, and that makes durability even more of a concern. As for Luck, at 6-4 and 235 pounds, he has the build to absorb contact more effectively, and he missed only one game during his career (broken index finger).

As for other on-field factors, their season stats are more similar than you might think, so let's look at how Luck separates himself based on the four quarterback-specific categories we at Scouts Inc. use to evaluate quarterbacks.

Mental Makeup

Little separates Luck and Griffin here. Both consistently put their teams in position to win games late and perform at their best in high-pressure situations. Each is an effective game manger who can make sound pre-snap reads and recognize weaknesses in the defense. Luck gets the edge, though, because he's more experienced dropping from under center and reading the field from pro-style sets. Griffin played in a spread-based scheme at Baylor that simplified his reads and created favorable matchups on its own.
Edge: Luck

Accuracy

Griffin completed 72.4 of his passes this season, and Luck 71.3 percent. Neither shows a weakness in this area. They can hit receivers in stride on short-to-intermediate passes and drop the deep ball in behind coverage. They even share a common flaw, which is allowing their footwork to get sloppy at times. Luck also has a slight advantage here, though, despite his slightly lower completion percentage. Luck is more consistent with his ball placement, doing a better job of putting his receivers in position to produce after the catch.
Edge: Luck

Release/arm strength

It's a coin toss here. Both can get the ball from A to B in a hurry and thread the needle when necessary, and each can take the top off the coverage on deeper throws. Their ability to alter their launch point and slip the ball past the outstretched hands of rushing defenders is also impressive.
Edge: Push

Pocket mobility

Both are excellent athletes who can sidestep interior pressure and step up to avoid pressure off the edge. They can also get outside the pocket and throw well on the run. Luck has better awareness, and his internal clock makes it difficult to get him on the ground, but Griffin gets the nod in this category despite a tendency to hold the ball too long at times. Griffin's ability to flip his hips and reset his feet when he's forced to move in the pocket is elite, and while we are talking about pocket mobility here, Griffin's big-play ability as a scrambler cannot be overstated or ignored. Edge: Griffin