|Gary A. Vasquez/NFL|
|Andrew Luck and Stanford finished the regular season 11-1 and are awaiting their BCS bowl destination.|
This item also appears in Albert Breer's Dec. 1 Inside The NFL notebook.
I've heard the nitpicking on Andrew Luck, so I made some calls this week to see what the folks paid to evaluate college players think. And what's come back is the same kind of unanimous result that you've gotten when asking about Luck all along. As one NFC personnel executive put it, "I'd bet they're just bored of hearing how great he is."
Another NFC personnel executive said that in the past two decades, "He's one of five guys that I've [scouted] where I can say, 'Yes, no doubt about it, he's gonna be damn good.' "
The first executive took it a step further, saying, "With Luck, I'd bet my life on it. With [Matt] Barkley and [Landry] Jones, you'd like to give them more time. They need to be phased in. With Luck, you give him the keys to the franchise Day 1, and he'll be fine."
Strong words? Yup. But if you want hard facts, those are readily available. He took a previously middling Stanford program to a 23-2 mark the past two years (the Cardinal scored 30 and 31 points in the losses), and in those 25 games, he's gone 524 of 745 (70.3 percent) for 6,508 yards, 67 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
There's little question about the mental part. As another evaluator told me, "Is he Tom Brady? Is he Peyton Manning? From an instinctive and cerebral standpoint, he's in that category." That has allowed him to lift the talent around him, against more talented Pac-12 teams at Oregon and USC, to compete.
"He's going to be a franchise quarterback, without a doubt, and a big part of it is that he's an anticipatory quarterback," said the first NFC exec. "His skill guys are worse than the skill guys on the other side in a lot of cases, so he needs to know what the defense is going to do, and be able to go there quick. He needs to throw guys open and he does. And when it breaks down, he's a big, strong kid who can be one of the Top 5-7 running quarterbacks in the NFL right away."
That brings us to Luck's arm strength, which has been scrutinized. You hear on both Luck and Barkley that accuracy further downfield can be a concern, particularly with Barkley, whose ball flutters a bit. But both those guys can make up for it, again, with their heads. Both are considered special in that regard, and Luck's physical attributes put him over the top.
"It's strong enough," the second NFC exec said. "It's as strong as Peyton's was. It's not Carson Palmer coming out of USC, but it won't be an issue with the way he anticipates things. It's plenty strong. Look, it's a risk to take anyone high. But it's more of a risk to value the athlete over the person. Happens all the time -- guy can run fast, jump high, but he's a (expletive)-head. This guy is A-plus all the way across. The only thing that's going to stop him is injury."
The nitpicking will, of course, only ramp up. Just remember that things have been pretty unanimous on this kid all along. He's Matt Ryan from the jump and could be Peyton Manning. Whichever team drafts him -- whether it's the Colts with the first pick or a team dealing up ("It'll have to be outrageous, a Herschel Walker trade," said the second executive) -- will have very little doubt in what they're getting.
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