In the spirit of college football's National Signing Day, let's explore a hypothetical scenario ...
It's National Signing Day in the NFL, and every player in the league is up for grabs. Your roster is completely bare and you need a guy to build the team around. Who is your No. 1 target?
There's only one acceptable answer to this question: Aaron RodgersAaron Rodgers. This should be the most popular answer because all other answers are wrong. He has the physical tools to make any play outside of structure and the smarts to run any system.
Unlike with Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck, you don't have to do any projecting when it comes to Rodgers. You know you are getting an experienced top-five quarterback who will be in his prime for a long stretch.
Luck or Rodgers? Six-year age difference can't be ignoredI'd take Andrew Luck, and for a few reasons.
First, Luck is an athlete, like so many of the other young quarterbacks in the NFL. But he a) is already broken in as a traditional pocket passer, b) has the size to withstand a beating and c) can easily and smoothly adapt away from being reliant on his legs. I don't doubt that Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick could do that, too -- it's just that we've already seen it from Luck.
Luck's already shown the ability to bring guys together and lift the collective level of play on an offense -- he was one of eight new starters on that side of the ball for Indy -- and be at his best in the clutch. That Colts' roster still needs plenty of work -- something those in Indianapolis acknowledge -- yet the quarterback was enough of a difference maker to allow the rebuilding process to move forward without any more two-win seasons.
In the end, my decision came down to Luck or Aaron Rodgers. And while Rodgers is more of a proven commodity at this point, the six-year age difference put Luck over the top.
Gimme RG3, even with the knee injuryIf I'm building a team, and if every player is available, I have to start at quarterback. I have to fight my inclination to grab Joe Staley from the San Francisco 49ers or Duane Brown from the Houston Texans because teams like the New York Giants have shown you can win without a star left tackle. Instead, I'll take Robert Griffin III.
Yes, I know he has a torn ACL. In my world, he'll heal quickly enough to still be a star. Plus, despite anecdotal evidence, I'm not sure quarterbacks who run and face head-on hits are more at risk than quarterbacks who drop back in the pocket and get crushed from the blind side. So I'll take RG3, whose physical skills and efficiency at such a young age are unmatched. And I'll trust he'll learn to protect himself better. Because what he did this year, with an under-skilled team that he carried on his back to the playoffs, shows me there is no better, younger, more charismatic, more talented option to build my team around.
Rodgers could lead any team to the promised landThe first- and second-year quarterbacks stole the show last season. Adrian Peterson rightly captured MVP. Whatever; I still want Aaron Rodgers as the face of my franchise. He's the best quarterback in the league, bar none. Look at what he did with all of the Packers' injuries at receiver, offensive line, running back and on the defensive side of the ball, as well. He's a true leader.
I'll take Aaron Rodgers, and my team is now better than yours.
After a long, hard deliberation, I'll take Wilson over LuckRussell Wilson. He might be a hair below Andrew Luck, but Drew Brees has proven shorter quarterbacks can succeed in the NFL. Moreover, Wilson's style of play doesn't leave him as vulnerable to injury as Robert Griffin III.
You must have a premium quarterback to succeed in today's NFL. I know Wilson sets a good example for all of the other Seattle Seahawks players by the way he carries himself. When your new star quarterback dresses appropriately and is the first dude in the office, that's saying something.
It's thisclose between Wilson and Luck. Either guy would be perfect to start a team with, and potentially carry it for 10 years.
You can have your top-flight quarterback -- I'll target J.J. WattThe obvious route would be to go after one of the truly elite quarterbacks in the NFL, like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or one of those guys. But outside of Rodgers in Super Bowl XLV, the championship team typically has a four-star quarterback (Eli Manning, Joe Flacco) with a very strong defense. Kind of like the way Alabama wins the national championship in football.
So I will follow the model of the Crimson Tide and instead build my team up front defensively. My first target would be J.J. Watt, to give me a strong presence at defensive end, and then I would try to pair him with Geno Atkins. My next target would be a guy like Richard Sherman, a shutdown cornerback who would make my defense even better.
Recruiting a top-flight quarterback would take too many resources, and it's not always the safest road. So I will instead be content building the strongest defense possible.
Luck is the best QB prospect since John ElwayAndrew Luck is my choice. He is a natural leader, a true face of the franchise. He has the passing skill to be a Hall of Famer. He proved this year that he could significantly raise a team's level of play by guiding the Colts to 11 wins -- one season after they managed just two.
Luck is the best QB prospect I have seen since John Elway.
Rodgers provides everything you want in a franchise building blockIn the name of being different, I'm tempted to go with Darrelle Revis, who has the largest margin between himself and the second-best player at his position. ... But the injury removes him from immediate consideration.
It goes without saying that Calvin Johnson is a transcendent wide receiver. By the time he's through, he might break all the records of Jerry Rice (a guy who, a couple of years ago, was named the No. 1 player in NFL history). As dominant as he is, though, Megatron's production hasn't translated to consistent winning for his team, and that's the trait I'm looking for if I'm taking ONE guy to build around.
So I'll be boring and go with a QB ... But which QB? I could go with one of the trailblazing run-and-pass youngsters who have (at least temporarily) redefined the position. Then again, maybe I should take a more traditional pocket passer, two of whom have won the last two Super Bowls. Hmmm. How 'bout we split the difference and go with a guy who's got as big an arm as anyone in the league AND can run (almost) as well as the top-end spread operators? How 'bout a guy who's in the playoffs AND atop the statistical categories every year? Yeah, that sounds good. I'll go with the quarterback who remains the best in the NFL: Aaron Rodgers.
Luck has already proven himself as a quarterback who will define this eraIf you have a quarterback, anything is possible. Picking any other position is fruitless. If you have a bad O-line, your star running back is going to be ineffective. If you have a stud receiver and a bad quarterback ... you don't have a stud receiver. If I'm starting from scratch, I want the best player who can lead my team for a long time. It's between two guys: Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck.
I know Luck has only had one season to be judged on, but it's easy to see he has it all. To accomplish what he did with a lack of playmakers at his disposal tells me he's one of those special signal-callers who makes everyone around him better. If everything were equal, and Rodgers and Luck were the same age, I'd go with Rodgers. But Rodgers is 29, and Luck is 23. Rodgers probably has six to eight more years of elite football in him, but Luck could have 15. Thus, Luck's my pick. We'll be talking about him the next few years like we've talked about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning over the past decade.
Yes, I'm incredibly jealous of Colts fans who are in the midst of what could be a 25-year span of great quarterbacking -- mostly because they know which jerseys to buy, given the peace of mind that comes with knowing a player won't be cut or traded. Nothing worse than having an outdated jersey.