Luck, Wilson and Newton are in different places this offseason. Newton is coming off an MVP season and a loss in Super Bowl 50. Wilson failed to make it to his third consecutive Super Bowl but played out of his mind to close out 2015. And Luck, of course, endured an injury-riddled campaign that saw him post a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 15:12, a passer rating of 74.9 and a 2-5 record in just seven games.
But a lot can change in half a decade. So let's look ahead to the final year of Luck's contract. How do you think these quarterbacks will be ranked by 2021?
For me, Luck is the best quarterback. While
Cam Newton and
Russell Wilson are special players, Luck is an elite talent, and that makes him the clear No. 1.
Luck has a lot of upside and potential as a smart and talented quarterback. However, he hasn't shown consistency and has way too many turnovers -- throwing 12 picks in just seven games in 2015. Based on what I've seen from these three quarterbacks so far in their careers, I can't justify putting Luck above Wilson and Newton.
This is a tough question, because the answer is based on feeling more than anything else. Regardless, the new deal is likely to work out for the
Colts in the long term -- historically, when you sign a player to a long-term contract, if he's truly a good player, he'll end up outperforming his deal as salaries rise around the league.
Since quarterbacks are ultimately judged by rings and wins, I believe Wilson and Newton will continue to rank ahead of Luck due to their superior supporting casts. Wilson has arguably the best defense in football behind him, which alleviates the pressure on him to play at an A-plus level each week. He can simply "manage" the game and rack up wins. Newton is in a similar situation in Carolina, with Luke Kuechly and a core of young defensive talent providing a strong support system. On offense, the Panthers have surrounded Newton with big-bodied pass catchers who can expand the strike zone, along with some speedsters who can enhance Newton's deep-ball ability. With a strong running game and solid offensive line also in place, Newton and the Panthers are positioned to be contenders for the foreseeable future.
I don't believe Luck has enough around him to maximize his talents. Although he has pass catchers around him, the
Colts' suspect offensive line and non-existent running game places too much responsibility on him to carry the offensive load. With a defense that lacks the firepower to get stops, the
Colts' franchise quarterback will post big numbers but rarely achieve the team success needed to be considered the top guy in the class.
That's how I see the ranking in 2021. Remember, quarterbacks are judged by winning, and particularly Super Bowls. Personally, I have always gone against that trend. Yet, I think the fact Wilson has already won one Super Bowl, started another and still has the opportunity to start more with that Seahawks nucleus puts him in a unique position. He is also a more efficient passer than Luck or Newton. After all, his career passer rating (101.8) is second only to Aaron Rodgers' (104.1) all time.
Choosing between Luck and Newton ... yeesh. I believe Luck will run less, thus limiting his injury risk. Yes, Luck ranks up there with the NFL's elite in athleticism, but the backlash he's received from exposing his body unnecessarily and throwing picks will be the best thing for him. Rein it in more, press less. He still sees the field and has as much command of what's going on as anyone. Let's not forget how good Luck was out of the gate. Expectations are through the roof.
We can't be victims of the moment with him, or Newton, for that matter. Newton earned that 2015 MVP. It wasn't close. But a big part of his game is still running, specifically in the red zone. QBs take off less as they age. While he was fantastic last year, I think we need to see more before saying he's a better passer than Wilson or Luck. Questions abound regarding his leadership post-
Super Bowl, but I think Newton will move past that noise. The question for me is whether his passing effectiveness will bely the gradual decline in his running effectiveness.
Newton has consistently improved as a passer. He can continue to improve his footwork, which will help his accuracy. Wilson's improvement will come just by the natural progression of seeing defensive schemes more. However, his limitation -- his lack of height impeding his vision -- will not change, and he will still have to make plays outside the pocket by running and throwing. Luck has to learn to throw the ball away more often -- he holds the ball too long waiting for the big play -- and cut down on forced passes, but otherwise, he has all the skills you look for in a QB. He has a strong arm, good mobility and is very smart.
This isn't an answer based totally on logic. Wilson has the most organizational support around him, especially his great defense. But the Seahawks haven't had a great offensive line since he's been there. Newton has a great defensive coach and some nice young receivers, while Luck's young receiver crew is impressive.
I give Newton and Luck the slight edge over Wilson because they have a higher ceiling. They have the same physical advantages they had over Wilson when they entered the league. They showed the ability to read the entire field quicker. They make the outrageous look routine with size, speed and arm strength. Then again, so does Wilson. Why did I answer this question again?