We've heard plenty about Stanford's Andrew Luck over the past few years. Some have gone so far to call him the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning came out of Tennessee. While there's a lot to like about his game, I would put Luck more in the company of another Manning -- Eli.
If you had a poster of what an NFL quarterback should look like, Luck would be your first choice for the photo. He has the pedigree (his dad played in the league), the size (six-foot-4, 235 pounds) and the numbers (nearly 9,000 yards passing to go with 76 touchdowns to 20 interceptions) to back it up. But when it comes down to it, he's going to have a tough time living up to the immense hype.
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Luck has a similar game to Manning when he left Ole Miss. Manning doesn't get enough credit for his ability to move in the pocket, and Luck is probably a little better athlete, but the comparison still holds true when it comes to other parts of their games like velocity on the ball and mental toughness.
Although the redshirt junior should be a rookie starter whenever he decides to go pro, there are parts of his game that will need to improve to reach star status.
One of the things that I noticed in examining Luck's tape is that he has a good arm but not great. He has to improve his accuracy down the field. He's pinpoint up to 20 yards, but falls off from there. Teams will try to make him throw deep and take away the short stuff so he can't pick them apart. You can get by without a great arm, but getting stronger should help.
Luck has a real presence in the pocket and feels the opposing pass rush. Even though he isn't a scrambler, he'll take off and run when the opportunity presents itself. However, he could improve his ability to throw on the move when the pocket breaks down.
Expectations could become a real issue because of the success the rookie QBs have had in 2011, particularly Cam Newton. One thing Newton had in his favor was the number of critics picking apart his game. There was so much talk that he would need time to develop and still might not be able to succeed in the NFL that he was able to just come in and play. Luck won't have that luxury.
In the grand scheme, these are things that Luck can overcome because of his amazing work habits. He's a natural-born leader and has the character you want when giving millions of dollars to a young man and trusting him to want more than just a payday. He's competitive and is hungry to improve and win.
There's no danger of a Ryan Leaf situation here. Still, even with Leaf, he could do some things that Peyton Manning couldn't coming out of college. Anyone can say they didn't have Leaf ahead of Manning now, but that's just not true -- there was about a 50-50 split between the two. The difference was that Leaf lacked the work ethic to succeed; Manning and Luck have that in spades.
With that, I don't think there's a bust factor with Luck because he has the intangibles to go with great ability. Still, we tend to overrate quarterbacks because we're always looking for that next great one. I don't think Luck comes in and dominates right away, but he'll be good in the long run.
Game of week: 49ers at Ravens
This is the first time two brothers have faced each other as head coaches. With two teams ready to make a playoff run, this one should a great way to end the holiday.
One of the keys to the game could be which team's Smith -- Alex or Torrey -- plays better. The 49ers have been getting up on opponents early and then turning to the run game with the lead. If Alex Smith can provide that cushion early and continue to avoid mistakes, San Francisco could ride the momentum.
Conversely, Torrey Smith has become a big-play threat for Baltimore. Considering how tough it is to run on San Francisco, Smith could stretch the field with his speed.
I don't think playing on the East Coast will hurt the 49ers as much as it has some teams because of the later start time (8:20 p.m. ET on NFL Network). This is going to be a defensive battle, one which I see going to Baltimore.