NFL Draft Predictions: Robert Griffin III
by Trevor Whenham - 2/17/2012
Entering this college football season everyone knew what was supposed to happen — Andrew Luck was supposed to collect his Heisman Trophy en route to being selected first overall in the NFL Draft.
Baylor’s Robert Griffin III derailed the first half of that plan in pretty spectacular fashion, though. Now the outspoken Griffin has said that he plans to do what he can to wreck the second half of the plan as well.
He was able to say it in a way that came across more as bold and confident than cocky or arrogant, so the story has gained traction. With it, there is some momentum building around the idea that it is at least possible that Griffin could be the first player chosen and not Luck. Tony Dungy is one of the high-profile football people who have backed Griffin — though his personal ties to the Colts and Peyton Manning make it all but impossible to consider his opinion unbiased on that front.
So, is Andrew Luck in significant danger of losing out on being selected first overall? Could Griffin cap off a fairytale season with a, unbelievable finish? In a word, no. I don’t believe so at all. Let’s look at why from four different angles:
This wouldn’t even be a discussion if not for Newton
It’s interesting how things work out.
Last year Cam Newton went first overall, but he almost certainly wouldn’t have if Luck had declared for the draft. Many people were skeptical of the Newton pick — and I certainly count myself in that group.
Newton made us all look foolish with his oftentimes stunning, record-breaking season. Griffin and Newton are not the same player by any means, but they do have a lot of things in common — athleticism, ability to run, concerns about playing under center, and so on.
If Newton had been a flop last year then Griffin would be a total afterthought in this discussion. It’s only because a guy so non-traditional in NFL terms has worked out so well that Griffin even makes this conversation possible, never mind remotely interesting.
Luck is going first overall
Despite the determination Griffin has to climb to the top spot, and the momentum he is gaining in some quarters, I would be shocked like I have never been shocked before if Luck doesn’t wind up in Indianapolis with the first pick.
There are a few reasons for my certainty, but it all boils down to one thing — the Colts are far too conservative not to pick him. There are some organizations that might be willing to take a bold gamble in similar circumstances — the Raiders, Saints, or Jets off the top of my head. The Colts certainly aren’t though.
For starters, the team went from Jim Harbaugh to Peyton Manning. Neither guy has ever won a track meet, but they have been successful. The team has grown comfortable with traditional, blueprint NFL signal callers. Andrew Luck is pretty much the definition of that. Griffin is close to the opposite. The Heisman winner is an incredibly exciting player, but it’s not the kind of excitement that the Colts have traditionally liked.
Most significantly, the team is about to cut arguably the top quarterback of the last decade, and they are doing so in ugly, unpopular fashion. The move is going to be controversial enough, so they certainly can’t risk further issues.
They have to get the transition perfectly right, and second-guessing about not picking a guy who has been a certain No. 1 pick for two years is far too risky.
Griffin has a world of upside, and may turn into a franchise quarterback with a great career, but comparisons to guys like Vince Young, though not accurate, are going to be made a lot, and are scary for a team like the Colts that has done things so differently for so long. Luck, on the other hand, is as close to a plug and play starter as a team can have.
For a team that didn’t have to worry about the position for more than a decade that is exactly what they need.
Luck isn’t going to do anything to let himself be passed
This is a huge factor here as well. The only way that Griffin would be able to move into the top spot is if he has a spectacular offseason and Luck falters.
That’s not going to happen, though, because Luck won’t let it. He knows he is in the driver’s seat, and he knows the Colts covet him, so he is not going to be allowed to do anything that could risk embarrassment or a setback of any kind.
His Combine participation will be limited. His pro day will be carefully scripted. He’s not going to meet with a whole lot of teams. His media appearances will be controlled.
Luck has little to gain from putting himself out there between now and the end of April, and everything to lose. He’s too smart to screw that up.
The media needs something to talk about
This is the biggest factor here. The media needs to get viewers or sell papers or find readers. When it comes to the NFL Draft the easiest way to do that is to speculate about the No. 1 pick.
The public eats that stuff up with an endless appetite. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of football has pretty much known for three or four months now, though, that Luck was likely going to Indianapolis. That robs a lot of the drama and excitement from draft coverage.
A big reason, then, why the Griffin momentum story is gaining traction is because the media is desperate to make people believe that there is a reason to care about how the top of the draft turns out and what could possibly happen when Roger Goodell steps to the mic to announce the pick.
If the team with the No. 1 pick didn’t need a quarterback then the Griffin angle wouldn’t be in play because all the talk would be about who was going to make a move to land Luck.
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