Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck spent months vying to be No. 1.
The struggle played out on college football fields in California and Texas last fall, at off-season awards presentations in Florida and inside a theater room in New York City. This year’s great draft debate took the top two quarterbacks to Indianapolis for the annual scouting combine and back to their college campuses for personal workouts and interviews.
Now, barring some unforeseen circumstance before Thursday night’s NFL Draft, commissioner Roger Goodell will declare Luck the winner when the Colts make him the first overall pick. The truth is, there might not be a loser in this competition.
“Both guys have tremendous intangibles and their skill sets are outstanding,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said earlier this week. “I don’t see how either of them are not successful in this league.”
In the NFL world, there’s no such thing as a sure bet. Just ask JaMarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf.
Most analysts believe, however, Luck and Griffin will be smart picks if they can stay healthy and their teams remain patient with their development.
So why are the Colts taking Luck? History.
Luck’s résumé looks like a virtual carbon-copy of his predecessor in Indy, Peyton Manning.
He’s smart, loves the game and leaves nothing to chance. Even their paths to the draft are similar.
Like Manning, Luck grew up with an NFL-playing quarterback father. Like Manning, Luck left his home state to play college football. Like Manning, Luck ignored the temptation to leave school after three years even though both would have been the No. 1 pick. Like Manning, Luck finished second in the Heisman Trophy race during his final college season, and the Colts are hoping that, like Manning, Luck will make the Colts a regular Super Bowl contender.
In three seasons under Luck, the Cardinal went from a sub-.500 team to national championship contender. He broke John Elway’s school record for most TD passes in a career and last season completed 70 percent of his passes while throwing only nine interceptions.
Griffin’s résumé is every bit as impressive.
In 2011, Griffin threw for 4,293 yards, 37 TDs, completed 72.4 percent of his passes.
NFL scouts knew Griffin was a star much earlier than Luck.
“RG3 was an unknown quantity to those outside the professional scouting community. So his ‘ride; was purely a result of those who didn’t know him,” former Colts GM Bill Polian said. “He hasn’t risen, he was there all the time. Anybody who tells you he wasn’t, wasn’t doing their homework.”