I’ve just watched the tape from Saturday’s Stanford vs UCLA game. It was pretty ugly if you’re a Bruins fan – a 35-0 defeat and an offensive performance that was, well, offensive. I wanted to see how Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford) performed against a good defense but when said defense is on the field for almost the entire game it’s tough to judge. Luck’s stat line was pretty similar to the kind of thing we saw last year – 11/24 passing for just 151 yards and a pair of TD’s. The thing that concerned me most from last year was Stanford’s ability to lean on Toby Gerhart to get huge yardage and TD’s in bulk essentially making life easy for the QB. Nothing much has changed.
Instead of Gerhart, the Cardinals are using 4-5 different runners. The results however remain the same. TIme and time again Stanford ran the ball with such ease it was embarassing for UCLA. When you’re able to run the ball as well as Stanford do, Luck simply has to manage the game. His method needs to be (and is) – don’t make mistakes, lead the team, keep it ticking over. Luck manages all of those things well and Stanford will win their fair share of games this year thanks to the run game. But what does this mean for Luck’s pro-prospects? I’m not convinced.
For starters, I don’t think he can beat teams with his arm. He throws an awful lot of low passes and I can only presume this is a technical issue. There’s nothing immediately obvious when you watch his motion, but too many times we saw a receiver diving to the ground to try and make the catch. His arm strength is just average. He doesn’t have a weak arm but he can’t drive the deep ball and stretch teams. He’ll sufficiently get the ball out quickly and with decent velocity on a short or medium range, but physically he’s not going to really test anyone deep. His accuracy is patchy at best, which is why we see these games where he completes less than 50% of his passes. On both TD passes and his two-point conversion he showed nice touch and put the ball on the money. But a lot of other times he’d throw into coverage, just lob it too high/low and force it into tight windows. Not being physically brilliant means he has to be very accurate and he isn’t.
Luck can move around and is agile for a guy listed at 6’4″ and 235lbs, but Jake Locker he isn’t. He can make first downs in CFB but he’s not got difference making speed and he won’t scare anyone in the NFL with his legs. It does mean he can tackle a good bootleg and that’ll be key for teams like Seattle who want their guys to move about – but he’s not going to be a threat at the next level as a runner.
Of course, Luck is merely a redshirt sophomore. Sam Bradford won a Heisman and scored 50 TD’s as a RS/Sph but didn’t declare, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Luck sticks around and doesn’t declare for the 2011 Draft. But I watch Luck and the words ‘game manager’ just scream out at me. If I’m drafting a guy early who isn’t a physical specimen then I want accuracy – and Luck doesn’t show enough of that. I’m taking him out of my next mock draft under the presumption he won’t declare, but I’d have a hard time seeing him go Top-10 anyway on this weekends evidence.
So what does this mean for the 2011 class of QB’s? Christian Ponder had a nightmare against Oklahoma. I’ve given my thoughts on Luck. As things stand, I think we’re potentially looking at two guys as first round picks – Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett. The thing I like about Locker is his ability to make something out of nothing. I want to see him be good a lot of the time not great some of the time – but that ability to be ‘great’ is what makes him an interesting prospect. Mallett has a brilliant arm and is capable of making throws nearly nobody else can. He’s still inconsistent, he’ll still put too much on throws when a bit of touch is needed. However, someone is going to gamble on working that out to own the arm. I think he can turn into a more rounded passer if he isn’t thrown in at the deep end. But right now, I’m looking at those two guys when it comes to top picks at the QB position next year.