I wanted to continue the whole Luck vs Barkley debate today by publishing further tape (see below) courtesy of TMB Draft and also offering a few more thoughts.
I received a lot of different responses this week to my suggestion that Barkley may be the #1 overall eligible prospect for 2012, putting him above Andrew Luck. Most of it was fairly positive, with people embracing the possibility that there may be a challenger to Luck’s waltz to #1. A few argued aggressively against what I’d written, which I suppose was to be expected. Luck is an excellent prospect with the potential to be a very good NFL quarterback. However, I think we’ve got to a point now where people aren’t even breaking down his game any more or looking for counter arguments simply because the assumption is Luck = winning.
That’s not how I feel.
I totally understand that Luck has near perfect throwing mechanics, ideal size/build, more than enough physical strength to make a wide range of passes, faultless character and a pro-bloodline. In many ways he is the perfect prospect. I would never dispute that he does not warrant a very good grade. However, I also don’t think it’s being too desperate to try and look for reasons why another brilliantly talented quarterback may in fact be better equiped for the NFL.
Look at the tape between the two below. The Stanford offense is like a well oiled machine. Luck very rarely has to make more than one read because everything moves like clockwork. The environment around him is so smooth, it puts the emphasis on Luck to simply execute and he’s very capable of doing so. It’s no surprise to me that with more starts and time on the field he’s become more and more comfortable and that shows in the statistics. He completes a high number of passes and if we’re being brutally honest here, a lot of those passes are one-read, fairly simple completions.
He’s an incredibly accurate quarterback when asked to fit passes into tight windows, but the Stanford offense is a lot like a script. Luck is in the starring role, but he’s backed up by a top-notch supporting cast. If Luck nails his lines, then the play works. Practise has essentially made perfect and after an erratic start to his career, he’s at a point now where the lines come as naturally as driving a car.
What seperates Luck from the vast swathes of quarterbacks who also ‘master an offense’ is the long list of perfections I listed earlier. There are very few limitations be it physically, mentally or with pure potential. Yet I see very little improvisation from Luck. How much of his play is pure feel and how much is straight from the script? The only reason I ask is because when he gets to the next level, he’s going to have to improvise on what’ll be a 0-2 win team picking first overall. He may not have the great offensive line, running game and timing offense at Oakland or Cincinnati. He may be flushed out of the pocket and be asked to take a chance.
That’s not to say that like Peyton Manning and the previously awful Indianapolis Colts, an offense can’t be structured to match the quarterbacks talents and built up over time. However, Luck will have to hope like hell he’s not wearing Black and Silver because while a Washington or Denver may offer him a nice platform for possible sustained success, Oakland will swallow him whole and ask him to do too much. That is the situation where I think Barkley may be better served.
When I posted my article this week and discussed a lack of true elusiveness in the pocket for both Luck and Barkley, someone sent me a tweet arguing that Luck’s 453 rushing yards last year showed he was plenty elusive. He even compared Luck to Ben Roethlisberger. I couldn’t disagree more with that comparison. Luck actually runs a lot of designed QB draws or takes off when his one read isn’t open. We need to differentiate between Roethlisberger’s almost unmatched ability to avoid pressure and make plays downfield and Luck’s more structured running playbook. Two very different skills completely.
Both Luck and Barkley are similar in that sense in that neither are really great elusive quarterbacks. They’re very capable on boot legs, but not quite as good when combatting a heavy blitz in the backfield. However, this is where Barkley has the edge and may end up being a better pro in a bad situation. He has shown, in my opinion, a greater ability to go through three or even four progressions before throwing accurately. He’s flashed more plays where you think he’s going to be sacked and he’s ended up tossing a 25-yard gain. He’s not as polished or as efficient as Luck was late in 2010, but on a bad team he may have that bit of flair to make things happen while he learns the system.
I ask again – who makes the more difficult and challenging throws in the tape below?
The two players are both excellent in many of the areas you break down a QB, but when it comes to making reads and having that almost ‘Brett Favre’ esque ability to turn something into nothing, I’m going with MB. Make no mistake that a lot more is being asked of Barkley than Luck. The USC offense will revolve around Barkley and his ability to make consistent plays. Stanford will also rely heavily on Luck, but mainly to piece together the brilliant offensive line, running game and receivers running ever so crisp routes.
I’ve no doubt that if you put either Luck or Barkley in a comfortable position, they will thrive. If they’re in the opposite of a comfortable situation (again, not to pile on, but OAKLAND), then little things like making difficult reads and making plays downfield when things break down could be a difference maker. I’m not arguing that Luck isn’t going to be an elite quarterback. I just won’t rule out Barkley being better. He may well be better.