I’ve just finished watching the tape from last night’s Stanford vs Arizona game. Both teams were ranked in the top-15 coming into the game, but with home field advantage this always had the makings of a comfortable win for Andrew Luck and co.
So what about Luck?
Whilst he’s received almost universal fawning this season (including numerous ill-advised comparisons to Peyton Manning) I’ve voiced some concerns. Against UCLA earlier in the year he was erratic and inconsistent despite a blowout victory.
I watched last week’s game against Washington but it was difficult to judge. The game quickly went away from the Huskies and Stanford basically were sleep-walking to a huge win. Luck could’ve quarterbacked the game blindfolded.
Arizona are a better team than Washington although they struggled on both sides of the ball in this one. Only Oregon have found a way to outmaneouvre Stanford’s productive offense by putting on a big show themselves. That’s the only way to beat Stanford’s blend of run-pass-block.
Because he plays in such a perfect storm for a college quarterback, Luck just has to manage things well. People were getting carried away during the UCLA/Oregon games. This performance against Arizona was the first real evidence in my opinion of a guy ready to walk into the NFL.
In the first half Luck put on a masterclass. His accuracy was a lot more assured with none of the messy inconsistency we saw against the Bruins. He took two chances and missed on slightly risky throws, but overall was in complete control. Stanford came out passing and Luck executed to near perfection.
His footwork is already at the level you want from a NFL prospect. His throwing motion and release will need no work. On day one after he’s drafted, you can work on the playbook and feel confident in his technique. That was always the case though. Now he’s cutting out the erratic mistakes, he’s starting to play up to the reputation.
One thing he hasn’t got is a great deep ball. A long pass downfield floats dangerously similarly to Jimmy Clausen at times – and his deep velocity was a concern from day one last year. He doesn’t drive the ball, he places it with a lot of air. That was fine on a play-action 45-yard score in the first quarter, but his wide out put a great little move on the DB to get wide open. All Luck had to do was put the ball in his general area. He won’t always get that window at the next level.
That’s not to say he has a poor arm though. His velocity on short/medium throws is good, particularly when he needs to fit the ball into a tight window. A guy like Christian Ponder (who has a weak arm) can’t even get the right velocity on a WR screen. Luck doesn’t have the big deep ball, but he has a more than adequate arm.
In the second half things got a little sloppy with Stanford home and dry and there were some incompletions. However, when he’s needed to show up in his last three big games (Oregon, USC, Arizona) he’s thrown for over 280+ yards with a 7/2 TD-INT ratio.
When I grade Luck – the intanigbles and technique are all elite. He’s winning games on a good team. That’s all good for a first round grade. The issue that still remains for me is whilst he might ‘grasp’ a pro-style offense and he might be a ‘great’ leader - I’m not sure he’s either physically good enough or that accurate to walk onto a really bad team and perform quickly.
He’s not got the pin-point accuracy of Sam Bradford or the physical tools of Matt Stafford. Bradford in particular has been a minor revelation for the Rams. Stafford hasn’t had the same victories – injuries won’t help – but he’s kick started the franchise in Detroit.
If I had to compare him to anyone, it’d probably be Matt Ryan. When the Falcons drafted Ryan 3rd overall, they went back into round one to get an offensive lineman (Sam Baker, USC). They made a big splash in free agency to get Michael Turner. They had receivers and a pass rusher already in place. They built the right environment for their QB to succeed quickly.
If Luck lands on a 49ers team or a Panthers team – I think he can have that level of success early. What he won’t be however – is the sole turning point where the light switches on. St. Louis have four wins right now because of the Bradford factor. Everything else is a one-win roster. Put Luck on Buffalo’s team in tough conditions and I’m thinking less Matt Ryan and potentially more Joey Harrington.
You could argue that’d be the case for any quarterback. Maybe so – but Bradford was good enough to walk onto any team and charge things up. Stafford, physically, would’ve coped in Buffalo. Luck is a different brand and Buffalo might appreciate that too – although they’ll be widely criticised if they do pick first next April and don’t take Luck – it might be best for all concerned.
-Akeem Ayers (LB, UCLA) ended a run of three games without a big play by registering his fourth sack of the year in a 17-14 win over Oregon State. He is a potential LEO candidate, but I think you’d limit his playmaking ability. He’s better as a pure 4-3 OLB where you can truly use his instincts alongside the pass rushing.
-Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State) doesn’t get talked about much in another loaded year at defensive tackle. He had two more sacks against UCLA, putting him at five for the year. His ability to get to the QB will compliment his stoutness against the run. He’ll go earlier than some project right now.
-Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa) failed to record a sack in beating Indiana 18-13. His lack of pure production is a concern after eleven sacks in 2009. Clayborn sees a lot of double teams and faces good lineman regularly, but he’s not going to find a home in the top-20 picks with three sacks for the year.