Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy this evening, adding to a story that should continue in the NFL next season.
It’s impossible to describe just how far Griffin has come in the last few months. He started the 2011 season as a fringe NFL draft prospect, the type of player you consider drafting due to his sheer athleticism but certainly not with a high pick. I’d watched Baylor games in the past to study Griffin and observed with frustration as he barely attempted a forward pass. He ran an exclusively screen-based offense with a few option-reads and showed very little pro-potential in the process. You only need to go back and watch the tape from the Texas Bowl loss to Illinois to realise the difference 12 months of work can make.
This season, suddenly Griffin was throwing the ball downfield regularly and with success. It started with a 50-48 win over TCU and developed into a season of impressive victories over the likes of Oklahoma and Texas. Griffin completed 72% of his passes, scored 45 total touchdowns and only threw six interceptions. Sure, he was helped by a group of dynamic receivers led by the prolific Kendall Wright – but Griffin became more than just the heartbeat of his team. Now, he too was also a dynamic and exciting playmaker. The level of development he’s made this year cannot be underestimated and it’s a great credit not just to the coaching staff in Waco, but also to Griffin himself for taking the next step.
Baylor only won nine games this season, but it’s interesting how that didn’t hamper Griffin’s Heisman bid. A few weeks ago, Andrew Luck would’ve been a nailed on certainty to win the trophy – yet a stuttering end to his final season at Stanford and Griffin’s surge combined to great effect. So how does this impact the draft, if at all?
What it does do is further raise the profile of RG3. Pundits perhaps a little tentative about promoting him into the upper echelons of their mock drafts will relax a little. Scouts and GM’s may well just get out the Oklahoma tape this evening and have another look. This was a very public form or promotion and the endearing speech he delivered in winning the trophy will have impressed many. Owners will be looking at Griffin tonight and seeing a face for their marketing plans.
Suggestions are starting to be made that this could push Griffin into #1 overall territory, ahead of Andrew Luck. We need to back that bandwagon up and park it fast. Andrew Luck is going to be the first overall pick next year, regardless of any decision this evening or whether Griffin’s socks come with their own cape. It’s a nice suggestion, but since when has any NFL team made a snap decision based on the Heisman Trophy vote in December? Luck has been the #1 pick in 2012 ever since the day he snubbed Carolina and returned to Stanford in January. Nothing has changed there.
But it’d be equally foolish to believe this won’t have any impact on Griffin’s stock. He’s seen as a trailblazer, someone with the skills, athleticism, smarts, looks and potential to lead a team – even a bad one. Being the first Baylor Bear to win a Heisman isn’t unexpected for this guy. He doesn’t really compare to anyone in the NFL right now, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but being the first RG3 rather than the next Aaron Rodgers may be enough.
Griffin’s skill set does compare favorably, however, with what the Seahawks appear to want at quarterback. So far they’ve added mobile quarterbacks who can extend plays, run naked bootlegs/play action and get the ball downfield when needed. Pete Carroll stresses winning the turnover battle like your life depends on it. Griffin doesn’t just fit the physical desires, but also the mental side of the game – he doesn’t make bad decisions, he’s limited turnovers and he’s been creative. For those reasons I suspect he could be high on Seattle’s board.
Yet as the Seahawks head towards a .500 record and maybe even an unlikely flirtation with the wildcard playoffs, they’re drifting further away from the top ten picks where it appears Griffin is now likely to go. I think the Seahawks would consider Griffin as their guy if he were available, but they’d have to really like him to make an ambitious move up the board.
We’ll have to wait a little longer for official confirmation on Griffin’s decision on the draft (he’s a redshirt junior in 2011). Having been at Baylor for four years now and winning the Heisman, there’s very little reason not to declare. He talked about law school, but this was long before he progressed into the star we see today. He’ll lose star seniors like Kendall Wright and his draft stock will never be higher than it is now. I suspect it’s close to a foregone conclusion that Griffin will be turning pro next April.