NFL Draft Scouting Report: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Andrew LuckAndrew Luck is as much of a “sure thing” as you will find in any professional sports draft.  This is because he is so much more than inflated numbers, physical tools, and consistent play.  Scouting the quarterback position is so difficult because it involves so much of a player’s mental make up and that can be hard to assess.  Luck is so often compared to Peyton Manning because viewers can see without a doubt the preparation for and and understanding of the game by the things he does on the field.  Luck’s command on the field makes others around him better and he will set the bar for the type of work ethic is needed to consistently win games in the NFL.

If you want to nitpick, Luck may be close to his ceiling in terms of potential.  However, that ceiling is that of an elite NFL quarterback and the floor is extremely high as well.  Luck is the type of player who can turn around a franchise and a player   you build around for years to come.

 

PLAYER COMPARISON
Peyton Manning, Colts
PROJ. DRAFT POSITION
1st Overall
INJURY HISTORY
No major injuries sustained   

CAREER ACCOLADES
Heisman Trophy finalist in 2010,2011   
All American in 2010, 2011

KEY STATS
Career 9,000+ yards   
Career 4:1 TD/Int ratio

Background/Character
Luck has all the intangibles you look for in a guy you want to be the face of your franchise.  A four year starter, Luck has experienced the struggles a quarterback can have on a team that is rebuilding and has been able to carry the team on his back to back to back BCS bowls.  He is a natural leader who garners respect from his coaches to his equipment managers.  He is vocal on the field and a true commander who demands that his teammates work as hard and gives every bit of effort as he does.  Coaches rave about his mental makeup and his football IQ.  Few pro quarterbacks are able to absorb information in the film room and apply it to the football field the way Luck does. 

Jim Harbaugh argues that he is one of the most prepared quarterbacks going into games regardless of level.  Despite having marginal athletes at the receiver positions throughout his career, Luck has been very productive.  Much of this production is attributed to Luck’s ability to spread the ball all over the field and keeping defenses honest.  You always feel like you have a chance to win with Luck leading the way.

Athleticism
He is another underrated athlete much like Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers were coming out of college.  In fact, you could argue Luck’s athleticism resembles a combination of those two quarterbacks.  Much of the country saw this athleticism on a play this year when Luck made a one handed catch down the sideline keeping his balance to set up a touchdown.  Trick plays aside, Luck displays the strength, balance, and coordination inside and outside of the pocket which allows him to make plays all over the field.  Luck has a strong lower half that allows him to move effortlessly in the pocket and through traffic.  He is light on his feet and shuffles well side to side to avoid the rush.  He can start and stop quickly to avoid pressure and to move outside of the pocket when needed. 

He is rarely caught out of position or off balance to make a throw and does an excellent job of keeping his weight above his feet so he remains a threat to either pass or throw.  When he takes off running he has surprising straight line speed.  Against UCLA in 2010 he broke a 50+ yard touchdown run in which he outran some defensive backs.  He has great build and shows good overall football strength.

Passing Ability
There has been some unwaranted speculation about Luck’s arm strength entering the draft.  No, his arm is not elite, but he has more than enough velocity on his throws and has proven to make every NFL throw.  What’s most impressive about Luck’s passing ability is that he can make throws from every angle, under pressure, on the move, etc.  In the NFL, he’s not always going to have a clean pocket and the great pro quarterbacks have that ability to deliver the ball accuratly from different angles.

Luck has shown the ability to deliver the ball with necessary velocity and accuracy when running to his left or right and even forward.  He shows good touch on underneath routes and can place the ball over the receiver’s shoulder and into the bread basket on deep throws.  Luck can thread the needle and stick the ball into the receivers chest in traffic.  He has done this with receivers 15-20 yards downfield.


Passing-Technique

Luck is fundamentally sound in the 3 step game all the way to the 7 step game.  He is quick in his dropback and gets the ball out quickly out of his plant.  There is little to no wasted motion in his drops all the way through his release.  The ball comes out high and springs out of his hand.  Luck flings the ball effortlessly and can make accurate throws with defenders draped around him ala Roethlisberger because of his upper body strength and ability to square up his shoulders.  He shifts his weight from back to front extremely consistently regardless of a clean pocket or defenders zeroing in.

When Luck retreats from the pocket he keeps his eyes downfield continuously reading through progressions and quickly resets his feet to make the throw.  If there is a flaw here it is when he is rolling to his left (opposite side) and must deliver an accurate throw into tight areas.  He could do a better job of setting up to shoot his hips through those throws that require velocity on the move to his left.

Passing-Instincts
As mentioned, Luck’s football IQ and ability to process large amounts of information in a split second are off the charts.  It’s not a stretch to compare Luck’s instincts and football intelligence to those of Peyton Manning coming out of college.  What really makes him special though is his anticipation.  He has a way of “making” receivers open with his ability to anticipate their breaks and throw to spots only they can reach.  As efficient as he’s been throughout his career, Luck has been uncharacteristically mistake prone in some of this years bigger games.  Against Oregon and USC Luck threw a pick-six in each game.

Still, Luck has such a short term memory and you hardly ever see him make the same mistake twice. Luck had a shortage of receiving weapons outside of his tight end corps and this probably attributed to the increased turnovers but he does such an exceptional job of seeing the entire field and reading through his progressions to find the open man.  There were several games in which 6 or more players caught a pass.  Luck has rare “feel” for the game and is far more advanced as a quarterback than any other college QB I’ve seen.

Summary
Andrew Luck is as much of a “sure thing” as you will find in any professional sports draft.  This is because he is so much more than inflated numbers, physical tools, and consistent play.  Scouting the quarterback position is so difficult because it involves so much of a player’s mental make up and that can be hard to assess.  Luck is so often compared to Peyton Manning because viewers can see without a doubt the preparation for and and understanding of the game by the things he does on the field.  Luck’s command on the field makes others around him better and he will set the bar for the type of work ethic is needed to consistently win games in the NFL.  While he does not possess an elite arm, he can get enough trajectory on deep passes to push the ball downfield on fades or place the ball accurately on back shoulder throws downfield.  He also fits the growing trend of NFL quarterbacks that are primarily pocket passers with the athleticism to escape the pocket and elude today’s speed rushers and pick up big gains with their feet. 

Andrew’s ability to scan the entire field in a short span allows coaches to spread the ball around and prevent defenses from keying in on a specific trend or specific receivers.  Against USC this year, Monte Kiffin had prepared his team with well designed defensive schemes that featured a slew of disguises and stunt packages.  Luck made some mistakes during that game but quickly adjusted and showed no signs of being rattled under the pressure.  He seems to have tunnel vision and an exceptional capacity to focus under pressure situations.  You can see him coaching his team up in the huddle and on the sidelines and shows elite awareness of situations on the field before and after the snap.  What’s most impressive about Luck is they way he makes the game seem so easily.  He always seems to be a step ahead of the defense and has the physical tools to execute anything he wants at any moment in time.  If you want to nitpick, Luck may be close to his ceiling in terms of potential.  However, that ceiling is that of an elite NFL quarterback and the floor is extremely high as well.  Luck is the type of player who can turn around a franchise and a player you build around for years to come.

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