The highly anticipated 2012 NFL Draft will feature the selection of two incredibly hyped quarterbacks and the Indianapolis Colts, along with the Washington Redskins, will be the two teams that have to learn if the hype is, well, real.
While it's clear that the Colts have always had their sights set on Andrew Luck to lead their new era, Robert Griffin III's ("RG3") incredible talent continues to spark much debate about who will be the more successful professional.
Griffin is a three-year starter and has been the model of consistent production, featuring his arm and legs. As a true freshman, Griffin passed for 2,091 yards (59%), 15 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He added 843 yards on 179 carries (4.9) and 13 touchdowns, immediately establishing his dynamic play making ability. Following his standout freshman year, Griffin suffered a serious knee injury in 2009, after only starting three games. Subsequently, many doubted Griffin's ability to come back and be the same athlete. However, he quickly put his doubters to bed as a redshirt sophomore, starting all 13 games and finishing the season with much-improved accuracy (67%), 3,501 yards, 22 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Once again, he further proved his athleticism on the ground, rushing for 635 yards on 149 attempts (4.3) and 8 touchdowns.
And then came 2011... In Griffin's junior year, he, well, totally exploded. Starting 13 more games, Griffin finished the season with 4,293 yards, 37 touchdowns, and only 6 interceptions. His accuracy also improved, again, connecting on an impressive 72.4% of his throws. On the ground, he racked up 635 yards on 149 carries (4.3) and 8 touchdowns. Not only was he a First-Team All-American, but he also captured the Davey O'Brien Award and the prestigious Heisman, which was all but guaranteed to Luck.
Stats aside, Griffin is one of the most impressive athletes in the draft (Olympic hurdler, anyone?) and certainly is the most athletic quarterback. Many have compared his abilities to that of Cam Newton, but Griffin is Griffin. Possessing lightning speed, smooth cuts, and explosive bursts, he's extremely dangerous when outside the hash marks. Some have pondered about his tendency to run-first as a pro and his size, but mostly his durability, are also cause for concern. While he did mangle his ACL, quick feet and the ability to confuse defenders with his legs will serve as his greatest protection.
Griffin can work within the pocket, but he does have a tendency to hold onto the ball too long and consistently look to the outside. This must improve and will only increase his durability concerns. Suffering consistent brutal hits at the next level isn't easy for any quarterback, let alone a guy with his physical makeup. He will also need to improve upon his ability to read the defense and feel out his progressions thoroughly. Furthermore, Griffin has operated out of a spread offense throughout his career at Baylor. He needs to digest the impending blitz with more efficiency and is inexperienced under center. Fundamentally, this will be one of the largest transition obstacles that he will face.
As far as quarterbacks go, he has the components to be elite. He features a quick release with impressive placement. He also is not afraid to go down field, showing off his cannon-like arm that features great accuracy (67.1% career), especially when going deep. Griffin's throwing motion (3/4) and lower body mechanics are weaknesses, but he is a natural thrower. He can comfortably throw in a lot of situations and when it comes down to crunch time, Griffin can be depended upon to make that signature play.
In my opinion, one of Griffin's most impressive qualities is his intelligence. I've witnessed Griffin speaking to the press firsthand, and this guy absolutely lights up the room. Very confident and extremely charismatic. Not only is he a likeable guy, but he's a natural communicator. While at the Combine, I remember Romeo Crennel commenting on how he could sit and talk football with Griffin all day. It's clear that Griffin's work ethic is top-flight and it shined through during his impressive improvement, year after year. Ultimately, these traits make him very coachable and show why he has had so much success, on and off the field.
No matter how much film you watch, it's impossible to address every aspect of this guy's game. This is a player that could ultimately transform the position, as we know it. Andrew Luck is the more polished prospect (mechanics, awareness, offensive experience), but Griffin is just a totally different animal. And while both carry question marks, Griffin's carry more risk.
I have no idea who will make the better pro, but I can tell you this: I'm not going to be the guy who doubts Griffin's future stardom. When all is said and done, I believe both of these unique talents will make two cities---Indianapolis and Washington---very happy.
A "plus" athlete who can really throw the football, is a student of the game and is only starting to scratch the surface of his potential. Has as much upside as any prospect in the draft and looks like a future franchise signal caller.
An extremely competitive, sandlot quarterback who showed continual improvement as a passer and found ways to create plays in the clutch. Is brimming with upside, possessing the arm talent and intelligence to fit any type of offense with refinement.