Greetings. Having finished my allotted work for the term, it's time to get back on the bandwagon with a new Five Plays. Greg has most courteously asked me to focus on the draft, and as such, here we are. We've all heard the platitudes and praise which refer to Luck as the 'greatest prospect in decades' or the 'best since Elway'. Is there truth within such statements, or is it another example of an over-excited media getting too far ahead of themselves? In due course, I'll explain what I think of Andrew Luck and will hopefully show a few plays which prove demonstrative in terms of where Luck is strong and where he isn't.
Play #1 - Stanford vs Virginia Tech - Orange Bowl 2011.
The following is the sort of play which just makes you go 'wow'. I've got real questions about Luck's arm strength from a static position, but the following does do something to help in that it displays his arm strength on the move, which is above average.
The play is run from a heavy formation, namely the 1WR 3TE 1RB set. The routes run are all fairly shallow, allowing for a quick checkdown in the event of a blitz.
In the event, the protection doesn't hold up overly well and Luck does a poor job in making his reads, in my opinion.
The pressure eventually comes to bear, and Luck is forced into an impromptu roll out. Watch the notable athleticism in terms of escaping the pocket and the pressure along with it.
He keeps Coby Fleener in mind all the while, and has the confidence to try and make an absolutely outrageous throw across the field.
He throws the ball as he's being dragged down to the floor, and he somehow releases it with adequate power despite working from a decidedly shaky base.
And bear in mind this is a throw 30 yards downfield. The throw is absolutely immaculate, and it's one of the best I've certainly seen in recent years.
It's complete, and from a 3rd and 3 situation - and one in which Luck appeared to have certainly been sacked - the Cardinal are able to move downfield and resume their drive. Absolutely top quality.
Play #2 - Stanford vs Virginia Tech - Orange Bowl 2011.
The following play is almost as outrageous.
Luck lines up in the 3WR 1TE 1RB formation. He has a few checkdown routes both to the left and the right, though from the design of the play he's going to roll right post-snap. Watch Coby Fleener (again) in red.
As mentioned, Luck rolls right and is always seeking his safety blanket, Fleener. The protection from the OL is absolutely fantastic, which enables Luck to concentrate his efforts on going downfield.
Working from an unsteady base as appears to be the norm, Luck puts everything onto the throw.
Fleener's speed allows him to create separation in a fairly short window of time, which further enables him to look back for the ball and anticipate the flight and speed of the pass.
Luck leads his receiver perfectly, and Fleener is able to turn on the jets and accelerate away for the touchdown.
If asked to elaborate on which element of Luck's game I'm most enthused with, his ability to lead the receiver is prominent. He's excellent at anticipating routes and windows, and it shows on the field.
Play #3 - Stanford vs Notre Dame - 2011.
I promise this isn't intentional - again we are to focus on the Luck-Fleener relationship.
The Cardinal line up in a 1WR 3TE 1RB set, which indicates both the nature of the Stanford offense as well as the receiving capabilities of the TEs in question, with emphasis on Coby Fleener. In this instance, Fleener is split out wide to the left and is in motion.
As Luck snaps the ball, he's already looking over to the flat to consider a possible throw to the fullback, while also using his peripheral vision to note Fleener downfield. It's a very small play-fake, and it's executed fairly smoothly.
In the event, Luck sets himself after a suitable drop and steps into the throw in the prescribed fashion, having briefly scanned the field.
He throws the ball 15 yards downfield to the open Fleener, who has managed to use his quickness and agility to create separation. The ball is placed exactly where it has to be placed - it's both reasonably in-stride and shielded from the defender - and it allows Fleener the possibility of maintaining momentum.
Note: this piece may well reflect as many of the positives regarding Coby Fleener as it will Andrew Luck. Fleener makes the catch, swivels his hips and begins a charge to the endzone. The hapless Notre Dame defender can do little to prevent him from making the ground.
It's all rather embarassing, but the point to be made is that the ball was delivered on-time and in a fashion which enables this sort of thing to happen.
To emphasise the simple nature of the play, these images do it best.
Fleener looks, he puts his hands out, and the ball arrives with precision - a skill which is clearly necessary and transferrable to the NFL.
Play #4 - Stanford vs Oklahoma State - Fiesta Bowl 2012.
The following play exhibits the primary concern I have with Luck - his arm strength.
The Cardinal line up in a 2WR 2TE 1RB set, with a play action on their mind.
The play-action is fairly convincing and certainly does enough to throw the Oklahoma secondary into disarray.
Luck gives himself enough room to step into the throw, while the pass protection holds up sufficiently.
Luck exhibits the form which scouts everywhere have been drooling about, releasing the ball from a high point.
The separation obtained by Ty Montgomery is absolutely huge, and displays the importance of the play action. The issue I have is displayed here - Montgomery has the separation and has to slow down for the ball to reach him. Against NFL defenders, he'd either have direct competition for the reception or at least the defense would more adequately transition into deep pass defense.
Montgomery eventually reaches back for the completion, and it ends up as a touchdown. Nonetheless, my concerns aren't so readily dismissed.
From a wider angle, you can examine just how much separation Montgomery obtains, primarily due to the effectiveness of the play-action.
The completion has little to do with a great throw, and while the effectiveness of the play-action is certainly a laudable element in Luck's play, I just don't see anything more than average arm strength.
Play #5 - Stanford vs Oklahoma State - 2012 Fiesta Bowl.
The following is a fairly simple pass, but it does highlight the success of Luck and the Stanford Offense in the redzone - success which resulted in 67 scores out of 69 possessions, for a 97% conversion rate - and to my knowledge, Luck did not turn the ball over himself in that span.
The Cardinal line up in a 2WR 2TE 1RB set, with Zach Ertz lined up in the slot to the right. He's being covered by Markelle Martin, the consensus top ranked FS in the class.
Martin backs off far too much, and I have no idea why he would. Ertz is a TE and has the accompanying limitations on athleticism which usually come with the position. It's a quick slant, and Luck displays a quick release reminiscent of one Peyton Manning.
Martin even has the courtesy to fall over upon Ertz making the reception, and he's allowed to progress unimpeded past the first down marker and towards the endzone.
The other safety in the defensive backfield makes a token effort to come over and make a play, but Ertz displays a hitherto unacknowledged athleticism.
He dives over the safety for a touchdown. Though I wouldn't advocate a torpedo style landing face first particularly frequently.
Here the camera focuses on Ertz and the ease with which the touchdown is scored.
The ball is again placed exactly where it needs to be, and Ertz is able to continue running, maintaining his momentum for the moment of the catch.
Touchdown. Redzone efficiency is a key tool I use to evaluate quarterback play, and Luck is flawless in that respect. Just as we had with Peyton Manning, we can perhaps look forward to consistency in the redzone.
What do I think of Andrew Luck? I think he'll be a Pro Bowl Quarterback for many years. He displays above average skills in pretty much every area of quarterbacking, aside from arm strength. His anticipation, intelligence and ability to lead the receiver will undoubtedly lead him to success in the NFL, and I'm thankful that it's likely going to be for the Colts. He clearly possesses the intangibles necessary to lead an NFL franchise, and his adaptibility and success while throwing on the run bodes well for a young player playing behind a shaky OL. That said, my concerns over his arm strength are fairly considerable. Most of the long passes made by Luck from a static position in the pocket invariably have the receiver waiting for the ball downfield, and as well as that, the ball tends to flutter in the air, which will create opportunities for opposing DBs to break on the ball and get pass deflections and INTs.
I'd look for Luck in a Colts uniform to develop a rapport with Austin Collie, as was the case with Coby Fleener and Doug Baldwin in previous years. One element to further hone in on is the run-first mentality exhibited at Stanford while Luck was QB. The Colts may well seek to mirror this in the first couple of years, and combined with Chuck Pagano's desire to run the football, don't be surprised if the offense becomes more simplistic.
Whether he can overcome the arm strength question will define his NFL career. If he can, All-Pro honours and potential candidacy for the Hall of Fame may well beckon, if I may make such a projection. If he cannot, then he'll be a consistent quarterback at the Pro Bowl sort of level, but perhaps not much more. My loose NFL comparison would be to Aaron Rodgers, though with the caveat that Luck's arm is much weaker, slightly mitigated by his clearly superior athleticism.
My course of action were I in the same situation as Irsay would likely have been to trade the pick (we can safely assume now that this would've brought in a yield of at least 3 first round picks and 2 second round picks) and build around one of the greatest of all time, for reasons of immediate success and posterity, in seeing out the end of the Manning era. As it is, we're likely left with the best prospect in recent years, which slightly softens the blow.
Let me know what you think of Luck and the course of action you would have taken, in any case.
I know its ESPN but their scouting report has Luck scoring higher than Manning on arm strength. He also out scored Manning in mobility, production, toughnees and measurables (hand size, body build etc). He tied Manning in short accuracy, deep accuracy, release, pocket presence, and intelligence. These things are the 2011 Luck compared to the 1998 Manning. We do not know how Luck will turn out but all indications are he will be a very good quarterback.
I have to disagree with your assessment about arm strength, and here's why. He may have underthrown that long ball, but it doesn't seem to me that it was due to a lack of power. I think he somewhat misjudged how fast the receiver would get open, and shorted the ball a bit: not enough that the CB had a shot at it, but to ensure that he didn't OVERTHROW the receiver. Long balls are NOT about just letting the reciever "go and get it"; especially if you're playing with a receiver who is less than a burner, it makes more sense to leave it as short as possible without letting the defender have a shot at it.
Point is, the result of your "short arm" play was a touchdown. Find me some more plays where he leaves a long ball short enough that it results in a TD and I might be able to get behind your argument.
Also, I'm disappointed that the one-handed sideline circus catch wasn't among these top 5 plays. For shame! (Jk, jk.)
Also, what are the chances we could snag Fleener? My guess is we'd have to take him 2nd round? Or is there any chance of getting him 3rd?
I think most people have already said what I think, touch and lack of arm strength seem to be tow different things to me. QB's often gain more when they get in the NFL.
One think that I love that you mentioned is that he throws receivers open, that is so key in the NFL and that is why I also think he will be very good.
Last, wouldn't it be wonderful to partner him with Fleener for the next 12+ years, also we could add the Stanford receiver in the 6th round, this would allow us to get a wr for cheap that already has a relationship with Luck and should ease the transition.
Hopefully next year we could add Robert Woods or Keenan Allen, I really like Allen by the way, if you guys have not seen him you better check him out.
Play #4 was every bit of 53 yards downfield with touch!! You think that arm strength is a concern? Luck is the man and will be Top 10 all-time. Just hope he gets the chance to end his career as a Colt. If not it's time for a new owner!!
Good article. I agree 100% that we should trade the pick and then get Matt Barkley or Landry Jones next year.
Arm strength should not be much of a concern. It's not like he, in the immortal words of Bob Kravitz, has a "noodle arm". I remember when Peyton came out of college, there were questions about his arm strength too, saying it was average. Same with Brady. He can develop that with better footwork (using his body more to follow through on his throws), and strength training.
People keep mentioning arm strength, when he needs to throw a rocket, he does, but as Darryl comments below, he will choose to under-throw the deep bowl a little rather risk an over-throw.. have seen him do this many times over the years.
Check out this play http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBz2ZOTXlKg
50 yard td pass, with little effort, slightly under-thrown to not risk overthrowing a wide open receiver...
I'd say he clearly has arm strength - otherwise he wouldn't be able to make those amazing throws when he's running away from the receiver or falling down. If there is a problem, it looks like it is in supplementing that arm strength with power from the rest of the body when he has the time to use it. I would think that would be fairly easy for a good QB coach to fix.
So, Luck makes great throws when he has all day to throw thanks to an amazing O-Line and has receivers with ridiculous separation from their defender.
Sounds like the kind of luxuries he will have with the Colts as well. Should work out great.
Ahhh...when P Money was drafted his arm strength was in question vs Ryan Leaf. Let's see...how did that turn out?? At Manning's present age...his injury not withstanding...his arm strength would have to be less then it once was. And with his injury he surely will be relying on accuracy now more then ever, so I'm willing to bet Luck's arm strength is better then Peyton's right now and into the future. Also, if I remember what I read correctly, Luck's football hero is Peyton Manning. When I played defense, Dick Butkus was my hero and I tryed to play the game like he did (like hit the opponent so hard it scared the s**t out of 'em!). So I would suppose Luck will do his best to not only play the game like his hero, but prepare to play like him as well. You never know whether players will succeed in the NFL or not, but the more I read about Luck, the more I think he may have a chance to chase some of Peyton's rerecords. Assuming, of course, he can stay as healthy and tough as Peyton for the next 10-12 or so years. Thanks for the memories Peyton!! Best of luck to Luck!! Go Colts!!!
I keep hearing about his arm strength. from the limited action i've seen, it seems he likes to put touch on the deep balls. i don't know if that is evident of a lack of arm strength, or if that is how he prefers to throw those passes.
on the flip side, i have seen him put a considerable amount of zip on the ball.
should this be a concern, or does the perceived lack of arm strength have more to do with an approach to throwing? is he less accurate when he really steps into it? can this "problem" be fixed?
these are my questions.
Hey there Ben,
Great article. I find your example of the supposed "weakness" of Luck's arm to be a bit dubious however. In general, when a receiver has that much separation, it's a FAR better move to slightly underthrow him than to overthrow. With an underthrow, the receiver can simply slow his pace a step to still be in position to catch it. If overthrown, then his separation is wasted and the ball hits the turf every time.
I know there's concern about his arm strength, and I'd be interested in seeing more examples of it, but I think the play you chose is not really a good indicator that his arm is weak, as he probably is trying specifically not to overthrow him. The separation in this case almost certainly lets Luck know that he doesn't have to put absolutely everything into the ball because missing long is a worse alternative than having his receiver slow a step in case it's a tad underthrown.
Even in the NFL with "big arm" QBs you see this type of thing all the time where the receiver turns around in stride to catch it while keeping his hips swiveling to stay in stride after the catch. If this is the only kind of play that leads to skepticism over his arm strength, then I really have no issues whatsoever. Show me some plays where he absolutely must lead the receiver on a long deep pass like this with a defender on the receiver's tail and comes up short on them, then maybe you'd have a point.
@keep_the_eraser and that isnt surprising. there is a reason this guy is called an elite prospect
@7IHd I think a lot of that all depends on his pro day, my guess is that he falls between late 1st and mid 2nd, I doubt he drops to the 3rd round.
@Goodrich138 Wow. He's top 10 all-time, and we are already planning on him playing nearly two decades in Indy? Let's give the kid a couple of NFL seasons first, shall we? He is apparently our QB, so I hope you are right. Let's reel in the will projections just a bit.
@LeviFuller Not a fan of either, I would take Tyler Bray over either of those guys, I think it was time to move on for Peyton and the team, Colts have a smaller chance of winning a championship with the group they have right now and the time that Peyton has left, now we can re build and give him a chance to increase his greatness.
@LeviFuller that is a horrible idea. what guarantee do you have that we will get barkley. i am ignoring that you said landry jones because he is horrible and it is laughable to want him as your qb.
i also dont think you understand the point of the article
@LeviFuller Who knows, after seeing how much Washington paid for 2nd pick, they may have called Peyton back... Landry Jones not so much.
But I don't think so, though I would have loved to see Andrew in SF, with the last name Luck, he was meant to wear a helmet with a horse shoe.
@RobertItoh It's probably the biggest and possibly only concern I have, so i'm perhaps taking it too seriously.
As I said down the page, I'm sure Jim Harbaugh worked on his footwork with him, and who better? On the strength aspect, you might well have a point - though I'm sure he's been no slouch to this point.
@CalMorton The deep ball isn't my only evaluative attribute here to assess arm strength. When throwing from the pocket on a short to medium range, I don't feel that he generates great velocity on the ball, and the ball can flutter in the air.
I understand the point about underthrows - and I acknowledge that the play in question should have been a better illustration - but I'm not solely basing my opinion on that play.
and that's what i keep saying: he threw that ball with very little effort...i don't think arm strength is a very real "issue"
@ECB I certainly hope so, but it's not like he's not had a good QB coach in Jim Harbaugh before, is it?
@Lineback I'm not 100% clear on what you're asking, but in terms of less accurate? Any QB is going to be less accurate on the deep balls as I'm sure you'll agree. The problem for me lies simply in the velocity he generates on the ball when throwing deep downfield - he's no Matt Stafford or Jay Cutler in that regard.
It absolutely does not have to be a bad thing. With the versatility of offense at the moment in the NFL and the advent of Bradyball, it's not like the guy won't be a great player regardless.
@darryl.yao Exactly. It wasn't an example of Luck demonstrating poor arm-strength, it was an example of Luck throwing an inaccurate deep ball most likely because he erred on the side of caution. There are plenty of plays where Luck made long (and accurate) throws. One example is the play against ASU where he threw it while falling to his knees. There are others. He doesn't have a cannon or elite arm strength, but it's not weak.
@omahacolt Reasonable enough, your logic is sound in terms of ensuring long-term success. I'm a bit more indulgent, I guess.
Agreed. While I love your optimism, I think I'm going to reserve judgment for a few years while he develops at a pro level. It's great to be positive, but such high expectations should be tempered with the NFL learning curve. Some top-tier QBs have shaky first years (Manning's INT numbers in his first couple years were quite concerning, even though he was admirable in other categories, Stafford started out slowly) and some QBs who are destined to be average (Mark "Dirty" Sanchez, Cam Newton --pure conjecture on my part--, et al.) have had great first years leading to excessive heralding. Still, I have no problems with stating my open optimism that Luck will be a good if not great NFL QB.
Also, I am not nearly so concerned about his arm strength as the writer of the above article. The throw mentioned was lofted because of the shoddy coverage and was the safe throw with such a horrendous defensive error. Having watched the play real-time, it didn't appear as though Luck put everything into the ball by any stretch, nor did he have to.
@paulcareyjr Honestly I do not watch college football at all so I am very ignorant about both of them. They were just the hyped ones I have heard about for next year. I juts don't think we will ever have so good of a chance to gain draft picks as we had this year. The value we could have added to the team with that many high draft picks in the next couple of years would have went a long way to a rebuild.
However - and I watched Stanford all year - I have a concern about his arm strength and how it will translate to the NFL. It might not manifest itself so regularly in college football, but the athleticism and skill of NFL DBs is far superior to anything on the college level. So perhaps it's a point lost in translation.
@Ben Savage @omahacolt Bleacher Report has almost the same scouting report. They rate Luck slightly higher overall than Manning.
@7IHd @Ben Savage I think TE is a big concern for us, mainly because we do not have one, at all, Eldrige is some what of one, but no Clark, no Tamme, if we do not resign Tamme or make a run at Boss or Carlson we will have to draft one no matter what.
The only other thing I would really grab at that spot if Fleener was there would be Hill (WR), Kirkpatrck(CB) or Barron(SS) if they dropped, DeCastro (G), or Knoz (C), Fletcher Cox(DE) ... the majority of these guys would have to drop big though, and anything is possible.
@Neven You might want to get rid of your red flag. He made a video during his five days at Duke. His reps have been sending the video of those workouts to all interested teams. A full video. Not the choppy cell phone video. I know that would be the first reply. Also, Stokely has been working out with him. He had an hour long throwing session with him while Peyton was in Denver. He said that he's throwing the ball as well as he did six years ago when Stokely was with the Colts.
@ECB @PeytonTheManning @omahacolt @Goodrich138 I hope not too many fans see it that way. At the end of the day, Peyton wasn't cut for a rookie, he was cut to facilitate a rebuild. Certainly Luck is at the center of that, but it goes beyond him. Irsay made the tough choice to blow it up a year or two early, instead of a year or two late.
I still have concerns that Peyton may be washed up. I hope I'm wrong, because I want to watch him play a few more years, but the fact that he's not throwing for the teams he's visiting is a red flag, and further indication that Irsay made the right call -- whether or not Peyton bounces back, there was simply no way Irsay could have given him that much guaranteed money with this much uncertainty hanging over him.
i will have andrew luck rated as the 2nd best player to ever play the game of football the day he is drafted by the colts
right behind walter payton
not sure i would like to add a tight end that high. i guess i wouldnt cry over it but it would be close
@PeytonTheManning @omahacolt @Goodrich138 I agree that extreme projections aren't too helpful at this point. But that is what Irsay has set up. Dropping Peyton to open the position for this kid only makes sense if Peyton is washed up or if Luck is a Hall of Famer in waiting. If Luck ends up having a career like Philip Rivers or Carson Palmer, I think he'll be regarded as something of a bust. Probably not fair, but that's the expectations you set when you release the best player of all time to make room for a rookie.
@omahacolt @Goodrich138 Optimism would be what was shown in the article. Saying that he has the ability to develop into a player who makes numerous Pro Bowls with the possibility of developing into a HOFer. Saying he is a top 10 QB before taking a snap is a ridiculous jump. I know you already have him slotted in behind Peyton as the second best QB ever, and he would move into first in your book with a decent couple of seasons. There is a huge difference between optimism and extreme projections. Setting those kinds of goals on him will make it much more likely for him to fail to live up to them. Hoping for a guy who can make multiple Pro Bowls is already a pretty big goal. Let's start there. If he does that for a decade, then we can discuss his place among all-time greats. Right now, he's just an all-time great prospect. I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next two drafts. It looks like Fleener might be a great add in the second, if he manages to slide that far. Probably wouldn't hurt to have someone with whom he already has built a rapport. The Colts could also use another quality TE on the roster, if they plan on improving the running game.
@LeviFuller True, but I would rather get a very very good prospect at the QB position than those picks, the only reason I say this is because QB's have so much influence on the game now days, if you do not have one of those then you won't be contending until you do.