A Reliance on Luck

“I am committed to earning my degree in architectural design from Stanford University and am on track to accomplish this at the completion of the spring quarter of 2012.”  Those words were from Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, through his father, in a statement made Thursday.  Andrew Luck, the most sure-fire number one overall pick since Michael Vick was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft.  Andrew Luck’s father, former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck, said, “It’s not like the NFL is going anywhere, it’s one of the best run leagues in the world. It will still be there when he graduates.”  I agree Oliver, the NFL isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon, but your son’s $80 million contract and $50 million guaranteed is long gone, and there is a possibility that his #1 overall draft status could take a hit too.

Depending on the outcome of the new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, chances are that 2011 will be the last year that there won’t be a cap on rookie salaries.  The years of team’s first round draft picks immediately becoming that team’s highest paid players without even playing a down in the NFL are finally behind us.  So what does that mean for Andrew Luck?  Well, it is quite simple.  Luck was almost a lock to be the #1 overall pick.  Last year’s #1 pick Sam Bradford received a 6 year, $78 million contract with $50 million guaranteed.  2011’s first overall pick, presumably Luck, would have made a bit more than that, and the amount of guaranteed dollars would have gone up.  Yes Andrew, you heard me right, you just turned down a guaranteed $50+ million dollars.

Two seasons ago, then hot redshirt sophomore Sam Bradford decided to return to Oklahoma to improve on his passing ability and to work on regaining strength in his injured shoulder.  At the time, Bradford and Matthew Stafford were in a battle to be the #1 overall pick, and I actually thought that Bradford had the slight edge.  But, he decided to turn down millions, return to school, and subsequently almost blew his shot at being 2010’s #1 overall pick by injuring his shoulder again in 2009.  Bradford lucked out (pun intended) and was able to recover in time to throw for teams before the draft, but if the injury occurred later in the college season, he would not have been the top pick.

Every single second that a kid plays football, there is a chance of injury.  What if Andrew Luck starts running and throwing all over teams again in 2011, and a freak shot to the leg tears his ACL?  Then what?  There is no chance that a quarterback with a torn ACL is getting selected #1 overall.  Millions of dollars will be lost.  Sure, Luck may very well recover and turn out to be a great quarterback, but he won’t have the chance to make the amount of money that he would have being selected #1 overall.

All this being said, I find it hard not to applaud Andrew Luck for truly encompassing the seemingly fictitious “student athlete.”  All college athletes are considered student athletes, but how many actually take the student part seriously.  Even at a smaller school down here at URI, if you find yourself in a class with an athlete, it is rare that they attend a large percentage of classes, raising questions of how effectively they are making use of their scholarship in terms of academics.  Luck’s dedication to getting his degree is a rarity, and receiving it from a school as prestigious as Stanford is a great accomplishment.  I’m sure that there are hundreds of former players that came out of school early, made it in the league for a season or two, and then found themselves out of football with no degree and no where to turn except for coaching high school football.

I respect was Luck is doing, but I don’t think it’s the right decision.  With injury risk so high and all of the questions surrounding the collective bargaining agreement, I think that it would be in Luck’s best interest to get paid while he can and take advantage of his youth and health.  But, I’m not Andrew Luck, I don’t have that skill set, and I’m certainly not intelligent enough to get a degree from Stanford.  I wish Andrew all of the luck in the world (I can’t help the pun), but would really like to see him in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Luck removing himself from the 2011 NFL Draft also benefits other players.  Ryan Mallett immediately becomes the top overall quarterback in my opinion (I’m not a big Blaine Gabbert fan).  Quarterbacks are always taken too high come draft time because there are so few that are considered NFL ready, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mallett taken in the top 8 picks.  The 2011 NFL Draft is loaded with defensive lineman, especially in the top 5.  Da’Quan Bowers, Robert Quinn, and Marcell Dareus will all garner huge consideration in the top 5 without a top quarterback available.  AJ Green is the most talented wide receiver to come out since Calvin Johnson, and now he is almost a lock to be taken in the top 5.  Patrick Peterson, considered by some to be the best cornerback prospect since Charles Woodson, may very well end up being the #1 overall pick.  Jake Locker really hurt his stock this season, as many that previously considered him the #1 quarterback on the board now have him going in the second round.  Team’s that need quarterbacks may over draft Locker in the first round because of his raw talent.

Luck not entering the 2011 NFL Draft will shake things up on draft day, and now I’m looking forward to that Thursday night in April even more.

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