The Faceoff: Who will have the better NFL career?

Robert Griffin III

Matt Smith, Assistant Sports Editor

Pundits have been drooling over golden boy Andrew Luck ever since his breakout sophomore season. Even though he has lived up to most of the hype surrounding him and has all but signed the contract with the Colts to be the first overall pick in next month's NFL Draft, it does not necessarily mean that he will have a more successful career than Robert Griffin III.

One of the most common knocks against Griffin is that his lack of size will limit his long-term success at the quarterback position. At 6 feet, two inches and 220 pounds, Griffin does not fit the traditional physical mold of an NFL quarterback. According to this widely accepted standard, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick and Tony Romo all are "undersized" for successful NFL quarterbacks, too. Not only does Griffin match their size, but he is also much more athletic than these veterans.

Griffin's 40-yard time of 4.41 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine on March 1 was extremely fast for any position and incomparably fast for a quarterback. While the 40-yard time can be overblown and assigned too much importance, in Griffin's case, its value is immeasurable. Because he has the speed to run past pro-level defenders and avoid the big hits, not only will he be more successful, but his chances of injury are much less than any scrambling quarterbacks in the past. In a sport often referred to as "a game of inches," the approximate two-foot advantage Griffin's speed gives him could put him just out of reaching distance.

While often being compared to Michael Vick for their similar speed and agility, Griffin is more than just a speedster. In his Heisman Trophy winning junior season at Baylor, Griffin compiled 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air, and led the nation with a 192.3 passing efficiency rating, 29.5 points greater than Luck.

We are currently witnessing the evolution of the quarterback position, encouraged by an offensive need to become more dynamic. While a polished, more traditional pocket quarterback like Luck will never completely fade from use, quarterbacks with freakish athleticism like Griffin have a greater chance of success because of the flexibility they bring to an offense. 

When discussing long-term success in the NFL, the mental aspect of a player must not be overlooked. Griffin has received top marks from scouts on his ability to go through his progressions of receivers while facing pressure in the pocket. Not just a smart quarterback, Griffin's dedication and time spent in the gym are unseen amongst most quarterbacks. From an early age, Griffin's parents Robert Jr. and Jacqueline, both United States Army Sergeants, instilled a work ethic and built up a mental toughness that Luck and most athletes will never possess. 

Griffin's physical build, incredible speed and agility, along with natural athleticism and mental strength is a recipe for success. At the moment, no one, not even Luck, can challenge it.

Andrew Luck

AJ Devine, Staff Writer

To compare Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin's futures as professional quarterbacks is to compare apples and oranges. So much depends on the teams that draft them, the coaching staff and the management and ownership of that team.

Sports fans do still have some idea of which teams are likely landing spots for each quarterback: Luck is almost certainly going to be an Indianapolis Colt and he could even be signed by the team a month before the draft starts, while Griffin's future isn't as set in stone. Speculation is that the teams most likely to trade up to snag him are the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins.

The Colts, as they stand right now, undoubtedly have more talent at the skill positions than both Cleveland and Washington. Three of their top wide receivers and Pro-Bowl center Jeff Saturday are unrestricted free agents, but even if they managed to sign just two of those four that would still hold true.

If the team must give up at least two first-round picks, a second-round pick and a third-round pick to trade with St. Louis (which is optimistic in itself) to have the opportunity to draft Griffin, that potentially sets the franchise back even more. Now there is less opportunity to build the team around Griffin. The Colts save all future picks, and also have the No. 34 overall pick in the draft, where they can still find a first-round talent (perhaps an offensive tackle to help protect Luck).

There is a reason Luck is regarded as the clear-cut top quarterback in the draft. There is a reason there has been no trade speculation with regard to the Colts' No. 1-pick. There is a reason Luck has been called the best college prospect since John Elway, Jr.: He's that good. 

Griffin is a spectacular athlete with an extraordinary football mind. In almost any other year, he would be the top quarterback on every team's draft board. But Luck is just on a completely different level.

Luck redshirted his first year in college and took a back seat to Toby Gerhart in his RS freshman season. In his sophomore year, he threw for 2,575 yards and 13 touchdowns. In his last two seasons, he threw for 6,855 and completed 70.5 percent of his passes.

But the numbers don't do his skills justice. He played in an NFL-style offense under David Shaw and had free-reign over the offense his last two years – similar to the control Peyton Manning had in Indianapolis. Oh yeah, it also doesn't hurt that he put up similar combine numbers to what Cam Newton did last year (4.59 seconds in a 40-yard dash). Luck will have a much smoother transition into an NFL offense than Griffin will, which isn't to say Griffin will have trouble.

There's no doubt that both will turn into great players in the NFL. Luck, however, will have a brighter future because of the situation that will receive him.