The two top draft prospects spoke back-to-back at the podium inside Lucas Oil Stadium, with Griffin being asked about his colorful socks first and the last question for Luck being about his missing beard. But the strength of their arms and how well they can move in and out of the pocket are the attributes NFL coaches, general managers and scouts are really concerned with.
Neither quarterback is throwing this weekend, opting instead to save that aspect of their evaluations for their respective Pro Days back on their campuses. Griffin starred at Baylor and will be showing off his throwing ability back in Texas while Luck will head back to Palo Alto, California and his alma mater, Stanford.
“It’s my decision (not to throw),” said Griffin, who completed 291-of-402 passes for 4,293 yards, 37 touchdowns and just six interceptions. “You don’t go somewhere and run a game plan you never practiced or throw to guys you don’t practice with in an environment that you’re not prepared for so that’s why.”
There were reports that Luck had been advised by some NFL teams not to throw at the Combine but he quickly refuted that when he was asked what his decision was going to be.
“That was not the case. I made the decision by myself,” Luck said. “I bounced it off my agent and my father (former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck) and felt like it was in my best interest to wait until the Pro Day so we’re going to go from there.”
In Luck’s case, he has been on the radar of all 32 teams pretty much from the time he arrived at Stanford and has put a lot on film. Had he entered the draft last year he was projected to be the first quarterback taken but he opted to return for another year and further polish his game.
Griffin had a lower profile his first three years at Baylor before seemingly exploding on the scene as a senior. As the 2011 season progressed he quickly emerged as the second best quarterback behind Luck in some people’s eyes and possibly even the top prospect after his late season performance against Oklahoma and he is well aware of some of the misconceptions about his game.
“I think it’s just a misconception that comes with being a dual threat quarterback and that you run first and throw second,” Griffin said. “But I think I’ve proven that I’m throw first and then run if I need to. When I get out there I’m just going to move around, have fun and compete and then in the interviews I’m just looking forward to showing them who I am, letting them get to know me, I get to know them and just explain our offense to them a little bit.”
One of the most common questions immediately asked of Luck, Griffin III and the other players is what their official measurements ended up being. Griffin smiled proudly when he announced his height at 6-foot-23/8, 223 pounds and recalled how he was listed at 6-4, 200 in high school, then was 6-2, 220 before being listed at 6-0, 190 coming into the Combine. Now he’s officially taller and heavier.
Luck checked in at 6-4, 238 and is coming off his best statistical season as he completed 288-of-404 passes for 3,517 yards, 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He knew that nothing can replace experience and that was one of the primary reasons he returned.
“First of all I had fun with it, which was a big deal to me, and then I learned a lot about football,” Luck said. “I don’t think I’d be as prepared as I am now for what may come next just in terms of Xs and Os. There was still a challenge left in college football for me. I felt like there was still more to go out and prove and I wanted to get another step closer to the degree. It was a big deal for me and I didn’t want that looming over me and I enjoyed my buddies, I enjoyed the team and I enjoyed Stanford and wanted to do it again with them for another year.”
All Luck needs to graduate is two classes left in the spring so he will go back starting April 1st and graduate in June. As for the areas of his game he felt needed more polishing before entering the draft, Luck was pretty specific.
“I know it’s terribly cliché but you can never settle on any point in your game but I think for me it’s been just sort of quickening everything up in terms of release. I know those extra milliseconds count, especially in the NFL when guys are so much faster, stronger and bigger. And then just making sure my drops are rhythmic perfect every time and being consistent in that area.”
Once he declared himself eligible, Luck was quickly described by some in league circles as the most surefire quarterback prospect to come out since Peyton Manning in 1998 and was compared to another Stanford alum, Hall-of-Famer John Elway. It is widely believed that the Indianapolis Colts will take Luck with the first overall pick, just like the Baltimore Colts planned to do with Elway back in 1983.
Now Elway is the executive vice president of football operations for the Denver Broncos, the team he spent his entire 16-year career with and with which he won two Super Bowls. As familiar as he is with Luck, Elway also has been impressed with Griffin and has seen a significant evolution of the quarterback position since he played.
“I think if you look at the quarterbacks, obviously along with every position to me they’re getting more athletic,” Elway said. “The kids are getting bigger, they’re getting stronger and they’re getting faster with every position and stronger with the arm strength. If you look with what’s going on in the NFL and what we’re doing in the NFL, the game’s getting more complicated because of the amount of things we can do on the offensive side as well as what you’re seeing on the defensive side.
“So I think that athletically and size wise and maturity wise these kids realize when they step out of college, especially if you’re high in the draft, there’s high expectations and a lot of pressure to perform early. You want to see the motion, the release, the footwork and how the ball comes off. We don’t get much time with them, 15-minute interviews at night, but you get a feeling for them and every little bit like this Combine helps us all.”
When it came to Luck and Griffin specifically, Elway played it politically correct by describing them both as “two unbelievable prospects coming out. … They’re two tremendous talents, tremendously mature and intelligent guys and I look at them as those two are going to have a lot of success in the NFL.” That was quite the endorsement for both quarterbacks.
Griffin’s favorite target at Baylor, wide receiver Kendall Wright, played with Griffin starting their freshman year and he exuded even more confidence in the fact that Griffin will excel at the next level. He described Griffin’s deep ball as always accurate and on point.
“He progressed so much since his freshman year that he stopped relying on his legs because he didn’t like running,” Wright said. “He can kill people in other ways when he wants to but he started working on his arm and he got good at it and he’s just throwing it everywhere and running when he has to. He’s going to be a great quarterback. He’s very athletic and us working hard and changing from the spread to under center is not going to effect him at all.”
Even though their playing styles are different and one likes to show off his unique personality through his socks while the other one comes from a quarterback family, the one constant between Luck and RGIII is their humility. Griffin described Cam Newton as having confidence that is off the charts while his is on the charts.
Both were asked if they could handle being in a situation like Aaron Rodgers was in when he was drafted by Green Bay, which meant sitting for as many as three years behind an established legend like Peyton Manning. Their humility took over as both said they’d welcome the opportunity to learn from Manning. They complimented each other as well, with Luck saying this should not be looked at as a duel between two enemies because it’s a team game, but Griffin is not ready to concede the number one pick.
“As competitors we both want to be the best,” he said. “Whether I go number one or not it’s not going to change who I am. It’s not going to change my confidence, but I’d be a fool to say I don’t want to go number one in the draft. Because I think I do, Andrew does, Matt Khalil does, Trent Richardson does and if you ask any of them they want to go number one. We all want to be the best.”
And that includes the best dressed when it comes to socks.