RG3 and his speed

Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor University looks for a receiver during the team’s NCAA football game against the Washington Huskies at the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, December 29, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Mitchell (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Jason Whitlock has an interesting take on Robert Griffin III and the impressive 40-time he displayed at the combine.

In my opinion, Griffin’s speed doesn’t enhance his draft stock. It damages it.

I am not a Robert Griffin hater. I love RG3. In all likelihood, he will be my favorite NFL player next season. He could quickly become my favorite active athlete, ahead of Tiger Woods, Ray Lewis and Jeff George (has yet to file his retirement paperwork).

But I’m worried about Griffin. He’s blessed with too many tools. Oftentimes, the greatest athletes are physically limited, which strengthens their focus. Bill Russell could never match Wilt Chamberlain’s size and limitless athleticism. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson weren’t the greatest leapers or the quickest on their feet.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are relatively immobile. They play from the pocket because they have no choice. They mastered the art of playing from the pocket because they had no other choice.

NFL games are won most consistently by quarterbacks who play from the pocket. If a quarterback leaves the pocket, he’s going to get hit. If a quarterback gets hit regularly, he’s going to get hurt. If a franchise quarterback gets injured, his team has little chance of winning the Super Bowl.

NFL teams are looking for the next Manning or Brady. Or the next Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. A little mobility is good, especially if the quarterback moves in the pocket in an effort to throw downfield. Rodgers and Big Ben are terrific at moving to throw. Is that how Griffin will use his athleticism?

Or does Griffin have so much speed that he’ll channel Michael Vick?

Whitlock goes on to recount Vick’s early problems as he relied too much on his speed and athleticism. Athletes like Steve Young had to learn how to stay in the pocket.

Whitlock basically sums up the primary reason why Andrew Luck is rated higher than RG3, even as some think RG3 has more upside. It’s a risk/reward analysis. Luck has shown that he can win strictly as a pocket passer, using his athleticism only when needed.

Can RG3 learn to play that way? Of course he can. But just because he has the aptitude and temperament to learn doesn’t guarantee success. Luck isn’t guaranteed success either, but we’ve seen him operate consistently from the pocket, so there’s less risk.

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2012 NFL Draft: Breaking down the Quarterbacks

Throughout the next couple of months I’ll take a look at each position group leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft. Where should we start? Well at quarterback, of course.

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck (L) avoids the rush of Oregon State lineman Andrew Seumalo (49) during the second half of their NCAA football game in Corvallis, Oregon, November 5, 2011. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The Best in Class: Andrew Luck, Stanford
There are many scouts who are intrigued by Robert Griffin III’s skill set and natural feel for the game, so there will be plenty of people suggesting that Griffin should be the first signal caller off the board in April. But “pound for pound” Luck is still the top quarterback prospect in this draft, if not the top all-around prospect, period. What impresses me most about Luck is his pocket awareness. He anticipates pressure and reacts to it instead of looking for it at the snap. He also keeps his eyes down the field, which is an attribute that all of the elite NFL quarterbacks posses. He goes through his progressions well, displays sound footwork, and has a better arm than people give him credit for. He’s also extremely bright, as evidence of his ability to call plays at the line of scrimmage in Stanford’s offense, and you rarely see him get frazzled. At this point Luck looks like a safe bet at the top of the draft, which is saying a lot considering the position he plays.

The Challenger: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
It appears that the Colts are set on taking Luck with the No. 1 overall pick but Griffin has plenty of time to change their minds. A smart, savvy player with the ability to create using his arm or his legs, Griffin has improved as a passer every year he’s been at Baylor. He has very good arm strength and can fit the ball into tight windows at the second level. He’s also a natural athlete with a high ceiling and plenty of room to grow if a team surrounds him with the right coaching staff. The main knock on Griffin is that he isn’t comfortable taking snaps from under center and isn’t particularly strong at reading the blitz at the snap. But he seems more “boom” than “bust” and certainly has the attention of fans in Cleveland.

Don’t Sleep On: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
Weeden isn’t drawing the same attention as Luck, Griffin, or even Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill. But at 6-foot-4 with a big, accurate arm, Weeden is worth a long look for quarterback-needy teams looking to either move up into the late first round or early second. His age (28) might scare teams away but the fact remains that he has all of the physical attributes and intangibles that pro teams look for in a quarterback. There are some concerns about his inconsistency and he has a habit of forcing throws into coverage, but he could be a perfect fit for teams like the Jets, Seahawks or Broncos.

Mid-Round Sleeper: Ryan Lindley, San Diego State
The biggest knock on Lindley is that he needs to improve his overall footwork and coordination inside the pocket. Thus, this isn’t a prospect that a team can plug into their offense and have him start in year one or two. But at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Lindley looks the part and has very good arm strength. He can make all of the throws at the next level and is an accurate passer. He would be perfect for a team that already has its starter in place but is looking to groom a developmental quarterback for down the line (i.e. the Giants, Falcons or Packers).

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