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Who Will Win the 2012 Andrew Luck Derby?

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Andrew Luck’s decision to forgo millions and return to Stanford for his Redshirt Junior Season certainly throws a wrench in the plans of the Carolina Panthers. Luck was as close to a lock to go #1 as has ever existed. By essentially giving the Panthers the finger he has made next year’s Heisman race all but irrelevant. They shouldn’t even bother going through the nonsensical build up, Just give Luck the award now and donate the money they would’ve spent on the ceremony to the NFL Wounded Warrior Project.

This decision does set up and interesting situation. In Luck, you get a quarterback who has all of the measurables as well as the brains and instinct to maximize his talents. He doesn’t have the immediate impact that say a LeBron James did with the Cavs in the NBA, but you have to wonder how next year will play out.

With the labor issues and lockout looming, it’s questionable if there will be a season at all. I think it’s mostly posturing, but there is always a chance of a shortened season. Whatever ends up happening, teams could do what the Cavs did in 2002-03 and tank the season in order to maximize their chances to get LeBron. Ok, maybe the Cavs didn’t lie down on the court during the games, but when you run your offense through Ricky Davis, you are tanking on purpose. Davis highlighted the 17-65 season by taking nearly 1500 shots and even shooting at his own basket.  The Cavs of course won the LeBron James derby and enjoyed their most successful run as a franchise until he decided to take his talents to South Beach.

Flashforward to today… well actually April 2012. Andrew Luck, to NFL teams is their LeBron James. No, Luck won’t transcend the game of football the way that James has done to basketball. But he gives teams an immediate opportunity to be relevant. In a league with so much parity, continued relevance is the ultimate goal. Let’s take a look at which teams have the best shot at winning the Andrew Luck derby.

There are 32 teams in the NFL. Out of those most can be eliminated from the running: 1) because they don’t need a quarterback, or: 2) because there is no chance of them actually getting the #1 pick.

Teams that have a franchise QB or no chance of being bad enough to earn the #1 pick (QB age in April 2012 in parenthesis):

New England – Tom Brady (34)

New Orleans – Drew Brees (33)

Indianapolis – Peyton Manning (36)

San Diego – Philip Rivers (30)

Green Bay – Aaron Rodgers (29)

Pittsburgh – Ben Roethlisberger (30)

Baltimore – Joe Flacco (27)

Houston – Matt Schaub (30)

Atlanta – Matt Ryan (26)

NY Giants – Eli Manning (31)

Chicago – Jay Cutler (29)

Dallas – Tony Romo (32)

St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford (24)

Detroit – Matt Stafford (24)

Teams that have QBs that they seem to think will be great:

Tampa Bay – Josh Freeman (24)

NY Jets – Mark Sanchez (25)

Kansas City – Matt Cassel (29)

Teams that currently have Michael Vick:

Philadelphia – Michael Vick (32)

Teams that may need a QB in 2012 (2011 draft position in parenthesis):

Carolina (1)

Denver (2)

Buffalo (3)

Cincinnati (4)

Arizona (5)

Cleveland (6)

San Francisco (7)

Tennessee (8)

Washington (10)

Minnesota (12)

Miami (15)

Jacksonville (16)

Oakland (17)

Seattle (TBD, 21)

It’s not surprising that 9 out of the 14 teams in need of a QB are picking in the top 10 of the draft this year. From this list, I am disqualifying Jacksonville. The Jags won 8 games this year, and they have too much talent for that type of regression. To get the top pick in the draft you will need to go 3-13 or worse.  I am also disqualifying the Titans because no Jeff Fisher coached team will ever go 3-13, especially not with Chris Johnson on the squad. Fisher may very well grab a QB this season given that Vince Young earned his way out of town and Kerry Collins contract is up, but even if he doesn’t the Titans still won’t be bad enough to grab the #1 spot.

Now we are left with the final 12:

Carolina (2-14) (1)

Denver (4-12) (2)

Buffalo (4-12) (3)

Cincinnati (4-12) (4)

Arizona (5-11) (5)

Cleveland (5-11) (6)

San Francisco (6-10) (7)

Washington (6-10) (10)

Minnesota (6-10) (12)

Miami (7-9) (15)

Oakland (8-8) (17)

Seattle (7-9) (TBD, 21)

Out of these twelve, three or four will more than likely take a quarterback in the first round; leaving them out on Andrew Luck.  The 4 quarterbacks with likely first round talent are: Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallet, & Cam Newton.  It’s entirely possible that the Titans at 8 or Jags at 16 pop on one of these QBs, further clouding things.

Another interesting point is that while Blaine Gabbert is the best prospect as of this minute, any of those 4 could have great pro days and vault to the head of the class. Cam Newton has to walk in JaMarcus Russell’s shadow though, fair or not, it will take a niche team to grab him.  While none of these quarterbacks to me look like top 5 talents, I would be surprised if one didn’t go in that range. That also means that 4 of this year’s top 5 may still be looking at this time next year.

Right now we are at 12, but we need to get down to 1…

Starting at the back of the pack of contenders:

Seattle (7-9) (TBD, 21) – The Seahawks won the miserable CFL South with a 7-9 record, but Matt Hasselbeck isn’t getting any younger, and his contract is up. Former GM John Schneider was huffing glue and doing whip-its when he decided to trade a 3rd rounder and swap 2nd rounders with San Diego for Charlie Whitehurst. Schneider thought he was the QB of the future, but his only redeeming quality is that he bears an uncanny resemblance to Jesus. One of the 4 QBs will slip and be there when the Seahawks pick. The most likely in my mind is Washington QB Jake Locker. I don’t think there is any way that Seattle would pass on him, and therefore they are out of the Andrew Luck Derby.

Oakland (8-8) (17, but no 1st rounder in 2011) – Oakland had their most successful season since Al Davis was actually alive, and then fired their coach. Davis is a ghoulish, undead football zombie who after years of sucking the life out of a once proud, but nearly-dead fan-base, found inadvertent success this season. Much like video game zombies from Resistance 2, he has grown and adapted artificial intelligence and found a way to pump life back in, then subsequently drain it. The Raiders have Jason Campbell at QB, but a lot of times when new coaches are hired, they want their own guy. Since they don’t have a first rounder, they won’t get a big name. Anything is possible with the Raiders, and they very well could regress back to a 3-13 team, but with their defense and Run DMC, they feel more like 5-11 than 2-14, so they will just miss on Luck.

Miami (7-9) (15) – Chad Henne is terrible, but despite their best attempts, the Dolphins couldn’t keep him out of the lineup. They seem to be in prime position for Ryan Mallet or possibly Cam Newton, but I’ll throw a wild card out there. I see them as a great landing spot for Kyle Orton, His days seem numbered in Denver with Tim Tebow proving that he can put points on the board, and Miami seems like the right fit. Whether or not they get Orton, I don’t see them being bad enough to earn the #1 spot.

Minnesota (6-10) (12) – The Vikings were unlucky that Tavaris Jackson went down with an injury; leaving them wondering what they really have in him. Since anyone that watches football can plainly see that what they have in Jackson is essentially Spergon Wynn without the Grey Cup, the Vikings could be a prime contender for a top 5 pick next season. The Williams wall will be broken up, and while they still have AD Peterson, Jared Allen, and a good receiving corps, given their division, they make the final cut of possibilities.

Washington (6-10) (10) – Mike Shanahan is ushering Donovan McNabb out the door setting up a definite need at QB for the Redskins. Unless of course the brain-trust there is going to re-sign Rex Grossman, give him the keys and let him drive. From a fan point of view it would be fun to watch Rex drive the team off a cliff the same way the O’Doyle’s did in Billy Madison, but I can see why Skins fans might not find it as amusing. Given Shanahan’s love for big armed QBs, Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett would seem to be a perfect fit in this spot. Mallett right now is essentially Derek Anderson, but if he is coached up has the tools to be a star. Shanahan knows how to develop QBs, so I see Mallett taking his talents to the nation’s capital in April.

San Francisco (6-10) (7) – Troy Smith and Alex Smith are both free agents… that means that the only QB on the roster is David Carr. I’ll pause now for you to think about that for a while… Until about 5 minutes ago, I thought San Francisco was the most likely candidate to tank the season on purpose because of Luck’s popularity right around the corner in Palo Alto. Now that Jim Harbaugh is on board, there is no chance they give anything less than maximum effort. The 49ers will have both a new GM and coach that will want to win immediately. I had thought Cam Newton or Jake Locker might be in play here, but with Harbaugh’s pro-style system, neither are a great fit. I still lean towards them thinking towards 2012, and instead re-signing one of the Smiths, Brady Quinn, or even Kyle Boller. The 49ers may be close enough to the top of the draft next season to entertain trading up in order to reunite the master with his apprentice.

Cleveland (5-11) (6) – Cleveland is in an interesting position. They don’t have a quarterback unless you consider Jake Delhomme or Colt McCoy quarterbacks, in which case, the Browns may very well get that #1 spot. Their biggest need is at WR, and seemingly would do just about anything to land AJ Green at 6. Unfortunately for them the Bengals at 4 also need WR help. It does remain to be seen who they will hire as head coach as his philosophy might dictate the direction that they head. They make the cut by default because I don’t see them grabbing a QB at 6, and if they start McCoy, position themselves for a top 5 pick next year, #1 may be asking too much though.

Arizona (5-11) (5) – Arizona has an even worse QB situation than the Browns. They are flipping between John Skelton and Max Hall; not exactly Montana and Young or even Bert and Ernie for that matter. Hall did get injured and didn’t get to showcase his abilities, but he was awful when he was in there. I see the Cardinals in play for Donovan McNabb. 5 is a tricky pick to have, because all of the teams ahead of them need a quarterback, so if someone has a great pro day he will be gone by 5, and there aren’t 2 guys with top 5 hype this year… unless Cam Newton has the game of his life on Monday. Gabbert could be the pick here if he falls. Without him, McNabb, or a QB, the Cardinals may very well earn the #1 pick with ease, they are that bad, so by default, they make the cut.

Cincinnati (4-12) (4) – Cincinnati still has Carson Palmer, who while he doesn’t pass the eye-test, he gets by on name recognition. He is also signed through 2014, so the chances of them taking a QB here are very slim. They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so there is no harm in grabbing a QB in the later rounds and seeing if he pans out. I think they go with game-changing WR AJ Green here especially if Chad OchoCinco talks himself out of town. Bringing Marvin Lewis back is a strange move since he is not the future at head coach and doesn’t offer them anything but possible mediocrity. That said, I don’t think they are as bad as their record indicates; 6-10 feels right to me, and that will leave them far away from Luck.

Buffalo (4-12) (3) – Now things get interesting. The Bills with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm won 4 out of 6 towards the end of the season before Fitzpatrick hurt his knee. The obvious question is if the Bills view him as a long-term option at QB. If not, they could go with Gabbert here and have their QB prospect of the future, leaving them out on Luck. The Bills need defensive help even after signing the paper-mache Shawne Merriman, so I think they go that route here. That said they are still the worst team in their division, but will do something stupid like win weeks 16 and 17 to cost themselves #1.

Denver (4-12) (2) – If Denver doesn’t go defense here, the fans will literally tear down Invesco field. Denver has good defensive players in Champ Bailey, DJ Williams, Elvis Dumervil, and a few other key contributors, but the unit as a whole just doesn’t get the job done. Losing Dumervil this season hurt, but they shouldn’t have to rely on one man for their entire pass-rush. Before Luck announced, Da’Quan Bowers was theirs for the taking, now it’s not so clear cut. At QB, they seemingly have turned the reigns over to Tim Tebow, who put up 25 points per game without having much accuracy on his passes.  I think Denver likes him and I do too. Denver may not be good next year, but If Tebow starts 16 games, they will not lose more than 10 of them… He’s a winner, and winners win games.

Carolina (2-14) (1) – That brings us to Carolina. They actually ended the season playing better than they did for most of it, but are still an awful football team. They snagged Jimmy Clausen in the 2nd round in this previous draft and turned over the team to him. Giving Clausen the control of an offense is like giving Mel Gibson the keys to your car at 2:30AM on a Saturday night. You may be well-intentioned, but that car is going to be totaled. There is very little to like about this team on either side of the ball. DeAngelo Williams is rumored to be headed out of town; Steve Smith will likely join him. Jonathan Stewart is a nice player when he’s healthy, which is next to never. They could use help at every defensive position, which makes me think they are looking to get out of that #1 spot and accumulate picks. If they stay there, I wouldn’t put it past them to reach for a QB, but that would be an Andre the Giant-sized reach. Not saying this QB class doesn’t have good talent, but if you are looking at talent/cost ratio, they would be better off getting out of that spot if they do covet a QB.  They are definitely in play for the #1 pick next season, which Andrew Luck has to be absolutely dreading seeing as he just flipped them the bird.

That brings us to the recap:

Will Address QB this year:

Washington

Miami

Seattle

Arizona

Will Improve:

Denver

Cincinnati

May not improve, but won’t be bad enough:

Cleveland

Buffalo

Oakland

The Contenders:

Minnesota

San Francisco

Carolina

And then there were 3.  I had Arizona on the list, but after re-thinking it, they absolutely have to address quarterback this season. They won’t be good, but they won’t be bad enough.

So who will win the title of worst in the league next season?

San Francisco has too much talent on the roster to go along with Jim Harbaugh. Unless they legitimately tank the season on purpose, which I originally wouldn’t put past them, but now that they announced the signing of Jim Harbaugh, they should definitely improve. Whether or not they trade up next year to reunite Harbaugh with Luck is another story.

Minnesota really looks the part of a team that could be terrible next season. They do however have three of the best players in football in Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, and Steve Hutchinson.  These 3 alone should be able to net 4 wins, and that won’t quite be enough compared to our Andrew Luck Derby winner…

Sorry Andrew, you can run, but you can’t hide. On the strength of back to back 2-14 seasons, you will hear your name announced as the #1 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft of the Carolina Panthers. Look at the bright side, you will have a degree, so you could pull a Craig  Powell and retire. Better yet, you could probably talk the Panthers into throwing in a season pass to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Discussion

3 Responses to “Who Will Win the 2012 Andrew Luck Derby?”

  1. Did Seattle swap LAST year’s 2nd Rounders, or this upcoming drafts? Because, wouldn’t their #2 be “lower” than SD’s #2? That would be funny.

    Posted by Bobby Digital | January 7, 2011, 4:30 pm
  2. They indeed swapped last year’s, otherwise that would be pretty comical. SD gets Seattle’s 3rd rounder this year as well.

    Posted by Jason Marlo | January 7, 2011, 4:33 pm

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