Andrew Luck is in Indianapolis right now. Peyton Manning is too, along with Tim Tebow and Madonna, who likes 23-year-old boys. Frankly, we’re not sure how the city is still continuing to exist with a prodigy, a legend, Jesus, and the first person to ever sing a musical note all in the same place, but the rapture hasn’t struck quite yet.
For at least a brief part of this afternoon once reporters stopped dripping their saliva on Madonna at her press conference, the attention turned to Luck, the league’s phenom quarterback circa 2012 whose future contains two nearly certain truths: he’ll be the first overall pick, and he’ll replace Manning in Indy right away.
But wait, maybe we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves with the second half of those presumed certainties. Luck took a break from shilling Cherry Rain Gatorade to do a handful of interviews, and one was a 10-minute sit down with Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks.
After he danced around most of Banks’ questions with bland, predictable answers, Luck said a lot by saying little with his vague response to one query.
Banks asked Luck about using his status as the draft’s unquestioned top pick to dictate where he’ll spend his NFL career, or at least the first part of it. It would be a move similar to the kind of leverage play Eli Manning pulled under the guidance of his father Archie. The Chargers held the top pick in the 2004 draft, and Manning and his father didn’t see San Diego and its coaching staff at the time as ideal for a young quarterback’s growth and development. Eli also hates girls in bikinis and constant sunshine, although that’s totally unconfirmed and possibly a complete fabrication.
Luck said he wants to be the No. 1 pick, leading Banks to ask him if that meant he’d never flex the same kind of draft day muscle that landed Manning in New York. He had a chance to definitely confirm Banks’ conclusion, but Luck’s response was still vague.
“Never is a strong word. But I haven’t thought about that. There’s a ways until something like that arose. I guess it would be…. I don’t know. I guess I haven’t really thought about it.”
There’s plenty of time left for that thought process to begin, and the situation Luck is facing in the upcoming draft is very similar to the one Manning was staring at in 2004.
Manning was the unquestioned first overall pick, but Philip Rivers wasn’t too far behind. Manning was picked first while Rivers was picked at No. 4, and the two were then swapped.
Luck is the unquestioned first overall pick, but Robert Griffin III isn’t too far behind. Luck will be picked first while Griffin will likely fall to the Browns at No. 4. So that’s easy then, and it’s Luck for Griffin straight up. Of course, there’s a minor problem with that neat, tidy, and poetic narrative: Luck’s obese trade value.
Before the Colts began to suck really bad and threaten to become just the second winless team in league history, there was a strong possibility that the Rams would hold the top pick. Since they drafted Sam Bradford just two years ago, the Rams were seen as one of the few teams that would pass on Luck, and start a heated bidding war.
Luck’s trade value was hotly debated at the time, and it was pegged at, well, far too much, according to Peter King and Ernie Accorsi, the former GM who drafted and then traded John Elway (who has his own famous/infamous leverage story), and he also executed the trade that brought Manning to New York:
I think three first-round picks for the first selection in the 2012 draft is more than fair if the team that earns that right is in a dealing mood. One of those picks would have to be in the top 10 of the 2012 draft. “If he’s as good as everyone says he is, absolutely it’s a realistic price,” Accorsi said.
Last year Atlanta’s trade to move up from their perch and No. 27 and take Julio Jones at No. 6 was seen as a massive blockbuster. It was, and the Falcons gave five picks to the Browns, two of which were first rounders, and none were lower than the fourth round.
For Luck to even begin thinking about a leverage play he has to be confident that a team would be willing to pay his massive price tag. While that remains unlikely, the Jones deal has established a recent precedent that’s only a few notches lower than the starting point for a Luck bid.
Jones is an explosive player with high upside. But his flare doesn’t come close to Luck’s potential to change the future of a franchise.