By Steve Silverman
» More Columns
Why is the NFL Draft always a huge event that overshadows early-season baseball and dominates postseason basketball and hockey in the television ratings in late April?
Because the demand for rookie talent is essential in the NFL and if a team fails one year in the draft, it must be successful the next year or it will sink in the standings.
Success often comes when a team finds productive players throughout the draft. It’s often far more difficult to hit on a superstar pick in the first round because these players often fail to live up to the hype.
It may not be enough to turn the rebuilding Indianapolis Colts into a powerhouse right away, but Andrew Luck looks like the real thing in the first few days of training camp.
Not only is he throwing the ball with a tight spiral, accuracy and a quick release, he is on top of his assignments and understand what head coach Chuck Pagano wants him to do as he goes under center.
There doesn’t seem to be any of the requisite nervousness that often overwhelms rookie hot shot quarterbacks. Luck seems to following in the shoes of Cam Newton, who set records for the Carolina Panthers last year as a rookie quarterback.
Luck could be even better this year for the Colts.
Now, you can’t make any pronouncements of success before a rookie has at least tasted success in the preseason, but you can see if a quarterback is going to have problems early on. In most cases, the footwork will be shaky and the passing accuracy will be lacking when a rookie doesn’t understand what the coaching staff wants him to do.
In Luck’s case, it’s not just that he has read the playbook, memorized the plays and then executes them on the practice field. It’s that he can read defenses and understand what all the keys are going to do before he snaps the ball.
For example, when Luck looks at the middle linebacker, he will have a pretty good idea from his stance and body position that he’s going to blitz or drop back in coverage. But in Luck’s case, that’s not good enough. He’s already reading the eyes and other nuances.
So instead of being 65 or 70 percent sure of what the linebacker will do, he’s 90 percent sure.
That’s what has impressed Pagano in the early practice sessions the Colts have had. “I watch him take control, take command of the huddle, he’s instantly earned the respect of everybody on this team, on both sides,” Pagano told NFL.com’s Albert Breer. “It’s because he’s right — he’s making the right decisions, he’s making the right checks, he’s making the right calls. The guys know. This guy knows his stuff. From my vantage point, it’s like you’re watching a guy that’s a three- or four-year veteran.”
That’s what will separate Luck from other top rookie quarterback prospects.
Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 pick, is also off to an excellent start with the Washington Redskins.
Griffin has just as many outstanding physical characteristics as Luck, and is very sharp in his ability to absorb the Redskin offense. He has a powerful arm, a quick release and accuracy. He is also a brilliant runner and he may be difficult to stop when he decides to turn it upfield.
He can also read defenses very well for a rookie, but he doesn’t know what the opposing defense is going to do the way Luck does.
What does this mean for the upcoming season?
Luck may start the season like a veteran quarterback on a team that is struggling, while RGIII may have to go through a growing process on a mediocre team.
However, as Griffin gets more comfortable in his role as the Redskins’ No. 1 quarterback, he could find himself up to speed by midseason.
At that point, the mediocre Redskins may become a dangerous team.
That could be bad news for the Giants, who were defeated twice by the Redskins last year. RGIII will take his Redskins on the road to meet the Giants in Week Seven, and that’s just about the time he could have a full understanding of how NFL teams attack on defense.
The Colts are not likely to be mediocre at any point this season. Luck’s ability will allow them to put on some outstanding performances and register a few upsets, but consistency will not factor into their season.
The performance of these two rookie quarterbacks may be a lot more than a sidebar as to how the 2012 NFL season plays out.
Does Luck or RGIII have a the better chance of a breakthrough rookie season? Let us know in the comments section below and send your tweets to @ProFootballBoy…