Hot! Ranking the Rooks: Luck vs RGIII vs Wilson

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson have burst onto the NFL scene and are leading their teams to greener pastures.

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson have burst onto the NFL scene and are leading their teams to greener pastures.

An NFL that was once dominated by the running game and hard hitting defense has transformed into a finesse league. As a result, quarterback efficiency and exploiting the league’s demand for increased player safety have become keys to success. It’s harder now than ever to tackle a quarterback or a wide receiver without seeing a yellow flag, making a “franchise” quarterback a near necessity to compete.

However, the demand for franchise quarterbacks far outstrips the supply. This is where the NFL draft comes into play. More so than in any other professional sports league, the NFL’s draft can help change the fortunes of a struggling franchise in just a single season.

Luck-ily for the Indianapolis Colts (pun intended), Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks, this year’s draft produced some outstanding quarterbacks, and none have made more of a difference than Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.

Although these teams are coming off losing seasons, their respective rookie phenoms have helped turn their franchises around immediately and have given each team hope for a postseason birth. The projected growth of this rookie triumvirate make their teams legitimate threats this season, and many seasons to come.

In fact, the 2012 QB draft class might be the best ever. But which quarterback has impressed the most this season?

 

Andrew Luck

How do his statistics look?  

Luck’s 3,792 passing yards and 23 total touchdowns (18 passing, five rushing) are impressive, but his 23 turnovers (18 interceptions, five lost fumbles) are to high. Before he can approach “elite” status, he must better protect the ball and improve upon his 54.9% completion percentage. That said, Luck was also thrusted into a much more difficult offense to function in than his rookie peers. His 537 passing attempts trail only Matthew Stafford for the NFL lead. Leading the Colts to the eighth-ranked passing offense would be impressive for any quarterback, let alone a rookie.

How is his play considering his surrounding talent?

Luck doesn’t have much to work with as far as established talent is concerned. Vick Ballard and Donald Brown are an average at best running back tandem, and after Reggie Wayne, Luck’s receiving corps is mostly patchwork. Donnie Avery only had 45 receiving yards in the past two seasons, yet this year he has set a career high with 708 receiving yards. Third-round draft choice T.Y. Hilton has 41 catches for 638 yards and five touchdowns despite being listed third on the Colts depth chart. The Colts may lack playmakers with proven track records, but since Luck is playing at a high level, he is successfully elevating the play of others around him.

How well does he command his current offensive system?

More so than any other rookie, Luck has been tasked with commanding an aggressive passing offense. The result is admirable. The Colts run a spread offense, predicated around the use of multiple wide receivers. This is usually the type of offense a team with a weak running game employs, as it gives the quarterback more check down options and short pass opportunities in the slot in place of traditional running plays that might typically be called. While this can potentially inflate a quarterback’s stats, it also places extra pressure on him to carry the offense and make more reads. The spread offense also is susceptible to the blitz, since there are less big men on the field to help protect the quarterback. It’s a sophisticated and involved system to throw at a rookie, yet Luck has managed it well in leading his team to some improbably late game victories.

How great is his impact on his team’s overall success? 

The Colts held the first pick in the draft for a reason. They were the worst team in the NFL, and now they are closing in on a postseason birth. Nobody is more responsible for Indianapolis’s 2012 success than Andrew Luck.

 

Robert Griffin III

How do his statistics look?

Griffin III’s rushing statistics (748 rushing yards, six touchdowns) are incredible and his 18:4 touchdown to interception ratio is outstanding, but he still needs to prove himself more as a pocket passer before his true value is found. Averaging 8.28 yards per passing attempt is exceptional but is skewed by his lack of attempts; he is averaging only 27 passes per game, near the bottom of the league. The Redskins, who are the best rushing team in football, rank 21st in passing. While he makes the most of his opportunities, teams are more concerned with his running than his throwing. It is difficult to give a quarterback the highest honors when his strength is running the ball.

How is his play considering his surrounding talent?

Washington possesses great speed and downfield playmaking ability at wide receiver with Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss, but injuries have limited Garcon to only seven games played, so Griffin deserves some credit for keeping his team afloat. What hurts his grade here more than anything is that his system calls for Alfred Morris, who ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards, to be successful almost as much as it does RGIII. The Redskins rely heavily on executing the read option, which won’t strike fear into the opposition unless they also respect Morris’ ability to run.

How well does he command his current offensive system?

Not much debate here. RGIII is the perfect quarterback for Mike Shanahan’s run heavy, option offense. Defenses struggle to recognize whether a rolling out RGIII intends to tuck and run, pitch the ball off to Morris or throw the ball. While Griffin III’s athleticism makes this system possible, it devalues his stats since he often benefits from a confused defense more than his own quarterbacking ability. Time will tell if he can develop into a more traditional pocket passer, which would make him that deadlier. RGIII scores highest of all the rookies in this category.

How great is his impact on his team’s overall success? 

RGIII’s been a tremendous upgrade at quarterback for the Redskins, however, Mike Shanahan’s unique system and the exceptional play of Alfred Morris are just as responsible for the turnaround in D.C. The Redskins are just a game behind the Giants in the NFC East race, and while some might say he’s a product of his system, it’s tough to picture them this close to the division title without Robert Griffin III.

 

Russell Wilson

How do his statistics look?

His 20:9 touchdown to interception ratio and his 63% completion percentage are excellent, but this is a passer’s league, and his 191.7 yards per game needs to improve. His 310 rushing yards prove that he can make an impact on the ground, but he’s yet to rush for a touchdown. With a weak wide receiving corps, Wilson would benefit greatly from more opportunities to roll out and run the ball in the red zone.

How is his play considering his surrounding talent?

Sidney Rice and Golden Tate aren’t particulary scary as receiving threats, but they each have seven touchdowns, and considering the low yardage totals both have posted, you could argue that the touchdowns are more a result of Wilson’s accuracy than his wide receivers’ ability to create their own space. Like RGIII, Wilson is hurt in this category because of the support provided by his running back. Marshawn Lynch is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and ranks second in the league in rushing yards.

How well does he command his current offensive system?

The Seahawks are playing some outstanding football, yet they rank 29th in the league in passing offense while posting top-10 rankings in most defensive categories. Wilson’s TD:INT ratio is great, and it’s apparent that he is being held back by the conservative play calling. Wilson’s numbers need to improve for him to command more respect, but it’s hard to fault what the kid does when he is given an opportunity. He is averaging a mere 25 passing attempts per game, whereas Lynch typically carries the ball over 20 times a game. Hopefully Wilson’s ability convinces Carroll to open up the offense because his play warrants it.

How great is his impact on his team’s overall success?

Wilson hasn’t been asked to do much, but he’s given the Seahawks as reliable of a quarterback option as they’ve had in a long time. He is clutch, has great pocket presence, can extend plays with his mobility and does a great job managing the game. The Seahawks defense and running game has played well all season, and Wilson has not allowed his learning curve to upset the winning formula being developed in Seattle.

 

Conclusion

A quarterback’s ability to throw the ball is too important for Luck to not rank first among this years rooks. While he’s turned the ball over the most, he has proven the most capable of carrying a team on his shoulders, elevating the play of those around him, and relying the least on his mobility. RGIII and Wilson have both displayed the potential to improve in the passing game, but it’s evident that Luck’s play has tied him more directly to his team’s success than that of his fellow rookies. Griffin III edges out Wilson for now since he’s doing exactly what’s being asked of him and succeeding with flying colors, but RGIII’s propensity to run makes him an injury waiting to happen (see: Michael Vick), and it’s clear the Seahawks have more faith in Wilson’s arm than the Redskins currently do in Griffin’s.

One thing is for certain, these three previously struggling franchises have been blessed with outstanding potential at the quarterback position, and their fans should look forward to witnessing some terrific football for years to come.

1.  Andrew Luck

2.  Robert Griffin III

3.  Russell Wilson

 

Author

Nicholas Kostopoulos

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.