Enamored scouts stretch for Luck concerns, settle on arm strength

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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Andrew Luck gets almost unprecedented level of approval from scouts. (US Presswire)  
Andrew Luck gets almost unprecedented level of approval from scouts. (US Presswire)  

INDIANAPOLIS -- The love-fest with Andrew Luck is officially on. Smooching, unabashed praise and man-hugs. Maybe a few kisses on the cheek.

Five scouts who have closely watched Luck were asked to discuss him, and they agreed to do so on the condition they not be identified. The overall consensus was the love-fest -- except for one thing.

Scouts maintain Luck's arm strength is a bigger issue than generally known. While he hits touch passes with great accuracy, some throws requiring a lot of power don't always reach their targets.

"It's not a mild concern," said a scout. "It's a little more than that."

Scouts say there are several examples on film of Luck putting a lot of effort into a deep pass but the ball only moving at moderate speed.

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These scouts believe that during Luck's private workouts (Luck likely won't throw at the combine), teams will be looking closely at how hard he throws.

Some of this is what happens with a top prospect. Scouts and others have to find something negative to say, and with Luck, it's arm strength. You'll hear that repeatedly in the coming weeks and months. Arm strength, arm strength, arm strength. It may be a massive reach, but it's being discussed among the scouts.

Beyond that, the odes the scouts sing about Luck rival tales of Beowulf. It's amazing. The only thing missing is a bouquet of roses. One West Coast scout who saw all of Luck's college games said this: "It's not unfair to say he's the next John Elway. That's not totally unfair."

Said another scout: "He's almost the perfect prospect."

On and on it goes, past ridiculous and into an entirely new level.

There really hasn't been anything like this. Even Peyton Manning, the guy Luck will likely replace, didn't see this level. There's very little negative said about Luck (except for that one thing) and that's highly unusual in this uber-critical era of scrutiny and over-analysis.

There's rarely consensus agreement among scouts, who are the lifeblood of the personnel process. They can rarely agree on what time it is, but for Luck, there's no clear disagreement. It's as if he's protected by a criticism force field.

It's interesting watching Luck now compared to the last top pick, Cam Newton, whose different skill set and personal issues led to a massive schism in the scouting community and the media. Newton persevered through the ugliness to produce one of the greatest seasons a rookie quarterback has ever had.

Luck is getting the opposite treatment from everyone. Some comments from the scouts get a ridiculously technical but they are still important.

Scouts said specifically that Luck's ability to time passes -- especially on slant patterns -- is uncanny. They said on film, he'd repeatedly thread passes just past outstretched arms of defensive backs. When I queried would those same passes get tipped in the pros where the corners and safeties are a lot faster, there was very little concern.

"When he played faster defenses, the same thing happened," said a scout with a team that has a top 10 pick.

Drop back, throw, perfectly timed and placed football, where only the receiver could snag it. Doing that, scouts say, is difficult to learn. Some of it is just innate, and the consensus is Luck will adjust to the faster speed on the NFL level.

There's also his exhibited ability to think on the fly. Again, scouts say, there are numerous examples on film where Luck adjusted routes to expected blitzes. "It's rare, almost unprecedented, how he does that," said another scout.

"It's very, very much like Peyton Manning" at Tennessee, the scout added.

Yeah, it's getting insane. Kissy, kissy, kissy.

This is of course all flattering, but also potentially dangerous. Luck will enter the NFL as possibly the most praised player ever as Twitter and Facebook mushroom expectations. So much will be expected, it might reach unfair levels. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III will face pressure, but not close to what Luck will receive.

Arm strength, pressure from expectations, whatever. The Colts don't give a damn. They're drafting Luck unless his arm falls off. He's a Colt. It's done.

The praise Luck is receiving will continue through the draft and until he steps onto an NFL practice field. Then it leaves the realm of theory and enters the universe of the actual.

Until then, brace yourselves for the most ridiculous love-fest of all time.

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