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Irsay's Colts undecided on No. 1 draft pick? Not with Luck on their side

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Luck's visit to Indy for the combine won't be the last time he performs in the Colts' stadium. (US Presswire)  
Luck's visit to Indy for the combine won't be the last time he performs in the Colts' stadium. (US Presswire)  

Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay says the Colts are undecided which quarterback they will choose with the first pick in next month's draft -- Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. What he forgot to tell us was that the earth is flat, too.

I'm not saying passing on Luck might not happen. I'm saying it won't ... and for one reason: There is no decision to make. Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in this draft; Robert Griffin III is second.

So if you have the first pick of the draft and a hole at quarterback, why in the world would you pick the second-best option?

Answer: You wouldn't. And the Colts won't.

Sorry, people, this one's a no-brainer, and Irsay knows it -- even though he said what he said this week. But he also said he wasn't sure what he would do with Peyton Manning when it was clear where he and the Colts were going. That's not a knock on Irsay; it's just who he is, and he's someone who likes an audience.

So now he tells us he doesn't know whom the Colts will take with the first pick, and we nod -- when common sense tells us the Colts have been charting a path toward one quarterback for months. And it doesn't lead to RG3; it goes straight to Luck.

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As it should.

When I tweeted something like that Thursday, several people asked how I could be so sure, with others saying this was a racial thing; basically, that the Colts would choose RG3 if he were white. Well, first of all, it's not a racial thing; it's a quarterback thing. One guy has experience in a pro system, the other does not; one guy is refined at the position, the other is not; one guy is the safer choice; the other is not.

Pure and simple, Andrew Luck is the best quarterback prospect I've seen since John Elway nearly 30 years ago.

"You ever play spades?" asked San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh. "Trump games? He's holding a lot of aces in a lot of suits."

Translation: Andrew Luck is tough to beat.

"He's got all the qualities, mentally and physically," said Harbaugh. "He's as prepared as anybody you're going to find."

OK, I know what you're thinking -- Luck was Harbaugh's quarterback at Stanford, which means Harbaugh can't be impartial on the subject. Fair enough. But Harbaugh recruited RG3, too, with the Baylor quarterback bowing out after Luck made a commitment to Stanford. Nevertheless, Harbaugh didn't coach Griffin, so he's naturally skewed toward the quarterback he knows, and I get that.

But Mike Mayock didn't coach Luck. He is NFL Network's draft analyst, and while he says Luck might not be the "once-in-a-lifetime" quarterback some believe he is, he also makes it clear what he likes about the guy -- and it's a lot, which makes him no different than most NFL scouts, GMs and coaches.

"Andrew Luck is sneaky athletic," said Mayock. "He's within a system and, within that system, he doesn't have to do flashy things. I showed a five-play montage of him during the season [on TV], and, basically, the first play showed him moving within the pocket like an NFL quarterback. Rarely do you see a college kid with the feet skills to slide-move, find a lane and deliver it. And that's what separates him a little bit from anyone else out there in this draft."

People tell me there have been draft-day upsets before -- citing Houston's choice of Mario Williams over Reggie Bush in 2006 -- and they're right. But there were two factors there: 1) Signability, with the Texans convinced Williams would be easier; 2) The position they played. Neither was a quarterback.

When quarterbacks are at or near the top of the draft, they jump to the head of the class. There are two here who also happen to be the two best players on the board. They both look like can't-miss prospects, but one is rated ahead of the other, and that one gets drafted first.

And that one is Andrew Luck.

The Colts this week announced that they will invite Luck to Indianapolis for a private workout, but it's what they didn't say that was significant: They said they had nothing similar in the works for RG3. Read the tea leaves.

"I think Andrew Luck has more credentials and fewer questions about him than anybody since John Elway," said former coach Brian Billick, now an analyst with Fox and NFL Network.

That works for me. It'll work for Irsay and his Colts, too. Remember, it was Jim's father, Robert, who owned the Colts in 1983 and traded away Elway one week after the Colts made him the first pick of the draft. Denver went to five Super Bowls with the guy, winning two. Indianapolis didn't go to a Super Bowl until after Elway retired and Peyton Manning was nine years into his job.

There's a lesson there, and it's not lost on the younger Irsay. When you have a quarterback as talented and as ready for the pro game as a John Elway or Andrew Luck, you don't pass on him. The Colts did once, and they suffered for it. They will not do it again.


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