Luck vs. RG III: Which is the pressure QB?

Andrew Luck is the consensus No. 1 pick, but how does he compare to Robert Griffin III when it counts most – on third downs, in the fourth quarter, and against the blitz. The number may surprise.

Draft analysts have little debate about who the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft should be. The Indianapolis Colts won the so-called "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes.

The biggest question now is whether there will be any second-guessing about their expected selection of Andrew Luck No. 1 overall on April 26, similar to what happened with the Ryan Leaf-Peyton Manning debate more than a decade ago.

Leaf fizzled fast after being the second pick in the 1998 draft, fading out of the NFL after only four seasons, and the Indianapolis Colts were rewarded with a decade of dominance from Manning.

"You can't find anybody now who will admit to it, but Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf were touching," former Vikings and Ravens coach Brian Billick said Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "There's not a human being on the face of the earth – ‘Oh, we all knew Peyton Manning …' – bull!"

After a season of Manning being sidelined with a neck injury, the once-perennial-playoff team finds itself with the top overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and hoping for similar elongated success, grasping to the widely held belief that Stanford's Andrew Luck is the next Manning. Luck is considered the most NFL-ready, can't-miss prospect since (insert your choice of Manning or John Elway here).

But, beyond the straight yardage and completion percentages, what do the statistics say about the top two quarterbacks – Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III – in this year's draft? In pressure situations, the results from STATS LLC may surprise.

Against the blitz: Neither Luck nor Griffin was among the top quarterbacks in the draft at handling the blitz. That distinction belongs to the baby-faced bomber from Boise State. Kellen Moore completed 72.6 percent of his passes in the face of an extra pass rusher with an incredible 19-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Griffin's elusiveness certainly helped him in that category, as he checked in at No. 5 with a 62.0 completion percentage, eight touchdowns and no interceptions in blitz situations, as well as a healthy 10.5 yards per attempt, according to STATS LLC. Luck, meanwhile, completed 57.1 percent of his passes against the blitz with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions and the lowest average yards per catch, 7.2, of the top 10 QBs. Advantage: RG III.

Third downs:
Luck's completion percentage decreases on third down, falling to 59.6 and had the same number of touchdowns as interceptions, six, while having one of the worst passing efficiencies (126.6) on the money down of the top prospects in the draft. Griffin completed a higher percentage of passes on third down (67.2) than Luck and had a 5-to-2 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio, as well as a solid 169.6 efficiency rating. Advantage: RG III.

Third down vs. blitz:
Players like Russell Wilson, Brandon Weeden, Dan Persa and Kirk Cousins all had first-down conversion percentages and completion percentages above 50 percent against the blitz on third down. Not Luck or Griffin. Luck had a completion percentage of 45.7 and conversion rate of 37 percent. Griffin completed exactly 50 percent of his third-down passes when facing a blitz but converted just 25 of them into first downs (with a small sample size of 12 attempts). Advantage: Luck.

Fourth-quarter performance:
Luck stepped to the top of the rankings in fourth-quarter performance. That's when he completed an impressive 77.8 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and two interceptions, ranking second in explosive fourth-quarter plays at 11.1 percent. Griffin was more than 10 percent below Luck in fourth-quarter completion percentage at 66.7 but was nearly equal in TD-to-INT ratio at 6-to-2 and had the highest percentage of explosive plays, 15.8, in the final quarter of games. Advantage: Luck.

"I think Andrew Luck is the most dynamic quarterbacking talent to come out since John Elway, as a prospect," Billick said. "I go back to the old: ‘Son, your potential's going to get me fired.' So it is still potential because it isn't on the NFL field."

While Luck is still considered the top prospect in the draft, Griffin gives him a run for the title in pressure situations like third downs, versus the blitz and in the fourth quarter, according to the numbers provided by STATS LLC. Still, 14 years after the Manning-Leaf debate, Luck is consensus top pick over Griffin.

"I think Andrew Luck has more credentials, fewer questions about him, than anybody since John Elway. Now it's got to come together," Billick said. "But I think this guy's the real deal. The arm strength – his arm strength is plenty good – and he's going to mature. He's going to grow still in that arm strength. Yeah, I think he's the most complete quarterback since John Elway."


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