While Luck can always change his mind, taking him out of the mix would be a big blow to the Carolina Panthers, who are in line to make the first selection in April's draft.
Like most draft scouts, it was expected that Luck would forgo his senior season because, unlike a guy like Tim Tebow, who was a borderline first-round pick heading into his senior season, Luck was a lock to be taken first overall – whether by the Panthers or traded to another team willing to part with a king's ransom to land the top spot to take Luck.
Although Luck can still change his mind, his absence from the draft will create a pretty significant void. Kiper's Big Board ranks his top 25 prospects, which included Luck at No. 1. Four other quarterbacks are rated in the top 25, but, if you use Kiper's rankings as a general guideline, three of them would still be available when the Vikings pick at No. 12.
Kiper ranks Missouri's Blaine Gabbert at No. 9, followed by Cam Newton of Auburn (No. 13), Ryan Mallett of Arkansas (No. 17) and Jake Locker of Washington (No. 25).
It will be interesting to see how Luck's decision (if it sticks) will affect the draft. Despite claiming he will return to Stanford for his senior season, if head coach Jim Harbaugh jumps to the NFL (he's expected to go to the 49ers), which many see as a near-forgone conclusion given the money rumored to be on the table (as much as $8 million a year), it would surprise few fans if Luck changed his mind in the next couple of weeks. It's his right to change his mind, but Luck sounded sincere that he wants to get his degree.
With Luck out of the mix, it might help the Vikings, since the run on quarterbacks will likely be muted somewhat by Luck not being in the mix. Teams would likely overvalue players like Gabbert and Newton and, as is typical in the months leading up to the draft, impressive performances at the NFL Scouting Combine, the postseason all-star games, pro days and individual workouts have a history of elevating quarterbacks higher on the draft boards for many teams. While the Fab Four remaining quarterbacks are currently ranked well behind a strong class of defensive linemen – always a popular position early on draft day – don't be surprised if they start rising on draft boards, especially given the need for so many teams at the position.
You have to give a tip of the hat to Luck, who claims he is staying at Stanford to earn his degree. However, with him already locked in at the No. 1 pick in April, it's hard to fathom that he would leave tens of millions of dollars on the table to stay in college. He can't improve his draft slot, but the maturation process will likely make him a better pro prospect, despite being viewed by some as the most "pro-ready" quarterback to come out of college since Peyton Manning came out of Tennessee in 1998.
Let the re-thinking begin for war rooms around the NFL. Keep in mind that that the draft will go off as planned, whether there is a lockout or not and, given that free agency will be put on hold in the event (some would say eventuality) of a lockout, teams will likely be drafting more for need than the standard "best player available" theory that permeates many war rooms.
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