Before Thursday afternoon, Andrew Luck was set to become a multi-millionaire. The general assumption held around the country was that the redshirt sophomore would leave Stanford -- along with his coach Jim Harbaugh -- for the riches of the National Football League. It made sense. The overwhelming consensus number one pick, Luck stood to make silly amounts of money (if recent trends continued, he would probably have become the highest paid quarterback in the history of the NFL). With the lockout looming, and a restructuring of the rookie pay scale being hammered down as one of the owners' main talking points, if Luck did not take this chance now, he would likely lose the opportunity to be ridiculously wealthy at the tender age of 21.
And it's not like he wasn't physically ready. Many scouts have already said that he is the quarterback best prospect they had ever seen. High praise indeed.
It just wouldn't make sense for him to stay. For a recent example, take the case of fellow Pac-10 quarterback Jake Locker. Going into last year's draft, the Husky was receiving consideration as the number one pick. Yet, he decided to wait a year and return to Washington to finish what he had started. What happened? He got hurt early, underperformed all year as he battled back from injuries, and watched his draft stock plummet. By staying in school, Locker lost an untold amount of money.
Now, against all rational reasoning, Andrew Luck has reached the same decision. That sound you just heard was the simultaneous implosion of every 2011 NFL Mock Draft penned thus far.
It's obvious the Arizona Cardinals need a quarterback. I don't need to extrapolate on that.
Coming into the draft, we all figured Luck would go number one to the Carolina Panthers. That's fine. Then it's Denver, Buffalo, and Cincinnati -- all of whom are indicating they will not take a quarterback. Each team already has a project/serviceable quarterback, and has too many holes to invest that much money in a position that isn't in full-on emergency mode.
Finally, the Cardinals get their chance at number five. We all assumed that they would be making a choice between the second tier quarterback group of Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett, and Blaine Gabbert. Now, to this humble sportswriter, Mallet never really seemed like an option. Even before the Sugar Bowl, he just seemed like another Derek Anderson in waiting. Gabbert is still somewhat of a mystery, and we may need to wait until the combine to get a read on him. But Newton seems like the real deal. Personally, and I am not alone, I think he would be a perfect fit with the Cardinals.
Yet, Luck's withdrawal throws this whole thing into disarray. No one knows what Carolina will do. It is startlingly clear that Jimmy Clausen is not a franchise quarterback. Will the Panthers bite the bullet and go with Newton number one? (Perhaps on the heels of a strong BSC Championship game/combine performance). Or will a team riddled with holes just go the "take the best player available route"?
Honestly, the former seems more likely than the latter. If this year was any indication, the difference between the "haves" and the "have nots" at quarterback in the NFL is astounding. Whatever coach they bring in will want to draft his own guy, and besides, Panther fans will not tolerate another year of Clausen nonsense.
Whatever they choose to do impacts Arizona directly. If they take a quarterback with the number one pick, do the Cardinals go a different route and take a Nick Fairley or a Prince Amukamara to bolster their struggling defense? Wouldn't that really be the best solution? Reaching on Ryan Mallett, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, etc. -- if it failed -- could cripple the organization for years to come.
Couldn't we get by drafting on defense and picking up the newly-free Vince Young or the likely-free Kyle Orton in free agency? I would be perfectly satisfied with that, as would most of the fanbase.
Would you feel more comfortable going into the 2011-2012 season with a dynamic, proven winner like Vince Young at quarterback and a young stud defensive back like Amukamara to team with DRC, or another shaky prospect like Mallett at quarterback and the same old Cardinal defense?
Truthfully, in the end, it's all just a guessing game. But one thing is for sure, the game certainly just got a little more interesting.