The 2012 NFL Draft is over seven months away, but with the start of college football, draft analysis is already underway. Big boards will change plenty over the next seven months, but for the moment it would appear that Stanford Cardinal QB Andrew Luck is the consensus number one pick. It is entirely possible that will change between now and April. Cam Newton was nowhere near the top of draft boards a year ago and look how much that changed. For now though, Andrew Luck is the guy Mel Kiper, mock drafts and many analysts consider the likely number one pick.
This is particularly pertinent here in early September as the Indianapolis Colts suddenly find themselves without their decade long starting quarterback Peyton Manning. The latest news reports are that Manning had surgery Thursday morning and could be out for at least two to three months. There are some more extended concerns depending on the type of surgery, but whatever the result, the Colts find themselves without their franchise QB until November at the earliest.
This loss naturally has raised the question of whether the Colts might suddenly find themselves in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. It has become a running subplot across the league that some teams might "Suck For Luck." Teams will never admit to tanking for a player, but if the right player comes along, certain football operations departments might not be so disappointed by losses.
A team like the Indianapolis Colts raises some questions in regards to whether they are in a position to draft Andrew Luck next spring. There have been some comparisons to the San Antonio Spurs who lost David Robinson the season prior to the Tim Duncan draft and happened to win the lottery that year. However, these Colts might be "too talented" to end up with a high enough pick for Luck. Even if Luck gets passed by a QB like Landry Jones and slips a few spots, I actually think the Colts could still be out of "luck" as I think they are looking at no worse than a middle of the road season in 2011.
Kerry Collins is fast approaching his last legs and is an obvious downgrade from a healthy Peyton Manning. But given the weapons at his disposal (Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Austin Collie, etc), it's difficult to say where the Colts will land this season. They'll take a step backward but from 10-6, a realistic "bad" finish could be in the 5-11 or 7-9 range.
That would be a bad finish, but probably not enough to get up to the top of the draft board. Consider teams like Washington, Seattle and Buffalo? Cincinnati drafted Andy Dalton this past year, but if they had a shot at Luck do they make the pick? That also doesn't factor in all the teams that could potentially make a deal with the number one pick.
There are so many possibilities that we could see some seriously high drama as the season unfolds. If Luck has built on his number one pick potential, do we see some tanking the likes of which we saw in the NBA when Tim Duncan was available?