The Indianapolis Colts took Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft on Thursday night.
The redshirt junior from Stanford is considered one of the top quarterback prospects since Eli Manning left Ole Miss in 2004. It's expected Luck will be the team's starter when the season begins in September, filling the void left when Peyton Manning was released in March.
Most projected Luck as the top pick for the past two seasons, but he surprised the NFL and college football alike when he decided in January 2011 that he'd return for a final season at Stanford to earn his architecture degree.
After the draft began as advertised with Luck's selection and the Washington Redskins naming Baylor's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III the second pick, the intrigue finally began.
The first draft-day statement was made by the Cleveland Browns, who gave up four draft picks to the Minnesota Vikings to move up one spot, to No. 3 overall. The Browns then selected Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Adding local drama to that decision for Cleveland fans is the fact that former Browns Hall of Fame back Jim Brown recently called Richardson "ordinary."
Browns president Mike Holmgren obviously doesn't agree, based on what he paid for Richardson. The Browns reportedly gave their No. 4 overall spot plus picks in the fourth round (118 overall), fifth round (139 overall) and seventh round (211 overall).
"I didn't expect to go this high, but I work hard at what I do," Richardson said.
Minnesota then selected Southern California offensive tackle Ryan Kalil to provide a blind-side protector for 2011 first-round pick quarterback Christian Ponder.
Meanwhile, back at the top, the formality of naming Luck and Griffin is expected to be the first official chapter in what will likely be a career-long drama in which these two great athletes will continue to be joined at the hip, as it were.
And it is expected to be a far better ongoing story than the one began in 1998 when Indianapolis took Manning out of Tennessee and the San Diego Chargers followed by selecting Ryan Leaf out of Washington State. Their comparisons ended quickly as Manning flourished and Leaf floundered.
In fact, on the day Luck was named the successor to Manning, who is reconvening his career in Denver, Leaf, beset by drug and burglary problems, was issued two warrants in Texas and could be facing 20 years in prison.
But faith in the futures of Luck and "RG3" is so strong that Redskins general manager Bruce Allen told The Sports Xchange when he traded up to the No. 2 spot, he was in love with both of them and would be happy to take either one. The Redskins gave the St. Louis Rams their No. 6 overall pick plus a second rounder this year and firsts in the next two years to move into the No. 2 position.
Luck has been considered the best pro prospect quarterback in college for at least the last two seasons. He has been called the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft since Manning. He is the son of Oliver Luck, former Detroit Lions and Houston Oilers quarterback and current Athletic Director at West Virginia.
On the field, Luck masterfully manipulated a pro-style offense coached until last year by former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh, now with the 49ers.
"Anxious to get started. You want to get started, you want to get going," Luck said. "I can't wait. I can't wait to get out there and represent the city to the best of my ability."
Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians did not hesitate a second when asked if Luck is expected to step in as the No. 1 quarterback right away.
"Ain't no doubt," he said.
At Stanford, Luck prepped for the NFL by completing 713 of 1,064 passes for 9,430 yards, 82 touchdowns, 22 interceptions and a passer rating of 162.8.
"Andrew has been preparing for this for a long, long time," Arians said. "He has an advanced grasp of the game. He is very unusual in that regard."
The Redskins seems equally happy with RG3.
"He is a marvelous person, tremendous athlete and it is exciting just to think about what he can do as a quarterback," said Allen.
The Jacksonville Jaguars picked Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon as the fifth pick in the draft.
1. Indianapolis Colts: QB Andrew Luck, Stanford -- The centerpiece to a foundation largely to be constructed in this draft, Luck is compared to his predecessor, Peyton Manning, who quickly became the pillar of the Colts' franchise the last time Indy drafted a quarterback first overall in 1998.
2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis): QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor -- Coach Mike Shanahan called Griffin the ideal fit for the West Coast offense, and pundits compare the Heisman winner to Aaron Rodgers and Steve Young.
3. Cleveland Browns (draft-day trade with Minnesota): RB Trent Richardson, Alabama -- Team president Mike Holmgren missed out on RG3 when the Redskins outbid Cleveland for the No. 2 pick in March and decided not to roll the dice that his other coveted target wouldn't be available at No. 4, pulling the trigger on a draft-day deal Thursday afternoon to move up one spot. The Browns didn't settle the QB questions, but are starved for a difference-maker. Richardson runs big but is also elusive and was effective facing eight-man fronts at Alabama.
4. Minnesota Vikings (draft-day trade with Cleveland): OT Matt Kalil, Southern Cal -- Minnesota surrendered 50 sacks last season, meaning improved protection for 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder was essential. Ponder has had three straight injury-shortened seasons including his rookie year.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (draft-day trade with Tampa Bay): WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State -- As the Vikings before them, the Jaguars made a move that should greatly benefit their second-year quarterback (Blaine Gabbert). Blackmon, a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner, had 40 career touchdowns and gives the Jaguars their first legitimate No. 1 receiver since Jimmy Smith.
6. Dallas Cowboys (draft-day trade with St. Louis): CB Morris Claiborne, LSU -- The Cowboys spent $50 million to land free agent cornerback Brandon Carr and then parted with their top two picks in 2012 to land Claiborne, a smooth, athletic lead cornerback who can also spark the return game.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (draft-day trade with Jacksonville): SS Mark Barron, Alabama -- Barron is a tough, in-the-box safety but also snagged 12 interceptions in his career with the Crimson Tide and was charged with calling the team's defense. He should shore up the Buccaneers' shaky defense in more ways than one.