As Griffin heads to NFL, his stock is soaring

BY foxsports • January 10, 2012

Before Robert Griffin III came along, they said you couldn't win a Heisman at a school like Baylor.

Now that Griffin has declared for the NFL Draft, no one is dumb enough to put a limit on anything he can do.

"It was a tough decision," Griffin said at a news conference Wednesday. "I love the people at this university, love my coach for giving me a chance to be a quarterback."

Reports have said the Indianapolis Colts will take Stanford's Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Luck is the most NFL-ready quarterback, a once-in-a-generation kind of quarterback prospect who played in an NFL-style offense in college.

Yet few would blink an eye if the Colts picked RG3. He's been that amazing in his college career.

The Rams have the No. 2 pick and another young franchise-caliber quarterback in Sam Bradford. With Griffin making himself available and rookie salaries reined in by the new collective bargaining agreement, don't be surprised if the Rams, who have a lot of needs, trade the pick and Griffin goes at No. 2.

If that happens, Griffin can thank Cam Newton for paving the way with his own amazing 2011 rookie season. And maybe even Tim Tebow. Because of those two, the prospect of a running quarterback isn't immediately dismissed in the NFL.

On the other hand, anyone who saw Griffin play knows that running ability is just part of his repertoire and not the core component. Griffin has always had the arm strength of an NFL quarterback and, especially this last season, the accuracy to succeed in any system.

It would be fun to see whether Griffin could win two Heisman trophies, but his work is done at Baylor and his draft stock will never be higher. With USC's Matt Barkley and Oklahoma's Landry Jones returning next season, the pool of elite quarterback prospects is much smaller.

Had Griffin decided to return to Baylor, the Bears would likely be a preseason Top 10 pick. That's what happens when you lead a team to a 10-win season, the second in school history.

"I talked to coach; neither of us broke down, surprisingly," Griffin said Wednesday of Baylor head coach Art Briles, though Briles broke in to add: "Not on the outside."

Baylor loses its top receiver, Kendall Wright, and top rusher, Terrance Ganaway, as well as two starters on the offensive line.

Griffin's return would have made up for those losses, but he has already influenced Baylor's recruiting. There are more good players in the wings, plus Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk, who was a top-five running back recruit when he came out of high school.

Griffin winning the Heisman Trophy obviously increased Baylor's recruiting profile, but so did the Griffin-led win over Washington in the Alamo Bowl. Briles says more recruits have started calling since that 67-56 win that resembled a video game.

Griffin proved that not only can you win a Heisman at Baylor, but that the Bears play an exciting brand of football that demands attention.

Replacing Griffin won't be difficult. It will be impossible. However, backup Nick Florence, who will be a senior, looked sharp running the offense in the second half of a 66-42 win over Texas Tech. Florence started seven games as a true freshman in 2009 when Griffin tore up his knee.

Even if Griffin had decided to return, it's hard to imagine Baylor winning a conference title next year. The Bears finished third in the Big 12 in 2011, and Baylor would have to make an off-the-charts improvement on defense to contend for Big 12 and national titles this fall.

It will be up to others to get Baylor to that next level. Griffin has already taken the program further than many people thought possible.

Now, it's time for Griffin to start shattering limits and boundaries in the NFL.

--The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire


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