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Andrew Luck is the next "can't miss," but is there really such a thing?

Andrew Luck has been billed as "can't-miss," but is that a fair way to describe athletes?
Andrew Luck has been billed as "can't-miss," but is that a fair way to describe athletes?
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Now that the NFL draft has passed and Andrew Luck was selected as the presumed first pick by the Indianapolis Colts, we can prepare to watch and see whether Luck will actually live up to the consensus opinion that he is a "can't miss" future NFL star. Luck, like many previous can't-miss players who have come before him, seems to possess all the tools needed to play at the NFL level, but is that enough to guarantee he will become a good future NFL quarterback -- much less a great QB?

Can't-miss prospects are a part of every sport, and for every athlete who lives up to the billing (like LeBron James or Peyton Manning), there are legions more players who "missed-bad," including Ryan Leaf and Kwame Brown. In fact, looking at most sports drafts, there are countless more players who barely make an impact at the professional level (if they even catch on at all), compared to those who go on to have an average to above-average careers. And remember, most all of these athletes were at one time "can't-miss" prospects, too.

Andrew Luck appears to be the prototypical pedigree quarterback equipped with size, arm strength, and genetics (his dad Oliver Luck was once an NFL quarterback). Still, there are so many more variables that impact athletic success that are often over-looked or unaccounted for, including player motivation, resiliency, and fit within the team he is drafted, to just to name a few. Only time will tell if Luck has what many call "the intangibles," or the mental mindset needed to excel at the profesional level.

Interestingly, some players might actually benefit by getting selected later in the draft, just like how Tom Brady and Dan Marino excelled after after being selected well after the #1 pick. Later draft picks often come with less pressure and fewer expectations, resulting in better player confidence (and perhaps even a chip on the player's shoulder for not being picked sooner in the draft). The #1 picks, however, often have as much of a challenege controlling the media and new fanfare as they do learning the plays and developing new relationships with coaches and teammates - all which leads up to a lot of pressure and anxiety.

While fans like to talk about "can't-miss" players, the truth is we really have very little to go on when trying to predict how well (and quickly) a rookie will adapt to professional sports. Of course, past behavior is always the best measurement of future performance, and from that standpoint both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III appear to be in pretty good shape. Still, the fuzzy "mental" aspects of sport loom large, making it a less-than-precise science when trying to predict whether the next "can't-miss" really is a "can't miss."

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