By Dennis Waszak Jr.
NEW YORK — Andrew Luck knows exactly where he’s heading, and so does Robert Griffin III.
For the rest of the college stars preparing for the NFL draft tonight, the anxiety is building. Nobody is looking forward to the green room at Radio City Music Hall.
“It kind of made me a little nervous when we were talking to the commissioner and he said, ‘You’ll be back there for an hour and it’ll feel like you’ve been back there for five days,’” Southern California tackle Matt Kalil said. “I’ll be sweatin’ up a storm back there, and I want to have my name called and not have to wait too long.”
He shouldn’t have to worry much about that. Most mock drafts project Kalil to go third overall to Minnesota after Luck heads to Indianapolis and Griffin to Washington. But he knows better than to put much stock in the predraft chatter.
“I stopped paying attention to all of that stuff,” said Kalil, attending an NFL event at a playground in Manhattan. “No one really has a clue. Unless you’re the GM of a team, you don’t really know who a team is going to pick, so you just let it all play out.”
That’s the approach for the nearly two dozen other players who’ll be at Radio City and have no idea when they might walk onto the stage, shake Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand and hold up the jersey of the team with which they’ll start their professional career.
“For Luck and RGIII, they know what’s going on and they know where they’re going to live and all that kind of stuff,” Alabama safety Mark Barron said. “A lot of us other guys, we’re still wondering where we’re going to be living for the next however many years.”
Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor, is comforted by already knowing he’ll be a member of the Redskins. But he thinks he might actually miss the draft-day jitters. Well, at least a little bit.
“It kind of puts yourself at ease,” he said, “but it does kind of rob you of that natural draftee experience where you don’t know where you’re going and you’re in limbo.”
Added South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram: “Yeah, I guess that would be kind of different. You won’t get that adrenaline of, ‘Oh, man. I hope they pick me,’ when you know where you’re going.”
Luck will go No. 1 overall to Indianapolis after a terrific career at Stanford. Like Griffin, he is also expected to step right into a starting job as a rookie.
“I guess it’s nice, but there’s always competition in football and if I go out there and lay an egg and I’m not the best quarterback out there, I hope they don’t start me,” Luck said. “I’m excited, though. I’m going to go out there and hopefully play, obviously, and put my best foot forward and enjoy all the guys.”
Luck, the son of former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck, acknowledged that it was a “relief” to know he’ll be going to the Colts — even if they’re starting from scratch after they released Peyton Manning.
“Obviously, the slate has been wiped somewhat clean with some new coaches and some players who have gone or left, but I’ll try to come in there and work as hard as I can,” Luck said. “If that means it’s a rebuilding process, I guess you can label it as that. The guys I’m sure are working very hard and I just want to get out there and join them.”
After Luck and Griffin, Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill is expected to be the next quarterback taken — possibly eighth overall by Miami, where he’d be reunited with Mike Sherman. The new Dolphins offensive coordinator was Tannehill’s head coach the last four years.
“If I did happen to go there, it would be good,” said Tannehill, who would compete with starter Matt Moore. “It would give me some familiarity with the offense, so I think it would help ease the transition a little bit.”
Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon will likely be the first wide receiver picked, possibly as high as No. 4 by Cleveland. Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill and Baylor’s Kendall Wright are other receivers who might go in the opening round.
“It’s a great time to come into the league if you are a receiver,” said Blackmon, a two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top receiver. “More teams are throwing the ball a lot more, it’s more wide open than ever on offense.”
Other players who could be top-10 picks are Ingram, Alabama running back Trent Richardson, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples.
After winning the national championship in January, Alabama could be a big winner in the opening round. Crimson Tide teammates Barron, Richardson, linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick could all hear their names called Thursday night.
“This is a great experience, especially when you have a team where we came from,” Richardson said. “All these guys are going to the draft and we’re all going to be in the first round. Alabama set the bar high last year when they had four come out and all four went in the first round. Hopefully we can break that record and have five.”