Not a lot of people would know, because there have been very few times in NFL history when a relatively sure-fire quarterback prospect such as Luck comes out in the draft. So I asked the only general manager in history (I believe) who has been in position twice to take the top quarterback in a quarterback-heavy draft: Ernie Accorsi. In 1983, he was the rookie GM with the Baltimore Colts who set a high price tag for John Elway. In 2004, he was the veteran GM of the Giants and juggled Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger at the top of the draft, considering all and trading for Manning.
Accorsi told me he has seen Luck on TV but would be doing an injustice to scouting by having an opinion on Luck, the player. But he did tell me if Luck is in league with Elway as a prospect -- which is the widely held view of many scouts; not better, and maybe not as good, but in the same league -- then the Elway situation is a good barometer. Accorsi set a price tag of three first-round picks and two second-rounders for the first pick of the '83 draft, which certainly would be used on Elway. He never got the deal he wanted, so the Colts picked Elway No. 1.
But Baltimore owner Robert Irsay commandeered the trade negotiations for Elway once he found out signing him would cost $5 million over five years. (Exorbitant at the time, ridiculously reasonable in retrospect.) Irsay dealt Elway to Denver for the fourth pick in that year's draft (tackle Chris Hinton) plus Denver's first-round pick in 1984 and marginal quarterback prospect Mark Herrmann. Two ones and a backup quarterback, basically, for Elway. Turned out to be dirt-cheap compensation. Elway led the Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning two. "Five Super Bowls? You can't overpay for that,'' said Accorsi. "It's like overpaying for Joe DiMaggio. In retrospect, three ones and two twos would have been very fair. A bargain, really.''
I think three first-round picks for the first selection in the 2012 draft is more than fair if the team that earns that right is in a dealing mood. One of those picks would have to be in the top 10 of the 2012 draft. "If he's as good as everyone says he is, absolutely it's a realistic price,'' Accorsi said.
In 2004, Accorsi traded for Manning's rights with San Diego in a deal that essentially was two firsts, a third- and a fifth-, with one of the firsts being the fourth overall pick in that draft. (The picks were made, Manning by the Chargers and Philip Rivers by the Giants, and then swapped by the teams.)
But that's not a bad template for a Luck trade. Let's say the Rams have the first pick in the draft next year, but because they've got Sam Bradford, don't feel a need to take a quarterback. The Dolphins, let's say, are picking fourth. The negotiations would have to start with two ones, a three and a five, but I think they'd have to be ratcheted up in value. Luck, in 2012, will likely be much more of a sure thing than Manning or Rivers were in 2004.
But if I were the GM of any bad 2011 team, with any current or near-future quarterback need (and that includes Indianapolis, where the owner is already talking about a Peyton Manning-Luck tag-team for three or four years), I wouldn't take any offer for Luck. I'd sit there and pick him. When you don't have a quarterback, and you're in position to take the surest of things probably since Peyton Manning himself came out, you have to take Luck.
One last point: Pete Thamel of The New York Times asked Luck the other day about the rise of "Suck for Luck'' sentiment around the league. In other words, root for your team to lose so you'll be in position to take him. (Judy Battista wrote smartly about it Sunday in the Times.) Luck has another year of eligibility left at Stanford, but those close to him, and most NFL people I speak to, are virtually certain he'll come out for the 2012 draft. "I am aware of it,'' Luck told Thamel, regarding the sentiment of fans who want their teams to lose to have a shot to draft him next April. "I think it's stupid -- simply put.'' It may be, but that's not going to stop fans in Miami and Seattle and other locales from rooting for their teams to lose.