Andrew Luck was a poison pill for fantasy owners last season. Most had to draft him within the first few rounds if they wanted to snag him—unless you were in a rare league where everyone waited on quarterbacks—and he played just seven games. Then there was the fact he was downright awful at times during those seven games. Anyone who might have stacked him with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, or even Andre Johnson probably had a rough season in that league.
What happened, and where do we go from here?
The Truth is Complicated
Perception isn’t quite reality from a fantasy perspective, however. As bad as Luck was at times on the field, his fantasy performance wasn’t nearly the unmitigated disaster some make it out to be.
To wit, Luck scored 24.8 fantasy PPG, good for sixth in the league. Oft-coveted Russell Wilson averaged 24.9. The only quarterback who scored significantly better than Luck—not to mention the rest of the league—was Cam Newton, who clocked in at 28.5 PPG.
Indianapolis put Luck in a position to fail and ultimately get injured last season. The Colts had gotten away with poor offensive line play and zero running game during Luck’s first three seasons in the NFL, but the situation worsened to the point of breaking in 2016. Luck was sacked 4.9 percent of the time last season—just below his career average—but he was pummeled on many other plays, as he has been throughout his career.
It was more of the same in 2015 for the oft-battered franchise quarterback. With that kind of punishment, it's no wonder his body broke down last season. It's also no wonder his statistics have been less-than-stellar when looking beyond volume.
Luck's career 58.1 completion percentage and 6.8 YPA are ugly, especially for a quarterback who just signed a contract worth $87 million guaranteed. Ryan Tannehill has better numbers by those metrics, and his guarantee was nearly half that. Both quarterbacks have dealt with similar personnel issues, though, and Luck has been able to rise above it all from a fantasy production standpoint.
Will 2016 be a bounce-back season for the former No. 1 pick?
The slate is clean in 2016, and Luck is available at a discount. The newly minted hundred-millionaire is back and healthy, and the Colts will presumably do a better job of protecting their long-term investment next season.
Luck lost a weapon in Coby Fleener, and Dwayne Allen hasn’t exactly been durable throughout his career. If he can stay healthy, though, Allen will be a force up the seam for the Colts. T.Y. Hilton may not be a prototypical No. 1 receiver, but he has proven to be a big-time threat for the offense. So is Donte Moncrief, who is primed to finally explode after years of hype. Second-year receiver Phillip Dorsett can turn on the afterburners just as well as Hilton on the other side of the field.
None of this will matter if Luck is under pressure every other passing play, though. If he has time to throw, the fifth-year quarterback will eviscerate opposing defenses.
Luck’s rushing ability is underrated, too. Part of his fantasy success throughout his career has been his penchant for tucking the ball and running. He has 1,101 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns—none of which came last season—in his four-year career. His 196 yards in seven games was good for 13th-best in the league in 2015. Granted, some of his rushing production has come as a result of Luck running for his life, but he has quietly been one of the top runners at his position over the past few years. At least from a production standpoint.
If he can hit his season averages on the ground—ignoring the fact he played less than half a season in 2015, even—Luck will rush for 275 yards and three scores in 2016.
- Luck has shown when healthy he's among the NFL's elite passers
- The receiving corps is deep and talented
- Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will have an entire offseason to implement his scheme
- Luck suffered a litany of injuries last year, thanks in no small part to a porous offensive line
- The team let Coby Fleener go in the offseason (Luck's best friend and one of his most trusted outlets)
- The team could turn one-dimensional (and easy to defend) if Frank Gore cannot stay healthy given the lack of RB depth otherwise
Depending on where you are drafting, Luck could be a relative steal in fantasy leagues this season. We don't have much ADP data outside MFL yet—where he is being taken as the third-overall quarterback—but fantasy owners could be scared off by his 2015 campaign. As usual, though, take what the draft is giving you.
That is to say, as much potential as Luck has to be the No. 1 fantasy quarterback in the land again, don't run out and grab him in the second round. There are plenty of reasons to avoid quarterbacks in the early rounds aside from the particular risks Luck carries. If, however, you find yourself with an opportunity to take him as the fourth or fifth quarterback off the board, though, be ready to pounce on that value.
What Others are Saying
Luck's best season vs Cousin's. Using PFR advanced passing tables. 100 = league average, higher is better. pic.twitter.com/yVJLjkFG9T— James Todd (@spidr2ybanana) June 21, 2016
Here is what the folks at SI.com had to say about Luck this offseason:
Luck is the forgotten man after various injuries, including a ruptured spleen, limited him to seven games last season (though he’s a newly-paid man as well, as the Colts just handed him a hefty extension). Volume can be a quarterback’s best friend, and that has certainly been the case with Luck during his career. His efficiency has left a bit to be desired, but so long as he can overwhelm that with pass attempts, it won’t much matter in fantasy leagues. Luck has a strong pair of receivers in T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief and an offense that is built around his strengths. He may not have the same mandate to run that he has had in the past, which could limit his fantasy ceiling, but that’s one of the few drawbacks you’ll find for him in Indianapolis. The Colts spent most of their draft resources upgrading the offensive line, most notably by selecting center Ryan Kelly out of Alabama with the 18th overall pick. The team also didn’t do much to address the run game, sticking with Frank Gore as the starter. That means Luck should be in line for 600-plus pass attempts this season.
Jared Smola thinks there is a "buy-low" opportunity for Luck in drafts as well, as he concluded over at Draft Sharks:
Luck was a massive fantasy disappointment last year, especially considering he was often selected in the 2nd or 3rd round of drafts. That presents a potential buying opportunity in 2016 if we can get Luck several rounds later.
He remains a top-notch talent smack dab in his prime. Even with the loss of TE Coby Fleener, Luck has plenty to work with in T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett and Dwayne Allen. With an aging RB in Frank Gore and a questionable defense, Luck should continue to have volume on his side. And he provides added value with his legs.
A healthy Luck is a strong bet for top 5 QB production with the upside to finish #1.