The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.
High Side by Justin Howe
Indeed, Luck’s 2015 drop-off was considerable. He posted career worsts in rating, QBR, adjusted yards per attempt, completion rate, and interception rate. But typically when we see a prodigious, ascending talent like Luck suffer a rough stretch, we can expect some degree of progression back toward his previous levels. And a return near his insane 2014 would place him squarely in the running for the overall QB1 spot.
He looks to have the tools in place; his arsenal isn’t particularly deep, but it’s at least superficially lethal. Down the field, Luck will throw to two of the NFL’s best young outside threats, both exceptional prospects who will again dominate his targets. T.Y. Hilton is a premier blazer who pulls double duty as a reliable underneath option, while Donte Moncrief is one of the most athletically gifted wideouts to hit the NFL in years. Both struggled noticeably with 2015’s motley crew of backup QBs, but Luck is a far different animal. In the shorter game, Luck loses tight end Coby Fleener but will spend more time on the field with Dwayne Allen, a balanced, reliable double threat who’s flashed dominance near the goal line.
And that last sentence is the rub. Most likely, the tale of Luck’s 2016 will likely be told by his touchdown production – and that tale will be told by his red zone opportunity. In his seven 2015 games, Luck attempted just 2.1 passes per game from inside the 10-yard line (and just 0.7 from inside the five). But the year before, he threw 2.9 and 1.3, respectively, on his way to a league-best 40 touchdowns. If we were to project a return to that 2014 opportunity and apply the league-average TD rate from inside the 10, we’d get a boost of 8.9 touchdowns over 16 games. And over 600 attempts – a very fair projection – that would entail a jump from 31 touchdowns (his 2015 pace) to 40 (his league-leading 2014 total).
Low Side by Devin Knotts
Andrew Luck continues to be crowned as as an elite quarterback dating back to when he was drafted by the Colts. He seemingly has everything that you would look for in a fantasy quarterback as he is in a pass heavy offense, has a great arm, plays in a dome, and is mobile as he has averaged 20 yards per game rushing and 3 rushing touchdowns per season. Andrew Luck was a top 3 fantasy quarterback in 2014 as he finished with 4,761 yards passing and 40 passing touchdowns before having a significant setback in 2015 followed by some injuries that cut his season short.
A lot of analysts will downplay the season that he had in 2015 as a fluke stating that he was injured or that there were offensive line issues that caused Andrew to struggle. The reality is that some of the issues have to be put on Andrew himself, he did not go on the injury report until week 4, and his week 1-3 stats were less than elite as he threw for an average of 250 yards per game and threw for five touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also has never had a completion percentage greater than 61.7%, to put that in perspective Andrew Luck’s career best completion percentage would have ranked 23rd in the NFL last season. With all of the injuries last season, will Andrew continue to run as much as he previously had with all of the injuries last season? The team may ask him to dial back his running which if he does not have the extra rushing yards he loses significant value this season.
Ultimately the upside is there for Andrew Luck to be a top three quarterback this season, but with where he is being drafted there is significant risk that is being overlooked. There is still significant risk compared to where he is being drafted, as the offensive line is a mess, his completion percentage is in the bottom third in the NFL, we are relying on Donte Moncrief to take an additional step to become a number one wide receiver, and there is injury risk that could limit his running ability. There are many safer quarterbacks that can be had later in the draft such that may not have the ceiling that Andrew has, but have a much higher floor.