From a fantasy perspective Andrew Luck is coming off the third best rookie season ever for a quarterback. In fact, if you look strictly at what he did through the air Luck's rookie campaign was even better than that. Prior to 2012 only three quarterbacks (Peyton Manning, Jim Kelly, and Cam Newton) had ever scored more than 250 fantasy points in their rookie campaign without consideration of rushing statistics and no one had scored as many as Luck did (292) last season. Since Luck is so often compared to Manning, it's interesting to note that Manning is the only one of the previously named trio to actually improve on his rookie production in year two. Of course, Luck doesn't have a stud running back like Edgerrin James or a #1 receiver in his prime like Marvin Harrison and Manning didn't have a change in coordinators in his second year like Luck will.
In his sophomore season Andrew Luck will be reunited with offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. It can often spell doom for a young quarterback to switch offenses this early in his career but Luck's familiarity with Hamilton from his days at Stanford and extremely high football IQ should make that a moot point. What's more troubling are the question marks around what changes Hamilton's arrival will mean. He's talked about being more balanced, but it's questionable whether the Colts have the pieces to establish a solid running attack. One thing that is very likely is that Hamilton will not air it out as much as his predecessor, Bruce Arians. The Colts threw the long ball more than any other team in the league last season. That contributed to a high number of sacks (41) but also inflated Luck's yardage numbers. In 2013 Luck will likely throw less passes and the throws he does make will likely be shorter. What this means is he may rely on his playmakers even more than he did in 2012.
Outside of Luck and a 34 year-old receiver there are a lot of question marks on this Colts offense. Reggie Wayne fought off Father Time in 2012 to post 106 receptions for over 1300 yards but it is difficult to imagine him matching that production in what will be his 13th season in the league. Second-year receiver T.Y. Hilton will try to build on a surprising rookie campaign and is the most likely to step up and fill some of the void left by a Wayne drop-off. Hilton is not a big target at 5-10 and like Luck he'll be learning his second offense in as many seasons. The team brought Darrius Heyward-Bey in to replace Donnie Avery but Heyward-Bey has been a disappointment in his four seasons in the league. The former first round pick has never topped 65 catches or 1000 yards and last year set a career high with five touchdowns. These numbers came when he was supposed to be the #1 option in Oakland.
The team hopes that sophomore tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener will step up in their second seasons and there is buzz that they'll be more involved in Pep Hamilton's system. Fleener did not live up to the hype in his rookie season and took a back seat to Allen in both targets and productivity. Still, Fleener has the higher ceiling, especially if Hamilton makes a bigger effort to get him involved. Both of these tight ends will need to take a big step forward for Indianapolis if Luck is going to improve on his rookie campaign.
It's important to remember that talent will trump many extenuating circumstances. Andrew Luck took a team that had won two games the prior year to the playoffs as a rookie. He did so with a porous offensive line, a nearly non-existent running game at times, and Donnie Avery as his second best receiver. He did so because he's an elite talent with an incredible work ethic and a football IQ that's off the charts. Great quarterbacks make those around them better and in 2012 Luck elevated the game of nearly everyone around him.
- Simply put Luck is one of the most physically gifted young quarterbacks in the league. He can make all of the throws and should be improving in his second year in the league
- After giving up the fifth most sacks in the league last season, the Colts made improvements to the offensive line. Left guard Donald Thomas should improve the interior protection
- Reggie Wayne, even at 34, is still a talented #1 wide receiver that provides a security blanket for a young quarterback like Luck
- Pep Hamilton's new offense will likely call for more balance which will mean less than the 627 pass attempts Luck had in 2012
- The Colts' lack of a reliable big play threat lowers Luck's ceiling in 2013
ANDREW LUCK PROJECTIONS
While Luck is often compared to Peyton Manning because of his talent and the fact that he plays for the Colts, in terms of second year production the better comp is probably Cam Newton. Luck doesn't have the rushing production that Newton does but he has a similiar situation with an aging #1 receiver, a new offense to learn, and question marks at the other receving positions. Like Newton did in 2013, I expect Luck to take a small step backwards in terms of production while still remaining a borderline QB1.
Mike Garafolo at USA Today writes:
Luck is feeling more comfortable because of the added year of experience, but also because of the offense. While he performed surprisingly well for a rookie in Bruce Arians' system, he's returning to a scheme he ran at Stanford: His offensive coordinator with the Cardinal, Pep Hamilton, is now the Colts coordinator.
Read more from Garafolo here.
Conrad Brunner writes:
As good as Luck was as a rookie, all involved expect to see a significant jump in the young quarterback’s performance in his second season for a number of reasons:
Read more from Brunner here.
More from Heath Cummings:
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What if Jamaal Charles is lost for the season? - August 9
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Player Spotlight: Julius Thomas - August 3