IS IT BETTER TO BE 'LUCK-Y' THAN GOOD?
Andrew Luck enters his third season as a consensus top 5 fantasy quarterback. In fact, 13 of 19 Footballguys staff members rank Luck 5th or higher as this goes to press, and only two staffers rank Luck outside of their top 8. Fantasy owners aren't the only people high on the 3rd year signal caller. The NFL's own assessment of their top 100 players puts Luck 30th overall. A recent ESPN.com poll of NFL coaches and executives firmly places Luck among the best at his position, as well.
Yet, in spite of nearly universal enthusiasm for the Colts star, his passing numbers have been a mixed bag. In terms of VOLUME, Luck is at or near the top of the NFL record books. In terms of efficiency, Luck's numbers leave much to be desired. I took a look at quarterbacks with a least 100 completions in their first two seasons (1980-present) to help frame how Luck's statistics measure up against other young franchise passers.
Most Passing Yards, First Two NFL Seasons (1980-Present)
Most Completions, First Two NFL Seasons (1980-Present)
Completion Rate, First Two NFL Seasons (1980-Present)
Yards per Attempt, First Two NFL Seasons (1980-Present)
TD Rate (TDs per Attempt), First Two NFL Seasons (1980-Present)
WHY DON'T THE STATS BACK UP THE CONSENSUS?
- He looks the part -- Luck passes the eyeball test. At 6'4", 234 lbs., Luck fits neatly into the mental picture most have of a great pocket passer
- He has the pedigree -- Luck was the 1st overall pick in the 2012 draft and widely considered by scouts to be the best prospect in a decade. He's from an NFL family, played in a pro style offense in college, and was the protege of a college quarterback (Harbaugh) that's widely respected in NFL circles (and is now himself a top-tier NFL head coach)
- His mechanics are impeccable -- Consider this 'looking the part, Part II' but Luck has great mechanics. His drop backs are precise, his release point textbook, and his spiral and velocity are elite
- He's a winner -- While fantasy owners don't ultimately care if their players win or lose on Sundays, as long as they rack up stats, NFL quarterbacks are judged by their teams wins and losses. The fact Andrew Luck took over a woeful Colts team and immediately led them back into the playoffs matters. His wins help substantiate our positive bias about Luck's abilities
- He's quietly produced on the ground -- Fantasy owners love running quarterbacks, and some (e.g., Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III) are afforded high fantasy rankings BECAUSE of their legs. Most don't consider Luck a running quarterback, but thus far in two seasons he's been an impact runner. Did you know Andrew Luck ranks 2nd among quarterbacks with 9 rushing TDs in the last two years? He also ranks 4th in rushing yards.
THE PEP FACTOR
THE SUPPORTING CAST
Returning from injury -- Last season was challenging from an injury perspective. All-time great Reggie Wayne tore his ACL and missed the final nine games of the season; Wayne caught 106 passes in Luck's rookie season. Wayne will be 36 this year but appears to be on track for a return by Week One. Dwyane Allen missed the entire season and will also be back into the fold.
Adding new weapons -- Further strengthening the receiving corps was a priority for GM Ryan Grigson. He brought in Hakeem Nicks on a prove-it deal. While Nicks has injury questions we can't forget that he was considered one of the league's best young receivers just a few seasons ago. Last but not least, the team added Donte Moncrief in the 3rd round of the draft. Moncrief doesn't project as an impact player in Year One, but he is almost certainly better than Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Further maturation of young playmakers -- That's to say nothing of the continuing maturation of T.Y. Hilton (82 for 1,083 and 5 TDs last year) and TE Coby Fleener (52 receptions for 608 yards and 4 TDs) as each enter the pivotal third season.
Offensive line uncertainty -- Footballguys' own Matt Bitonti ranks the Colts line 24th entering the season. He acknowledges they have the potential to outperform his initial grade, but there are too many uncertainties to count on significant improvement.
The Colts’ offensive line grades out as a below average group, which is a result of change at two positions (left guard and center) and a lack of truly elite talent. That being said this is actually an underrated group with the ability to rise in the rankings quickly, should those problems resolve themselves. The best player on the line is probably left tackle Anthony Castonzo. On the right tackle position, Gosder Cherilus joined the Colts before last season and he too has been a productive player, starting all sixteen games in 2013.
Along the interior is where the uncertainty appears. [...] In summary there are five players competing for three spots and at this point it’s just a guess that Thomas, Holmes and Thorton will emerge, leaving Mewhort and Reitz on the bench. Overall this line has the ability to rise in the rankings but they have a lot of uncertainty to wade through before the lineup can be set in stone and the players can focus on gelling as a unit.
- The prototypical franchise passer -- Luck has the size, leadership, mechanics and intelligence to be a dominant fixture at the position for years to come
- The Colts offensive cast appears much improved, particularly if they can avoid the injury bug that befell the squad in 2013
- Luck is quietly a top-tier rushing threat (4th in yards, 2nd in TDs among QBs) which goes a long to toward offsetting non-elite passing stats
- Luck's rate stats (completion rate, yards per attempt, TD%) leave something to be desired, he failed to crack to top 50 in any of those metrics among modern day passers through their first two seasons
- The offensive line and running game must improve to keep opposing defenses from keying on the passing game
- OC Pep Hamilton was conservative to a fault last year
Perception doesn't QUITE match reality yet with Andrew Luck. He needs to continue to improve as a decision-maker in order to live up to the label of "elite" that already follows him around. The good news though is that Luck has already been a fixture as a fantasy QB1 for two seasons in spite of not putting all the pieces together. He's inarguably one of the hardest working, most intelligent young players at his position. It isn't crazy to expect Luck to continue to improve, as will his supporting cast. Very slight improvements can quickly vault Luck into the top 5; and like Peyton Manning before him, he may stay at that level for years to come. When the worst case appears to be a top 10 finish, yet there are ways further growth could deliver a top 3 finish, it's a bet worth taking. If Pep Hamilton allows Luck to throw more often, the ranking looks smart. If Luck throws downfield more often with the additions of Hakeem Nicks and (a healthy) Dwayne Allen, the ranking looks smart. If Luck makes a few smarter decisions with his reads (thus pushing his completion rate into the 63%-64% range), the ranking looks smart. Bet on what's to come, not what's already happened -- that's how you win fantasy championships.
Andrew Luck Projections
THOUGHTS FROM AROUND THE WEB
Yahoo!'s Scott Pianowski sings Luck's praises:
Luck was the No. 10 fantasy quarterback as a rookie, and he moved to No. 4 last year despite a series of unfortunate incidents. Reggie Wayne midseason injury, check. Ahmad Bradshaw injury, check. Trent Richardson disaster, check. Pep Hamilton play-calling mess, check. Dwayne Allen early-season injury, check.
Mind you, the Colts do have some fun toys for Luck to work with. T.Y. Hilton is ridiculous and Wayne and Allen and Bradshaw are all back. Maybe Hakeem Nicks can find his past form, freed from the stench of New Jersey. And look how young so many of the players are here: Hilton, Fleener, Allen and (ahem) Richardson are all entering Year 3 in the NFL. Young players can improve.
4for4's John Paulsen points out Luck's high level of consistency:
It’s interesting (though not all that surprising) that most of the league’s top fantasy quarterbacks are also the most consistent, led by Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford in the 35-37% range.