Player Spotlight: Andrew Luck

A detailed examination of Andrew Luck's fantasy prospects for the 2015 season.

The King Has Arrived

2015 will be remembered as the year Andrew Luck became the consensus’ top-ranked quarterback. After a sterling start to his career (coming into the league with monstrous expectations), Luck proved last season that he had reached the top tier, alongside storied veterans including: Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Luck threw for 4,761 yards and an NFL-leading 40 touchdowns, while leading his team to a third consecutive 11-5 record. Entering 2015, it can be credibly argued that Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady are on the decline, leaving Luck facing off against Aaron Rodgers atop the quarterback perch.

Here Comes the Cavalry

The 2014 offensive supporting cast is easily the best of Luck’s career:

  • OUT Reggie Wayne / IN Andre Johnson – Wayne is an all-time great, but his play fell off considerably in 2014 (64 catches on 116 targets, 12.2 yards per catch, 2 TDs). Andre Johnson is also an all-time great, and is also coming off a disappointing season, so why should he be considered a clear upgrade? Wayne fell off catching passes from Luck, Johnson’s stats fell off catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage. Johnson has toiled in Houston for 12 seasons and now has a chance to compete for a Super Bowl ring.
  • OUT Hakeem Nicks / IN Phillip Dorsett – The Hakeem Nicks who appeared set for multiple Pro Bowls in New York is long gone, and he struggled to make plays as a Colt. In his place, the team added Phillip Dorsett in the 1st round of the NFL draft. Dorsett is a blisteringly fast playmaker that will give luck three legitimate downfield breakaway targets (Dorsett, Moncrief, and Hilton).
  • OUT Trent Richardson / IN Frank Gore – Let’s not mince words, Trent Richardson has been one of the biggest disappointments in recent NFL memory. The Colts will surely miss fellow RB Ahmad Bradshaw, but Bradshaw wasn’t a power-runner capable of wearing defenses out and shortening the game. Gore most certainly is that kind of player; the same player GM Ryan Grigson thought he was getting in the Richardson trade a few seasons ago.
  • IN A “Healthy” Dwayne Allen / OUT An “Injured” Dwayne Allen – Few NFL teams possess a difference maker at the tight end position; the Colts have two. Coby Fleener may not be universally beloved, but no one can argue his ascendance last year (51 receptions for 774 yards and 8 TDs). Most NFL scouts believe Allen is the more talented player, but injuries have kept that viewpoint from becoming a reality. With Allen coming into training camp healthy, his addition gives the Colts flexibility to match personnel against any defensive formation.

How High Is Luck Worth Drafting?

Analyzing quarterbacks is always a tricky situation because most fantasy owners prefer to wait on the position; believing the ‘value’ at the position comes in the mid- to late rounds. If you’re of the camp, there’s nothing we can say to convince you Luck is worth drafting. You know he’ll be gone by no later than the 3rd round in any format, so read on only if you’re open to the idea of anchoring your team with an early-round quarterback.

Footballguys.com provides the most comprehensive set of articles, tools and services in the industry; but one of our long-standing core tenets is the Principle of Value-Based Drafting. It’s become such a ubiquitous concept over the last decade that many don’t realize Joe Bryant was the creator of the concept – but he was. For those needing a refresher, refer to our Principles of Value-Based Drafting.

By leveraging VBD, we get an understanding of the projected RELATIVE value of every player, regardless of position. In looking at our projections, Luck is forecast to score 415 fantasy points (standard FBG scoring), which would give him an X-value of 92 in a 12-team league (Matthew Stafford is forecast to score 323 points). That would make Luck the 4th most ‘valuable’ player at any position:

Rnk First Last ADP Team Pos X-Value
1 Jamaal Charles (01.03) KC/9 RB 99
2 LeVeon Bell (01.01) Pit/11 RB 98
3 Eddie Lacy (01.02) GB/7 RB 95
4 Andrew Luck (02.07) Ind/10 QB 92
5 Marshawn Lynch (01.06) Sea/9 RB 91
6 Odell Beckham (01.08) NYG/11 WR 90
7 Antonio Brown (01.05) Pit/11 WR 90
8 Matt Forte (01.10) Chi/7 RB 86
9 Demaryius Thomas (01.11) Den/7 WR 84
10 Dez Bryant (01.07) Dal/6 WR 81
11 Adrian Peterson (01.04) Min/5 RB 81
12 Rob Gronkowski (01.09) NE/4 TE 80
13 Arian Foster (02.01) Hou/9 RB 79
14 Jordy Nelson (02.06) GB/7 WR 77
15 Aaron Rodgers (02.10) GB/7 QB 76
16 Julio Jones (01.12) Atl/10 WR 74
17 DeMarco Murray (02.05) Phi/8 RB 72
18 C.J. Anderson (02.02) Den/7 RB 71
19 Calvin Johnson (02.04) Det/9 WR 67
20 A.J. Green (02.08) Cin/7 WR 59

I’m not suggesting you have to take Luck in the early first round; but I AM suggesting that Luck’s VALUE at year end would justify the selection. It’s very difficult to win fantasy leagues without avoiding overvalued players and drafting (or picking up via waivers/trade) undervalued ones. In an era where most fantasy owners convince themselves that waiting on QB is the smart move, we’re presented with a rare opportunity to capture MASSIVE value in the early going of our draft. Let’s say you wait until the 2nd round to select Luck, you would be gaining 12-15 points of value against your league – at a minimum. If Luck is available in the 3rd round? You would be hard pressed to find another player that will provide more relative value versus draft position.

Positives

  • Luck has steadily risen up the fantasy rankings, from 10th as a rookie to 2nd last year -- there's a natural maturation process for quarterbacks and Luck is entering his peak while the other elite pocket passers are all nearing the end of their careers
  • The Colts supporting cast has improved from a team that finished 3rd in yards and 6th in points in 2014
  • The overzealous propensity to wait at QB in drafts provides an opportunity to draft a top 5 overall value in the 2nd, 3rd or -- if you're lucky and brave - 4th round

Negatives

  • Andre Johnson and Frank Gore are aging veterans changing teams, creating some measure of uncertainty on our thesis that their additions meaningfully improve the roster
  • The Colts offensive line doesn't rate as elite
  • Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton can be prone to bouts of conservatism

Final Thoughts

Andrew Luck was the 2nd best fantasy QB in 2014, has shown steady improvement in each of his three seasons, and enters 2015 with the best supporting cast of his careeer. Peyton Manning (age and conservative offensive game plan), Tom Brady (multiple-game suspension), and Drew Brees (uneven supporting cast and loss of top playmaker) are all close to, or beyond, the crest of their Hall of Fame Careers. Barring injury, Andrew Luck only has Aaron Rodgers to contend with for top fantasy honors in 2015, and for years to come. If you're in a typical league where QBs are largely discounted, Luck is a masterful piece to target on draft day. The later you can comfortably roster him, the more you're giving your team a decided advantage. Let others 'wait' on the position -- that strategy can work, too, but Luck in any round outside the 1st is highway robbery. Be the bandit.

Projections

YEAR GCMPATTYDTDINTRSHYDTDFumL
2012 IND 16 339 627 4374 23 18 62 255 5  
2013 IND 16 343 570 3822 23 9 63 377 4 2
2014 IND 16 380 616 4761 40 16 64 263 3 6
2015 PROJ-Dodds 16 382 623 4816 36 15 64 275 3 3
2015 PROJ-Henry 16 380 610 4770 42 15 60 280 3 2
2015 PROJ-Wood 16 400 635 4980 39 14 60 275 3 5
2015 PROJ-Tremblay 16 399 649 4907 32 19 74 302 2 2

Thoughts From Around the Web

Max Zelenko of The Sports Network says you can't lose choosing either Rodgers or Luck:

Let me be clear, fantasy owners cannot go wrong taking one of these quarterbacks over the other, but I felt it would be fun to tackle the debate early on before we get into full throttle fantasy football mode.

Every website I have seen has Luck and Rodgers as the first and second ranked quarterbacks, respectively, and who can really blame them?

Yahoo!'s Brad Evans believes taking Luck 1st overall is justifiable:

If you're debating between Luck, Jamaal Charles, Eddie Lacy, Rob Gronkowski, among others, at or near the top of your draft, don't fear the beard. Yes, streaming zealots will preach patience at QB, but instead of dealing with the waivers headache each week, it's savvy to go with the sure thing.