Last season was the year of the rookie, and Andrew Luck was a big reason for that.
The Indianapolis Colts quarterback led a previous 2-14 football club to a playoff berth, all while having the heavy load of replacing a legend in Peyton Manning. If you ask Luck, filling the gigantic shoes of Manning isn’t something he likely thinks about, but it’s still something to consider. Luck’s inaugural campaign was a strong one, throwing for 4,374 yards, 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. The lack of running game in Indy allowed Luck to provide added fantasy value with his legs, rushing for 255 yards and five scores. The combination of those numbers were good enough for Luck to finish as fantasy’s number nine overall quarterback. So, after an impressive and very productive rookie season, what should we think of Luck’s fantasy prospects for his sophomore campaign?
In 2012, Luck displayed his best Matthew Stafford impression. He dropped back to pass 703 times (2nd in league) and posted 627 attempts (5th in league). Whenever you see that much usage, fantasy numbers should follow. However, with the departure of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, I’m not sure that the Colts will throw nearly as much as they did a season ago. Arians has historically let his signal callers sling the ball all over the field. Under Arians, guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Tim Couch posted career highs in attempts. Arians also wasn’t afraid to let his rookie quarterback take deep shots. Luck led the league in average depth of target (10.8), which gave him some added big play potential from his receivers. He also led the league in pass attempted that traveled 20 yards or more. New offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will likely implement a West Coast style of offense, which should mean less big play attempts from Luck and company. When Hamilton didn’t have a Heisman trophy candidate at quarterback in 2012 at Stanford, his quarterback, Josh Nunes, only attempted 235 passes. I think we see an improvement in Luck’s completion percentage and a decline in interceptions because he won’t be taking nearly as many deep shots. In return, I think his yardage may regress a tad bit (7th in 2012), and with the addition of Ahmad Bradshaw, I don’t see Luck rushing for five touchdowns again.
Look, I certainly don’t hate Luck as a fantasy quarterback in 2013. He is one of the brightest talents in all of football and will produce a long and fantastic career. Also, despite what everyone says about Reggie Wayne, he clearly isn’t going anywhere, T.Y. Hilton came on last season and the addition of Darrius Heyward-Bey is a better one than people give credit. So, there’s clearly weapons at his disposal for Luck to finish inside the top-10 among fantasy quarterbacks again in his second season. And that’s fine, but I’m not sold he will take a statistical step forward this season, which could make other guys at the position a bit more intriguing. The expected West Coast offense will make Luck a much more efficient quarterback than a season ago, and I believe he will be a better real life quarterback than fantasy in his sophomore year. I could easily see him tossing for four or five more touchdowns this year, but the yardage will likely regress, as well as the pass attempts. Drafting Luck as your fantasy starter is fine, but don’t expect similar usage from 2012.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.