2017 Fantasy Feedback: Andrew Luck

Welcome to the newest article on Fantasy Forecast, Fantasy Feedback. In this article, I will give you the feedback you are looking for on the latest NFL news that has fantasy implications. The biggest news of the preseason so far has been Andrew Luck’s status heading into the regular season.

Andrew Luck Likely to Miss the First 6 Weeks of the Regular Season

On August 1st, CBS Sports NFL Reporter Jason La Canfora announced that he had reason to believe the Colts quarterback would start the year on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Luck has already been placed on the Preseason PUP list and generally, that is only done to ensure that the player is eligible to start the season on the PUP list.

So, even though the Colts are hopeful that Luck will be activated before the beginning of the 2017 regular season and he still has five weeks before the season starts, it looks as if the signal caller out of Stanford will most likely sit the first six weeks out.

Fantasy Implications

We all remember Luck’s dreadful 2015 campaign, where he only completed 55.3 percent of his passes, had a 15-12 touchdown-interception ratio and finished with a 74.9 passer rating, the worst year of his career. He missed nine games and in those games without Luck, the Colts went 6-3. The difference in 2015 was that the Colts had veteran Matt Hasselbeck backing up Luck, this season Scott Tolzien will take over under center.

Tolzien has taken 253 career snaps and his only career start in the last three seasons came in week 12 last season against the Steelers when Luck was out with a concussion. He carries a respectable career completion percentage of 61.7, but his career passer rating is a terrible 66.4.

Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski told reporters last week that “the confidence with the guys around him has grown.” Be that as it may, the Colts coaching staff, players and front office are not as confident as they would be with their franchise quarterback at the helm and the success of the Colts this season lies directly on the shoulders of Luck.

(Luck in 2016, CC).

Last season Luck was sneaky good, bouncing back in a big way from his bad 2015. According to Pro Football Focus Luck graded as the fourth-best quarterback in 2016, earning a 39.4 point increase from the previous season, the highest of any starting quarterback. He was very successful throwing the ball deep last year as only Ben Roethlisberger (13) had more touchdowns on deep passes than Luck (11).

The Colts will go from a guy who excels throwing the ball deep to a guy who only has completed 14.4% of his 91 career pass attempts that were over 20 yards. Beyond the numbers, the chemistry between the Colts receivers with Tolzien will be nowhere near where it is with Luck.

“That’s what we have OTAs and minicamp and now training camp for, to build that bond with Scott or Stephen or whoever else is back there,” receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “But for me, we’re just working on that timing and understanding, so when they give me that look I’ll know what that means.”

The Colts #2 receiver Donte Moncrief told reporters that they are going to try to make Scott feel special until Luck makes his return. The problem is, Scott most likely won’t be able to return the favor. To put this in perspective, let’s look at the probable production decrease we will see from the Colts’ top two receivers by comparing what they did in 2015 when Luck missed substantial time.

Moncrief’s production dropped 5.4 ppr fantasy points per game. He has been a touchdown dependent player throughout his career, making his fantasy living by finding the end zone. When playing with another quarterback he caught nine fewer touchdowns and played in two more games than the seven he played with Luck. Hilton’s production dropped 2.87 points per game, racking up over 14 fewer yards per game and was targeted 26 times less in those nine games. You can expect more of the same if not a steeper decline with Tolzien at the helm in 2017.

Running Game

If you are a Frank Gore owner, things are looking up. By default, the Colts will rely more heavily on their running game. The University of Miami product is now 34 years old and he has a lot of miles racked up the tires. Gore has carried the ball 3,105 times, and last season he continued to buck the over-30 running back trend as he scored eight total touchdowns and racked up 1,302 yards from scrimmage. Not only that, he didn’t miss a game, he had double-digits fantasy outings 10 times, and was a top-12 fantasy running back for the second year in a row.

That’s the good news, the bad news is that the Colts brought back the battery ram Robert Turbin and drafted Marlon Mack out of USF. Mack is already receiving a ton of praise from Head Coach Chuck Pagano.

Last season, Mack forced 49 missed tackles to finish ranked first in missed tackles forced among all AAC running backs and according to Pro Football Focus he earned the second-highest elusive rating among that same group of backs. Mack is the biggest threat to Gore’s workload in 2017.

Feedback

I had Luck ranked #7 among quarterbacks in June. A lot of that had to do with Injury concerns. Now, I would bump him back to #11 just behind Russell Wilson and ahead of Dak Prescott. Currently, Luck is going off draft boards as QB5 in the fifth round. I expect that to continue to decline and you may be able to get Luck as late as the 12th round like Dave Richard of CBS Sports did. My advice on drafting Luck is to wait, wait and wait. If you can get him that late after you already have your starting QB then do it, but don’t be the guy who jumps the gun and selects him ahead of guys like Winston, Mariota, Cousins, and Wilson.

As far as Hilton and Moncrief are concerned I suggest playing the waiting game there as well. In fact, I drafted Moncrief in one of my most important fantasy drafts in the 16th round. This is very late as he is currently WR33 and going in the 8th round on average. Even though I got Moncrief where I did, I made a deal to snag Rueben Foster from San Francisco in a trade (IDP league). I made the move before news broke of both Luck and Malcolm Smith’s injuries. I couldn’t be happier and sometimes things just work out. At this point, I would leave Moncrief undrafted and if you have room for a depth WR later on, take a chance on him, without Luck looking his way in the red zone his fantasy value plummets. Not only that he is now battling injury as he injured his shoulder during practice on August 4.

Hilton is currently WR9 and going off the board in the 2nd round. Again his stock is going down and I would wait for him to fall into 5th round territory before I would consider drafting him. In June, he was my #10 WR, I would now bump him down to #24 behind Emmanual Sanders and ahead of Martavius Bryant. We know that Hilton is talented and when Luck returns he could give your fantasy team a huge boost. The question is, will you have enough fire power around Hilton to wait until week 7? Before making the move, take that into consideration. Don’t take him in round 4 if you have selected two running backs and a quarterback in the first three rounds. Make sure you get a quality WR1 to hold down the fort at the position until Luck returns.

As far as Gore is concerned, his current RB30 ranking is wonderful and he is well worth that position. I had him ranked #25 in June and now I would give him a bump up to #19 ahead of Eddie Lacy and behind Tevin Coleman. I love the idea of drafting Gore and cuffing him with Mack later on in the draft. He is completely off the radar and you may be able to grab him after the draft depending on how knowledgeable your league is. Turbin is also in play, but his inability to surpass Gore last season leaves me thinking that Mack may have a better shot at it this year.


 

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