Nearly three months after the Indianapolis Colts chose Andrew Luck with the first overall selection of the 2012 NFL Draft, they agreed with the former Stanford Cardinal on a $22.1 million contract. Any first year QB would automatically collect a sizable amount of scrutiny and pressure just from becoming the initial pick of the draft, then signing a lucrative deal. But both Luck and the Colt franchise were involved in a very unique situation, which enhanced the scrutiny and overall demands of his rookie season even further.
Following The Path Of A Legend
Luck was immediately thrust into the unenviable position of leading a franchise that had been guided with great success by his predecessor, future Hall Of Famer Peyton Manning. Among #18’s accomplishments was the production of 399 TD passes, along with 54,828 yards as a Colt. There was also the little matter of his starting all regular season and postseason contests for an incredible 13 consecutive seasons, before complicated and lingering neck issues forced him to sit out the 2011 season. That hastened a complete freefall for the franchise from a record standpoint, which resulted in the Colts being in position to execute that lofty selection during the subsequent draft.
Luck Performed Without A Potent Rushing Attack
Understandably, Luck’s performances were also compared to fellow rookies RG3, and Russell Wilson last season, particularly as the year progressed. And considering the exceptional numbers that RG3 generated throughout most of the season, and the outstanding production that Wilson delivered over the latter half of the year, one might underestimate just how effective Luck was during his initial season. Because he was asked to execute more heavy lifting within the Colts’ offensive approach than Wilson and RG3. He did not have the benefit of a strong rushing attack, as the Colts ranked just 22nd, and were led by Vick Ballard’s 814 yards. Conversely, the Redskins and Seahawks both finished within the top three of that category, and were paced by Alfred Morris (1,613 yards) and Marshawn Lynch (1,590 yards). Those were the second and third highest yardage totals respectively among all rushers last season.
The Colts Relied Heavily Upon Luck
Indy was so dependent upon Luck, that he ultimately launched 627 passes during the regular season. That was the NFL’s fifth highest total, and established a record for rookie QBs. If also helped propel Luck into seventh among all signal callers with 4,374 yards. That total placed him in noteworthy company, between Manning and Aaron Rodgers. Plus, it was yet another record for Luck, who broke the passing mark for rookies that had been set just one year earlier by Cam Newton (4,051). That becomes even more impressive when you consider the team’s underwhelming rushing attack that was discussed previously, along with the fact that Luck was often forced to succeed despite immense pressure. And he was sacked 41 times, which was the NFL’s fourth highest total. That contributed to his 54.1 completion percentage, which placed him a lowly 31st among all signal callers in that category. For some sobering perspective, Blaine Gabbert, Mark Sanchez and Jake Locker all exceeded Luck’s number.
Reasons For Optimism
Still, the ramifications of his performance in that category should be put into perspective, in view of the deficiencies surrounding Luck that he still managed to overcome. Plus, even though team victories do not translate into fantasy points for his owners, he should be commended for spearheading Indy’s mammoth improvement in the standings. As he guided the franchise to 11 wins, while escorting the Colts into the postseason. That is quite an achievement, considering that the Colts staggered to a wretched 2-14 record in 2011. And even though Indy might not attain the same amount of victories in 2013, there are multiple reasons to believe that Luck's numbers should improve.
A Much Needed Upgrade At RB
Luck Has Two Dynamic Receivers
The Colts do possess weapons at WR, who can also help Luck enhance his numbers this season. Reggie Wayne should be capable of excellent production for one more season, and Luck will certainly be reliant upon him to achieve that. Wayne’s 194 targets represented the NFL’s second highest total last year, and Luck will launch a massive number of passes his direction once again. Second-year wideout T. Y. Hilton has proven that he possesses big play capabilities, as his five receptions of 40+ yards in 2012 was exceeded by just four other receivers. His ongoing highlight reel contributions propelled him into fantasy discussions with regularity last season, as did the Colts’ somewhat inexplicable decision to start Donnie Avery rather than the dynamic Hilton. Avery is no longer a threat to pilfer Hilton’s opportunities, although the Colts did supply Luck with one additional target.
DHB Could Become Another Potent Weapon
Former Raider Darrius Heyward-Bey signed with the team on April 4, which provides Luck with another intriguing option at WR. DHB has yet to become the dangerous wideout who could stretch opposing defenses as the late Al Davis envisioned, when he drafted him the former Terrapin with the seventh overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft. That decision largely ignored concerns about DHB’s route running acumen, and his ability to simply catch the ball. Which makes it less surprisingly that to this point, Heyward-Bey’s career has been widely considered to be a disappointment. But even though he averaged just 35 receptions, 518 yards and less than three TDs during his tenure in Oakland, he still has speed, an excellent attitude. Plus, he will now benefit from the best quarterbacking situation that he has encountered in his career.
His Numbers Should Improve In 2013
In addition to Luck’s primary trio of WRs, second-year TEs Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen will also return. While Allen nearly doubled Fleener’s totals in both receptions and yardage last season, Fleener should benefit from his reunion with new OC Pep Hamilton, who coached Fleener in the same capacity at Stanford. More
importantly, previous history with Hamilton will be even more advantageous for
Luck. And it will ease the transition from former OC Bruce Arians, who worked so successfully with Luck last season. Familiarity with Hamilton, the arrival of Bradshaw, and a significant offseason effort to bolster the offensive line should combine to boost Luck’s chances of success this season, and the statistics should be enhanced as a result.
Where You Should Draft Him
Luck does not reside within the top seven among signal callers in the current rankings, and probably will not appear there when the season concludes. But, he should be close to that level, and is a top 10 signal caller on my board. He has an excellent opportunity to generate 30 TD passes this season, which would be a sizable improvement from the 23 that he attained last year. His 18 INTs were disconcerting last season, but 13 of those occurred away from the friendly confines of Lucas Oil Stadium. His comfort level on the road should rise this season, and his INTs will decline as a result. If he can also generate a rushing output that is even reasonably close to the 255 yards and five TDs that he achieved last season, that should combine with the enhanced passing numbers to make Luck an enticing fantasy option. He is a feasible QB1 for owners who would prefer to build their RB and WR positions before drafting a QB this summer. And his talent, and the sheer volume of passing that he will produce, warrants him being selected no later than Round 5.