2013 Fantasy FootballBrett TalleyFantasy Football

2013 Fantasy Football: Why Andrew Luck Should Not be Your Fantasy Quarterback

Luck Land
Andrew Luck
Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America

Here’s how a typical argument would go between an Andrew Luck proponent and a Luck hater:

– Hater: Luck had the 37th lowest completion percentage out of 38 quarterbacks who took 25% or more of their team’s snaps last year.

– Proponent: True. But no quarterback attempted more throws of 20+ yards than Luck, and those throws have a much lower completion percentage league-wide. Plus, the Colts are switching to a more ‘West Coast’ type offense which has a lot more short throws.

-Hater: Yeah but still….

Today I’m here to give all the haters a better response to the deep throw argument. And if you’re a Luck proponent, hopefully my argument will turn you into a hater. And it seems like there are more proponents than haters. His average draft position across all major platforms has him as the 8th highest quarterback drafted on average. That’s ahead of last year’s breakout rookies Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson as well as ahead of perennial top ten quarterback, Tony Romo. And I’ve heard several experts I like very much making the deep throw argument when trying to explain away the low completion percentage and when trying to explain their high ranking of Luck.

The main problem with citing all the deep throws as the reason for Luck’s low completion percentage is that the argument ignores the fact that Luck also had one of the worst completion percentages on short throws (under 20 yards). Among the 32 quarterbacks with the most attempts last year, Luck ranked 30th in completion percentage on short throws. He ranked 19th out of 32 in completion percentage on the long throws, so he was falling behind the pack in completion percentage primarily on the short throws. As further proof of that, the average difference between a quarterback’s completion percentage on long and short throws is about 29%. But Luck’s difference is only a little over 23%. So this argument that a new system that limits the deep passes will fix Luck’s accuracy problem is a fallacy.

However, there is another QB for which this argument would work, Jay Cutler. Cutler attempted deep throws on 15.9% of his throws, which was the 5th highest rate in the league and just a few tenths of a point behind Luck. But unlike Luck, the difference between Cutler’s completion percentage on short throws (64.1%) and his completion percentage on deep throws (30.43%) was very large. With a gap of 33.8%, Cutler’s gap was above the league average. Like Luck, Cutler will be operating in a new ‘West Coast’ style offense this year. However, for Cutler, the increase in shorter throws is much more likely to help out his completion percentage.

But I digress. Back to Luck.

I will admit that there are other reasons to expect Luck’s completion percentage to go up. The main reason being that he has a year of experience under his belt. It would certainly be a surprise if he didn’t improve in his second year in the league. But the problem is that even if he saw a massive improvement where his completion percentage increased by 6% and got over 60%, he’d still be average at best and likely outside the top 15 in completion percentage. The other problem is that there’s no way to predict how much of an increase he’ll see. But a 6% increase seems extremely generous and at the top end of the range of possible increases, so the odds are that Luck is still going to be below average when it comes to accuracy.

Aside from the accuracy issue, there are other things I don’t like about Luck, one of those being that I don’t think he’s going to get the benefit of five rushing touchdowns again. Luck got five TDs on the ground last year despite the fact that he only ran for 255 yards. By doing so, Luck became one of 28 quarterbacks since 1970  to score five or more rushing touchdowns while rushing for fewer than 300 yards. But no quarterback has ever done it twice. You have to expect Luck won’t produce as many fantasy points with his legs.

Another reason I’m down on Luck is the guys going behind him. I mentioned Griffin and Wilson above, and they didn’t have any of the problems in their rookie season that give me such pause with Luck. Completion percentage was not an issue at all. RGIII and Wilson ranked 5th and 7th in completion percentage, respectively. And you can expect the fantasy points they got with their legs to continue. They ranked 2nd and 3rd in rushing attempts and rushing TDs as well as 1st and 3rd in rushing yards. If anything, their rushing attempts and yardage indicate they could score even more on the ground, especially for Wilson who only had four rushing touchdowns despite being just shy of 100 carries and 500 yards.

Another guy that has no business going behind Luck is Romo. As I mentioned above, he is a perennial top ten quarterback. Starting with 2012, here is where he has finished the season in fantasy points among quarterbacks in the last six years: 7th, 9th, 31st (only played six games due to injury), 5th, 10th, 2nd. Why on earth would you take Luck over a guy who finishes as a top ten quarterback year in and year out?

In addition to RGIII, Wilson and Romo, we can also put the consensus top five of (in no particular order), Rodgers, Brees, Manning, Cam and Brady ahead of Luck. And Matt Ryan’s average ADP is actually quite a bit healthier than Luck’s. Colin Kaepernick’s ADP is very close to Luck’s yet higher. I have Kaep top five, so he’s a no brainer ahead of Luck for me. That’s ten guys right there. But I can go even further. Matthew Stafford isn’t as good as he was in 2011, and he isn’t as bad as he was in 2012. He is somewhere in between and wherever that is it’s better than Luck. I’d also prefer Ben Roethlisberger. Ben is great when he’s on the field, but he misses games with injuries a lot. But I’m fine with 12-14 games of Ben and using waiver wire fill ins with good match ups in his stead. That’s 12 guys I’d certainly prefer to Luck.

I could even make a case for guys like Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Matt Schaub and Cutler over Luck. But I don’t feel the need to convince you he’s not a top ten 15 QB. I just need to convince you that those 12 other guys I mentioned are better so that you don’t draft Luck as your QB for the season. And hopefully I’ve done just that.


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  1. Jim Dingeman
    August 5, 2013 at 8:08 am — Reply

    Ok, a few things.

    First, completion percentage. I don’t disagree with you that it was bad last year and I also agree that a 6% bump may be a little much, especially if they’re introducing a whole new system. However, I don’t put a lot of weight behind completion percentage in fantasy football especially since we deal in mass numbers. 54.1% of 627 attempts (Luck) is much more valuable in fantasy than 62.1% of 483 attempts (Christian Ponder). Looking at total completions puts him in 10th among starters.

    Second, let me address the fact that the most improvement in football players comes from their first year to their second year (a big reason I’m high on Doug Martin, but I digress). This also ends up being an argument for RG3, Wilson, Kaepernick, Foles, etc. but I’m mainly interested here in how he fares against guys like Stafford, Rivers, Eli, Schaub, and Cutler. Vick’s a special case because no one in the world (perhaps Chip Kelly) has a clue what his numbers will look like, and if they say they do, they’re lying.

    Third, I don’t expect him to be as prolific with his running this year but a 6% in completions plus the INTs coming down will more than make up for that.

    The best argument for Andrew Luck is this. His ADP on ESPN 10-team leagues is late 7th round, and he’s been available in the 8th in mocks I’ve done. By this point, I’ve drafted 3 RBs, 3 WRs, and either Jimmy Graham (in the 3rd) or a 4th RB. He’s a high upside guy who’s going nearly 3 rounds later than Colin Kaepernick, 2 full rounds behind RG3, and a round after Matthew Stafford. I take him here, I take one or two of the Schaub/Cutler/Flacco/Roethlisberger class to be safe, and we go into the season from there. Heck, if we really want, take Luck in the late 7th and Romo in the early 8th (ADP: 77.9) and skip the tight end until the end. Doing it this way seems very low risk to me. I’m interested in your response though.

    • August 5, 2013 at 9:54 am — Reply

      1. I think this is your best argument. Absolutely true that total completions matter more than percentage. But my counterpoint is twofold. First, do we really expect him to toss 600+ passes again? I assume the addition of Bradshaw was done to improve the running game and lighten Luck’s load. Second, the move to the more West Coast style offense will lead to fewer deep completions which have more fantasy value than short completions.

      2. This is sort of just a conclusory argument. I obviously agree with the idea that players improve with experience, but you’ve offered no evidence to show that year 1 to year 2 is the big jump. Is that true at all positions? QB? I can’t just take your word on this.

      3. Let me start by saying that I threw out the 6% increase as an absolute best case scenario. I don’t expect it to be nearly that high. But this seems like a good time to point out that the running game was a massive boon for Luck in year 1. Without the running stuff, he was basically Carson Palmer. Luck attempted 62 more passes but had six fewer completions. This is where the importance of completion percentage becomes obvious. Sure, total completions matter the most, but a higher percentage would have yielded more total completions. But back to the comparison. Palmer had one fewer touchdown than Luck and four fewer interceptions, so they were fairly comparable there. Luck had 356 more yards thanks to a 1.3 difference in yards per completion, but again, Luck’s ypc should come down in this new offense and Palmer should get a nice boost moving to Arizona where he actually has a receiver. The only real difference was the rushing yards. Without them, Luck wasn’t much better than Carson Palmer.

      4. Similar to point two, I’m not sure you’ve explained why Luck is better than some of those guys you’ve named. Or that Luck is a better value than some of the guys going ahead of him. So I’m not sure the ADP argument is all that convincing. But most importantly, I wholly disagree with the idea that Luck is high upside. Last year was probably the best case scenario for him in terms of pass attempts and rushing totals. I’d be very surprised if either of those were the same last year. Whether he has a big second year improvement coming or not, the fact that he’s very unlikely to have more pass attempts or more success with his legs means his upside is limited.

      • Jim Dingeman
        August 5, 2013 at 10:20 am — Reply

        Let’s talk about the upside thing then, since that seems to be where we’re furthest apart.

        First of all, I think that’s still the number of attempts to figure on this year. You don’t bring in Ahmad Bradshaw and build an offense around him when you have Luck, Wayne, and an emerging TY Hilton.

        Let’s suppose 600 attempts. Let me get your most likely stat line, and best possible stat line.
        My most likely: 58% or 59% completion, 4000 yards, 25 TDs, 12 INTs. (2012 Matt Schaub)
        Best case: 63% completion, 4400 yards, 35 TDs, 10 INTs. (2012 Tom Brady minus 400 yards)
        And my worst case scenario is that he stinks for 3 weeks, I bench him, he stinks for 3 more and I cut him.

        That’s why I think its low risk. He’s going to be at worst what he was last year or he’s not playing on my team. And if he gets better this year, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be better yet in Year 3.

        • August 5, 2013 at 10:36 am

          I think there’s a difference between low risk and high upside. But I think my best case would be a little over 4K with about 27/15. But I’d say most likely is just under 4K with 24/17. But I’m also expecting about 15-20 fewer rushing fantasy points. So my best case would put him as about the 9th-10th best QB I’m guessing and my most likely would have him around 12th-13th. But because of the accuracy issues and his dependency on volume, I think there’s also a worst case scenario. I could see the yardage being down around 3750-3800 and the accuracy issue leading to more picks and him being more like 15th among QB.

        • Jim Dingeman
          August 5, 2013 at 11:10 am

          Here’s the thing. If you draft him that late, you’re obviously getting at least one other QB and possibly even two, depending on roster depth. We disagree on high upside, but I see almost no risk. I see two scenarios in my leagues, I take him and Romo in the 7th and 8th, or I take Luck in the 8th + Schaub and possibly Cutler/Vick/Dalton. If Luck stinks in either scenario, you’re good to pull the ripcord and let him go. As long as people take him in the appropriate spots, he’s gonna be fine.

  2. D
    August 5, 2013 at 9:42 pm — Reply

    You’re selling Luck’s running skills short. He’s a fast, powerful, smart runner. I expect him to continue to rack up TDs on the ground. With a new OC, he will throw for fewer yards, a higher percentage, more TDs, and fewer INTs. RG3 was great last year, but he can barely run now, and doesn’t have the durability to continue to produce on the ground. Wilson is good, but Seattle isn’t exactly loaded at WR. Romo is definitely underrated, but he’s getting older, while Luck will be getting better.

  3. August 6, 2013 at 5:44 am — Reply

    For a fantasy expert, you are failing to even speak about the one thing that effects all scoring position players and mainly affected Luck’s completion percentage….the offensive line.

    Luck’s percentages will go up based off of the new zone blocking scheme and simply better talent on the line. Also, the West Coast offense with shorter dropbacks and shorter throws means that the pressure in his face won’t be as high. Remember he was one of the highest hit QB’s last year.

    Also, you have to figure a healthy Ahmad Bradshaw was the best and highest rated RB in the league last year when it came to protecting the QB. Give Luck time, and his accuracy is higher than 8 of the 15 QB’s you named on that list.

    When it comes to Russell Wilson and RGIII…you have to also note that BOTH of their coaches are trying to protect them by taking them out of the run game. Do you think Shanahan wants to lose RGIII again for a scrambling first down?

    Schaub? He has never had an elite season…..Cutler? Has he ever broken TOP 10? I will concede that your analysis of Romo was spot on.

    You are right to place Stafford and Eli on the list of value picks. Both of them should return somewhere close to 2011 form after injuries with their WR’s hurt their numbers last year.

    Colin as a top 5? No….unless you expect him to break the rushing record for TD’s. There’s no way he throws for over 4200 yds, has 30 TD’s plus his rushing totals…

    Ben Roth…normally I would be on his good side when he is healthy. However, with his favorite target in Heath Miller out for extended time, no mike wallace, and Antonio Brown failed to produce last year….there’s no real upside for him.

  4. Joseph McCarthy
    August 6, 2013 at 6:34 am — Reply

    Here’s the main reason why I think Luck’s completion percentage will balance out… I think Pep Hamilton will make a conscious effort for Andrew to not only get rid of the ball quicker, but they’ll move the pocket around. I think we’ll see more rollouts..more play action. More opportunities for Luck to run outside of the pocket if his guys aren’t open. Defenses won’t be able to pin their ears back up front and drop 7 back into coverage. Luck maybe won’t throw for 4.700 yards again, but i think his fantasy points will balance out with fewer INTs, more TDs, and higher percentage throws.

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