A lot of Colts players’ fantasy success depends on the arm of quarterback Andrew Luck, who enters his third season in the NFL, and is likely going to be one of the best quarterbacks in the game over the next decade. But what does 2014 hold for him, one year after he impressed us despite losing his top wide receiver and top tight end to season-ending injuries?
The Colts were actually mediocre offensively last season, landing in the middle of the NFL in scoring, yet Luck was still a productive fantasy quarterback. The arrival of running back Trent Richardson didn’t really change the Colts’ fortunes like they had hoped, as they ran the ball fairly infrequently, ranking 20th in rushing yards per game.
So with so much bad luck last season, why are we all excited about a good “Luck” this season?
There are actually a good half-dozen reasons why fantasy owners who draft Andrew will have good Luck this year.
1. While Luck still had an excellent season in 2013, he didn’t have close to the tools he’s going to have at his disposal this time. For instance, toward the end of the year, Luck’s wide receivers included T.Y. Hilton, Lavon Brazill and Griff Whalen. Compare that to Hilton, Hakeem Nicks and Reggie Wayne, even a healing one, and there’s no contest.
2. He’s entering his third season, which we all just take for granted, since he has thrown for a total of almost 9,200 yards in his first two seasons. Only six quarterbacks posted more quality fantasy games last year than Luck. With experience comes more consistent play.
3. This is his second season with offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, who he also had during his time at Stanford. This will actually be the fourth season the two will have worked together before and during a football season. Indianapolis wanted to run the ball more last season, but it eventually went to the hurry-up offense late in the year, during which time Luck excelled. Expect to see more of that in 2014.
4. Luck lost his top two running backs by Week 3 last season, then the team had to trade for Richardson, who underwhelmed after his arrival. Richardson should be improved in Year 2, and he should have a chip on his shoulder. If he can improve the running game, defenses will have to pick their poison.
5. The only catch tight end Dwayne Allen made for the Colts last season was a 20-yard touchdown – before going down with a hip injury that forced him to get hip surgery. His return, in his third year also, will be a huge boost to Luck’s attack (he caught 45 passes for 521 yards in 2012). But it was his absence that also pushed fellow Class of 2012 tight end Coby Fleener to the front. While the Stanford product didn’t necessarily break out, he did get plenty of reps and should be even better in 2014.
6. You can get Luck with a fifth-round pick. That means you waited until four other teams chose their quarterbacks with higher draft picks, as Manning, Brees, Rodgers and even Matthew Stafford were drafted ahead of him.
By this time next year, we could be talking about Luck as the fourth member of the elite fantasy quarterbacks, alongside – and possibly leapfrogging -- Manning, Brees and Rodgers.
Most overvalued player
T.Y. Hilton, WR – No doubt, Hilton’s story is a good one. A third-round pick out of Florida International University in 2012, the 5-foot-9 punt returner wasn't expected by fantasy owners to do much last season. He broke out as one of the best rookie wide receivers in fantasy, leading the Colts with seven touchdown catches. He eclipsed 1,000 yards for the first time last season, catching 82 passes, despite being one of the only quality focal points in Luck’s offense.
Unfortunately for him (and his fantasy owners that draft him in the fifth round), the Colts have to split that offensive pie up into several more pieces. Not only is Wayne -- another South Florida college product -- back from injury, but so is Allen, and Fleener is ready to be fed more also. Tack on the addition of free agent wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, and suddenly, Hilton is waving his arms, looking for attention in the back of the classroom again.
Luck-ily, Hilton plays out of the slot, and the quarterback will continue to use him plenty – just not as much as a fantasy fifth-round pick should be used.
Most Undervalued player
Reggie Wayne, WR – There have already been a ton of reports coming out of training camp that Wayne looks as if he never had a knee injury in the first place. He tore his ACL in Week 7 of last season, and his attempt at recording his ninth 1,000-yard season in the past 10 years went by the wayside.
We’ve seen players return from knee injuries at rapid rates recently, including both Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson a couple seasons ago. Wayne is 36, however, so there’s the chance something else on his elderly body breaks down. But Wayne, who is now the NFL’s active leader in receiving yards since Tony Gonzalez retired, has an eighth-round ADP right now, and he’s sitting behind players like Golden Tate, Marques Colston and rookie Sammy Watkins.
Wayne has a great chance of finishing as a top-20 fantasy receiver this season, but he needs to stay healthy to do it.
QB: Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck
RB: Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Dan Herron
WR: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks, Da’Rick Rogers
TE: Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener
K: Adam Vinatieri
An improved offensive line should give Luck more time to make decisions while also opening up lanes for the running backs.
Vick Ballard, who lost most of 2013 to a torn ACL, tore his Achilles’ heel at the start of training camp. He’s likely done for the season, which puts more of the rushing load on Richardson and Bradshaw.
Allen’s hip is certainly an injury to watch, but even if it were completely healthy, he’d still be among a pack of tight ends jockeying for position behind the elite players at the position.
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The Colts defense finished strong last season, but it did struggle against the run, which is how defenses will continue to attack it in 2014. Fortunately, the Colts signed linebacker D’Qwell Jackson out of Cleveland, and he should do a much better job of meeting backs at the line of scrimmage. The Colts were among the best teams at forcing and recovering fumbles, and they ranked among the top third in the NFL in sacks. With all of that said, this is more of a DST unit you should target for matchups when it goes up against its divisional foes, the Texans, Jaguars and Titans, each of whom ranked among the bottom 11 in scoring last season.