Return of the King: Andrew Luck is back – by Adil Khan Deshmukh

The news that every Indianapolis Colts fan wants to hear; Andrew Luck is finally throwing a football! Many will point out that he isn’t quite yet throwing a Duke around but the news out of Lucas Oil Stadium is promising for the Colts Nation; with Luck having moved on from the much maligned Nerf ball.

The Colts are coming off the back of a 4-12 season, in which they only beat the Browns, 49ers and the Texans (without DeShaun Watson). Indianapolis have fallen on fallow times in the last three seasons, with the team failing to qualify for the playoffs since they appeared in the AFC Championship Game in the 2014 season.

But before we look into Luck’s prospects this season, let’s look back on how he has fared since he joined the league in 2012.

andrew-luck-
Photo credit: Sam Sharpe/USA TODAY Sports

The Early Years

Luck was drafted by Indy with the purpose of replacing a future hall-of-famer in Peyton Manning. He was deemed as one of those ‘once in a generation’ players who was even being touted for Canton before even receiving a snap under centre in the league.

Luck’s first three seasons were largely successful, turning around a 2-14 team into three consecutive 11-5 seasons and an AFC Championship Game appearance in 2014 versus the Patriots. Those seasons were characterised by Luck hitting record breaking numbers for a young QB, aided by him throwing the ball to Reggie Wayne, TY Hilton, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. The significant number that would take its toll is the sack count; with Luck being sacked 100 times over his first three seasons in the league.

Season Record Comp Att Yards TDs INT Sacks
2012 11-5 339 627 4,374 23 18 41
2013 11-5 343 570 3,822 23 9 32
2014 11-5 380 616 4,761 40 16 27

Luck’s stats 2012-2014

Luck gets Hurt

2015 was the first season in which Luck got injured, missing 9 games with a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle. The Colts finished 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs. In 2016, the Colts also finished 8-8; however this would be categorised as the least successful season in which Luck has fully participated in, with the team failing to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season. A noteworthy stat from the season was Luck being sacked an unprecidented 41 times from 15 starts.

The combination of a poor offensive line and Luck’s unwillingness to avoid hits took its toll on Luck’s body, and surgery was needed to repair his throwing shoulder. The surgery kept him completely out of the 2017 season, with the team slumping to an abysmal 4-12 record.

luck
Photo Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports

Key Factors for 2018

So how will Luck fare in 2018? These are what I view as the key points to a successful season:

  1. Offensive Line

Firstly, and most importantly it’s imperative that Luck remains healthy throughout the season. To steal a line from my colleague Rob Grimwood, the Indianapolis Colts O-Line in 2017 had more holes than a slice of swiss cheese. The Colts organisation have finally heeded all the warnings that have been there for years and invested heavily in protecting their prized asset. With their first pick of the draft, Indy picked Guard Quenton Nelson, simply a beast of an offensive lineman. Additionally, they picked up veterans in Matt Slauson and Austin Howard to sure up the right side of the line. All of this is without mentioning the Colts’ second round pick Braden Smith, who has the potential to develop into a fine football player. GM Chris Ballard identified the weakness and boy has he tried to rectify it, but the proof will definitely be in the pudding, and only time will only tell if the investments have paid off.

  1. Decision Making

In addition to the offensive line, there is another person that is key to maintaining Luck’s health- that is the man himself and his decision making. Time and time again we have heard that Luck takes too many hits and he has been partly to blame for this. There are times this season where Luck will have to learn to cut his losses and throw the ball away instead of treating his body of that of a running back. Colts fans will hope that a new, more mature Luck will come out the other end of this injury break.

  1. The Supporting Cast

Luck will be reunited with his go-to guy T.Y. Hilton (‘The Ghost’) and the wide-out will be thankful for it, coming off a season where he failed to break 1000 yards for the first time since his rookie season. It goes without saying (even though I’ll say it), this relationship between QB and stud receiver will be key to Luck’s success. In addition to Hilton, luck has a trio of Tight Ends who will be chomping at the bit to catch balls from Luck; namely Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope. The Colts could well utilise triple-TE formations next season in attempt to beef up protection to Luck. Behind Hilton in the pecking order at receiver are Chester Rogers and Ryan Grant. Rogers hasn’t broken 300 yards in each of his first two seasons and this is Grant’s first season in Indy, coming off the back of his best season (573 yards, 4 TDs) so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits into Head Coach Frank Reich’s plans.

Fantasy Impact

Based upon his injury and with there seeming to be a plethora of QB options going into 2018, Luck could definitely be undrafted in many 10-team and 12-team leagues, with Fantasy Pros ranking him as the 13th QB available. He could definitely be worth a punt (and bench stashing a reasonable alternative) and if he blows up like we know he’s capable of then you could be laughing your way to a title.

So there we have it, Luck is back and Indy fans hope he’s back to his gunslinging best. Be sure to keep an eye out on more killer content here at Across The Fantasy Pond!

By Adil Khan Deshmukh – @dillytoon

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