Will Andrew Luck Finish as the Top Fantasy Football Quarterback This Year?
Very rarely does any player enter the league with a reputation to uphold. Since before his last season at Stanford, however, Andrew Luck was one such player - he had seemingly been preordained to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
A sure-fire number-one overall pick, Luck has started every game since he was drafted, and made the playoffs each of his first two seasons. His 2014 has been no speed bump - so far he's outscored every other quarterback in the league in fantasy points.
The question, then, for fantasy owners: Is it already time for Andrew Luck to live up to his expectations? Will Andrew Luck finish the season as the top fantasy quarterback?
So far this year, Andrew Luck has been an absolute monster. His 74 points in the first three weeks is a full 11 points better than the next best quarterback, who just happens to be Peyton Manning. In fact, looking at Luck week by week, he finished third, tied for fifth, and first among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring in Weeks 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Manning, for the record, finished fourth, fourth and seventh in those weeks among quarterbacks.
The value Luck has presented so far for fantasy owners has been tremendous. He entered the season as the fifth overall quarterback in most drafts, behind Manning, Aaron Rodgers (one top-five finish so far), Drew Brees (zero top-five finishes), and Matthew Stafford (one top-five finish).
While the above is all well and good, our advanced metrics also bare out what the fantasy numbers project. In terms of Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), Andrew Luck ranks first among all quarterbacks. Additionally, with regards to quarterbacks with at least 90 drop backs (30 drop backs per game), Luck ranks tied for second in Passing NEP per drop back (essentially measuring how efficient Luck has been given volume), trailing only the resurgent Philip Rivers. The fantasy numbers are what they are, but our advanced metrics show that the fantasy numbers are legit and backed up very closely by what's actually happening on the field play-to-play.
The Question Marks
It's not all good news for Luck owners though, and there are reasons to be cautious moving forward. The first three weeks' opponents for the Colts have all been bad, even when adjusting for opponent, against the pass. The Broncos, Eagles, and Jaguars are 16th, 17th, and 30th, respectively, against the pass when adjusting for strength of opponent. The Colts still have two games each against their in-division rivals, Houston (third in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP) and Tennessee (fifth).
In fact, in the Colts' next four games, they will play three of the top-five defenses against the pass per our statistics - one game each against the Texans and Titans, and another game against the number-two ranked Bengals. Three weeks after that, the Colts will play the team that right now sits number one in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP, the New England Patriots. To put that another way, in the next seven games (there's a bye week thrown in there), four will be against top-five passing defenses. While the other three games will be against bottom-10 passing defenses, it's still going to be a tough road for Luck to navigate.
Will He Be Number One?
In honor of the 10th anniversary of Lost, I can't really give you a clear cut answer to the question I just posed. What I can tell you is that the numbers Luck is putting up are not a result of (pardon the pun) luck, and aren't totally (but are partially) a result of circumstance. The road will undoubtedly get tougher, but if we have learned anything, it's that Luck is going to smoke average and below-average defenses. His games against the Jaguars, Giants, Cowboys, Steelers, Browns, and Ravens (all teams in the lower end so far of our defensive passing NEP) should be huge potential outings.
And while Luck has been crowned as the golden boy, we have yet to see how he responds when the heat really gets turned up in 2014. I'm cautiously optimistic, however, that Luck can keep this up and dominate lower-end defenses to finish out the season at, if not number one, at least extremely close to number one. Our projections have him ranked as the sixth-best quarterback from here on out.