Andrew Luck was one of the top rated quarterbacks EVER out of college. The only player Mel Kiper Jr, ESPN’s NFL Draft guru, has ranked higher is John Elway. That’s pretty good company in my opinion. He had been rated that high for two years. If he had come out after his redshirt sophomore year (third year in college), he would have been drafted number 1 overall to the Panthers. They said that before he made his decision to stay in school. Luck decided to stay in school and finish his degree even though his head coach, Jim Harbaugh, bolted for the NFL to join the San Francisco 49ers.
This decision did not change Luck’s draft position. He went to the Indianapolis Colts at number 1 overall.
Luck had a great first season considering the team he came into. The Colts in 2011 were by far the worst team in the NFL. They really had no talent and I was personally surprised that they ended up with even 1 win. They had very little talent at all the positions on the field. Their best player was probably Reggie Wayne, but he wasn’t utilized well because he did not have a quarterback that could throw to him. The organization made a coaching change from Jim Caldwell to Chuck Pagano. However, they did not make any really big signings to help the team either. They traded for Vontae Davis and Winston Justice. They also resigned Reggie Wayne, but decided to let Peyton Manning go after a great 14 years and a Super Bowl victory. This left them with the ability to draft Luck with their 1st overall pick. Throughout the rest of the draft, they did not worry about their torrid defense (5th most points allowed and 8th most yards allowed in 2011), and they focused on getting Andrew Luck more weapons. They drafted two tight ends in Coby Fleener (Luck’s college roommate at Stanford) and Dwayne Allen. Then they added TY Hilton and LaVon Brazill. Finally, they also added a running back in the 5th round in Vick Ballard. These were the only weapons and upgrades the Colts had going into the 2012 season.
Luck’s 2012 was very impressive because of what he was asked to do for his team. He was asked to put the offense on his back and carry them to victory. He threw for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 54.1%, but he also had 18 interceptions. He was top 5 in the NFL in attempts per game as a rookie with 39.2 attempts per game.
This is very different from what Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson were asked to do. They ranked 39th and 40th in pass attempts per game with 26.2 and 24.6 attempts per game respectively. Now, if you compare Luck’s efficiency rating with Wilson and RGIII, you would think that he did not have a season as good as them. I, on the other hand, disagree. I believe Luck should have won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) in 2012 rather than Griffin. Now he definitely was not as efficient as them, but he had about 14 more attempts per game than those other two quarterbacks and that just leaves a lot of opportunities for rookie mistakes.
Considering how many attempts he had, he did not make a ton of mistakes. 18 interceptions on 627 attempts, or an interception percentage of 2.9%, is an incredible feat for a rookie especially considering the game situations. Luck’s defense was not good by any standard. They were ranked 26th in yards allowed per game with 374.2 and ranking 21st in points allowed per game with 24.2. So he was usually playing from behind in the fourth quarter trying to catch up as evidenced by his 4 fourth quarter comebacks and 7 game winning drives late in the fourth quarter or overtime. Even when he had a lead, he was asked to throw because of his awful rushing attack. The Colts only had 104.4 rushing yards per game as a team, which gave them a ranking of 22nd in the NFL. Luck literally had to do everything for this Colts team. AND he still managed to carry them to the postseason with 7 more wins than the previous season! They didn’t win their 1st game, but at least they lost to the Super Bowl Champions, the Baltimore Ravens (any chance I get to say that, I will).
After looking at RGIII and Wilson, it is easy to tell that they definitely had better supporting casts, which allowed them to have much more efficient stats and less interceptions. First, RGIII, whom actually won the OROY in 2012, had the best running game in the NFL. His team led the NFL in rushing yards per game with 169.3 yards per game. With a rushing attack like that, you can keep defenses off balance and it opens up the play-action passing game. For RGIII, this opened up the secondary and gave him very good passing lanes and open receivers. This alone limits mistakes because it doesn’t take a superstar to play catch with a receiver when there isn’t a tight window to fit the ball through. The Redskins did have 10 wins in 2012, but that was only a 5 win difference from 2011 to 2012.
Now some people may say, “Well, Russell Wilson led his team to 11 wins and if they didn’t get screwed with an early afternoon game on the east coast, they would have been in the NFC Title Game.” First of all, only one of those things is true. A west coast team playing a 1 pm game on the east coast is very unfair. It’s basically 10 am for those players. And the Seahawks did not WIN 11 games. They, themselves, won 10 games. The replacement refs gave them that 11th win against the Green Bay Packers in Week 3. Also, Wilson’s supporting cast was far more superior than RGIII’s and especially Luck’s. He had the third best rushing team, besides RGIII’s Redskins and Adrian Peterson‘s Vikings, with 161.2 rushing yards a game. It was already discussed how that helps out the quarterback. Now, Wilson also had a top 5 defense. His defense was number 4 in yards allowed and 1st in points allowed. They only gave up 15.3 points a game! On average, Wilson only needed to lead his offense down the field for 2 touchdowns and a field goal from a kicker who only missed 3 field goals all year and all those field goals were over 50 yards. I think these stats clearly show that Luck had an inferior supporting cast and his 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns were deserving of an OROY award with all factors considered.
Luck’s 2013 could surprise some people with how good he is going to be. He has a slightly improved supporting cast. In the draft, they acquired talent in places of need. They drafted DE Bjoern Werner from Florida State to help out their torrid defense. Their next 2 picks were used on the offensive line. This was a huge need for the Colts as Luck took 41 sacks last year, which was the 4th most in the NFL. They were also ranked as the 2nd worst offensive line in the entire NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. I don’t expect Luck to be running for his life as much as he had to last year. In free agency, they have signed, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Ahmad Bradshaw, so far.
Heyward-Bey adds another dimension to the offense with his speed. He can stretch defenses deep. People will say he was a bust at the 7th overall pick for the Raiders, and he was. However, I think with a new organization that isn’t as dysfunctional as the Oakland Raiders, he can be a productive wide receiver with a stud quarterback throwing to him. I mean, any improvement at quarterback would be good for Heyward-Bey. He’s had to deal with JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski, Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller, and a poorly playing Carson Palmer throwing him the ball. I think Heyward-Bey will be a nice addition for Luck. I talked about Bradshaw in this Daily Dojo. The players that were drafted with Luck in the 2012 draft have a year of experience under their belts. They should hopefully be improved and help Luck out even more.
Overall, I think Luck’s trajectory is only looking up. He could have an unbelievable season and shock people. My conservative prediction is that he has a stat line of 4,600 passing yards, 28 passing TD’s, 11 interceptions, 2 lost fumbles, 200 rushing yards and 3 rushing TD’s. This stat line equates to 308 total fantasy points using ESPN standard scoring for fantasy football. That would put him in the top 5 of all quarterbacks according to last year’s fantasy football scoring leaders. If he exceeds those numbers, he will definitely be in the running for NFL MVP. However, to go along with my stat prediction, I believe he leads the Colts to 11 wins and an NFC South crown over the Houston Texans (I don’t think Matt Schaub is good enough and Arian Foster is running out of tread on his tires). This would give him an incredible case for MVP and I think he really has a shot in his sophomore campaign.