Questions swirl in Indianapolis about Andrew Luck’s health. But that should not preclude you from happily drafting two of his weapons.
Andrew Luck has compiled a nice discography in his five NFL seasons, but most of us believe that his magnum opus is yet to come. If Luck’s first two seasons were “Boy” and “October,” and his 40-TD season in 2014 was “War,” then perhaps last season was “The Unforgettable Fire,” brilliant at times but, well, often forgettable. The question is whether Luck is ready to put out a “Joshua Tree” or an “Achtung Baby,” or if we’ll get the humdrum of a “Rattle and Hum” year.
With a shoulder injury casting doubt on Luck’s early-season availability, the U2 comp that might apply is “Songs of Innocence,” the mediocre album that automatically appeared on Apple users’ devices, leaving a great many people crinkling their noses. We didn’t ask for “Songs of Innocence,” nor did we ask for a shoulder injury that could torpedo not only Luck’s value, but the value of all other Indianapolis skill players. It’s possible that Luck could miss just a game or two and then come back as good as new, in which case he could easily rank among the top five quarterbacks in fantasy points per game while also making two or three of his pass catcher weekly must-starts. But if the injury lingers, keeping Luck out of the lineup for a month, or rendering him ineffective upon his return, the Colts’ offense could turn into a bad garage band. I’m not apt to gamble on Luck at his ADP of QB9.
T.Y. Hilton led the league in receiving yardage last year and has averaged 1,306 receiving yards over the last three seasons. His established success as a yardage producer gives him a sturdy weekly floor if Luck is healthy. But unlike most of the receivers with higher ADPs, Hilton probably doesn’t have a chance at getting 100 catches – his 91 last year were a career high – and he isn’t a prolific TD scorer. (Hilton has averaged six touchdowns over his five-year career, and he’s never exceeded seven.) I’m comfortable taking this finely tuned yardage machine at his ADP of WR11.
Remember Renaldo “Skeets” Nehemiah? He was a track star who held the world record in the 110-meter hurdles, then played three seasons with the 49ers in the early ’80s. Alas, Skeets wasn’t much of a wide receiver. He had 43 receptions in 40 career games, though his speed helped him average 17.5 yards per catch. Phillip Dorsett strikes me as a modern-day Renaldo Nehemiah, only without the illustrious track career. The first-round selection of Dorsett two years ago was among the reasons that then-GM Ryan Grigson was given the heave-ho. Don’t be the Grigson of your league – keep Dorsett off your draft board.
The Colts brought in Kamar Aiken to pry the No. 3 receiver job from Dorsett’s stony hands. Aiken mysteriously vanished from the Ravens’ offense last year but is good enough to carve out a niche role in Indy. He’ll go undrafted in most average-sized leagues, but Aiken is only one injury away from being startable.
My friend John Paulsen of 4for4.com (@4for4_John) recently noted that in Luck’s last two full seasons (2015 was omitted due to injury), Colts tight ends have accounted for 26.5% of team catches, 26.9% of team receiving yardage and 40.5% of team TD catches. Dwayne Allen was traded to the Patriots in the offseason, leaving Jack Doyle as the Colts’ top TE. He’s reasonably priced at his current ADP of TE13.
Another sharp 4for4.com writer, T.J. Hernandez (@TJHernandez), noted that no Colts TE has accounted for more than 15% of team targets during the Luck era. If that pattern holds, Erik Swoope could swoop in (ahem) to pick up the remaining tight end allotment. Colts beat writer Steven Holder wrote in March that GM Chris Ballard is “very bullish” on Swoope, a former University of Miami (Fla.) basketball player with an enticing athletic profile.
When my son was a toddler, he had a bad habit of swiveling his head as he walked, looking around rather than focusing on what was ahead. This led to some collisions with walls and doors. (It also confirmed that he had inherited plenty of my genes.) Frank Gore advocates remind me of my toddler son in this regard. They’re looking backward, transfixed by what Gore has accomplished at an advanced age, failing to notice the wall ahead.
At age 34, Gore is in nearly uncharted territory. John Riggins was an unusual outlier (in more ways than one), rushing for 1,347 yards and 24 TDs in his age-34 season, then pounding out 1,239 rushing yards and 14 TDs at age 35. Marcus Allen was somewhat productive from 34 to 37, though clearly past his prime. Emmitt Smith ran for 937 yards and nine TDs at 34, but he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. It is indeed possible that Gore is another Riggins. But Gore owners have been beating the house odds for a while now. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put down the dice, visit the cashier, head upstairs, get a room-service cheeseburger and see what’s on HBO.
Yet Gore has an outrageously low ADP of RB34 on Fantasy Football Calculator, and even though I’m a running back ageist, I have a hard time turning him down that late in drafts. Still, I’m probably drafting around him rather than taking the senior citizen’s discount.
Are we positive that rookie Marlon Mack will be the primary backup to Gore? What if Robert Turbin is No. 2? Mack has the far higher ADP, but Turbin fared well as the Colts’ two-minute and goal-line back last year, scoring a career-high eight touchdowns. If Gore hits the wall, Mack will surely be part of the cleanup crew. But if Gore continues to defy the age curve and serves as lead back all year, Mack might barely see the field. It’s reasonable to think that Mack has greater potential than Turbin, a six-year backup. But Mack’s ADP of RB53 seems rich. He was a fourth-round draft pick, so it’s not as if the Colts walked a bed of hot coals to get him. There are at least a dozen running backs with lower ADPs whom I’d rather own.
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|Andrew Luck||QB9||QB13||Don’t chance it|
|Frank Gore||RB34||RB29||Draft around|
|T.Y. Hilton||WR11||WR11||Buy if he slides|
|Donte Moncrief||WR41||WR43||Worth a look|