As I went about my busy day yesterday, I hardly thought about football. I had team pictures and breakfast to attend (I’m the coach), I helped my brother out with a couple errands, went to my niece’s birthday party, and then joined friends for a night out. I didn’t really think twice about the Bears-Colts game I was taping to watch the next day. Just out of curiosity, I decided to check in and see if anyone important had played. Maybe Mitch Trubisky was in for a series or two. Maybe he looked really good (I’m a Bears fan). What I found blew my mind: Andrew Luck retired. Call this overly dramatic, but it felt like one of those moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life. This blew my mind and saddened me at the same time. The league was losing a bright young star. Where did we go from here? How do we respond? As I watched the recording of the aforementioned game this morning, sure enough it happened: the announcers began talking about some breaking news. They seemed unsure of themselves, as if someone was trying to prank them. The rest of the game became a discussion of how this could happen and where things would go from here. Now that I’ve had almost a day to digest it, we need to dig in to the impact. What happens to the high-flying Indy offense now that it’s pilot has been grounded? Let’s take a position by position look:
With Andrew Luck gone, the starting job will fall squarely on the shoulders of Jacoby Brissett. Brissett has some starting experience, having played 15 games in 2017 and another 2 in 2016. Here are his career stats:
The largest sample size we have to work with is 2017–when Luck sat out the whole season. This was Brissett’s first full season as a starter, and it was hardly perfect. He averaged less than 200 yards per game, completed less than 60% of his passes, and only threw 13 touchdowns. Still, this was essentially a rookie season. Surely Brissett has grown while watching Luck lead the team, right? Let’s take a look at this preseason:
Okay, so we don’t have much here either. Fifteen pass attempts is a lousy sample size, even if it does show some improvement. This is all going to come down to how you feel about Brissett. Personally, I’m doubting things end up anywhere close to where Luck had them. He was an perennial Pro-Bowler who threw 39 touchdowns and 4593 yards last year. That was only his second best sesaon ever. Honestly, I’d be happy with Brissett if he managed 25 touchdowns, fewer than 10 interceptions, and 4000 yards. Twenty-five touchdowns, or almost double his career high, would barely be enough to account for what Eric Ebron and T.Y. Hilton did last season. I would probably rank Brissett around QB20 right now and safely behind the younger high-upside plays like Mitch Trubisky, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Kyler Murray.
As a last note for the QB section, I would be very interested to see what happens if Chad Kelly takes over the starting job. I love what he showed in the last preseason game, and I believe the Broncos had plans for him before his off field problems popped up. Kelly has a strong arm, he’s proven to be an effective scrambler when necessary, and I think he could be something in the league. Still, the Colts could easily pick up another player and bury Kelly. Don’t bother rostering Kelly yet, but keep an eye out in case anything happens to Brissett.
The Colts seem to have two running backs likely to split the workload this year: Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines. Mack figures to be the workhorse while Hines should once again be the third-down back. How are Mack and Hines affected by the latest news? If you read my article on Mack (here), you know my thoughts on him. He is a gifted runner, but he seems to have limited upside in the passing game. He was streaky last year, doing most of his damage while the Colts had the lead. I’m worried about Mack. For me, he drops from being on the fringe of RB1/ RB2 to being a low-end RB2. I’d grab him for sure in the 5th, but earlier would be tough. Unless Mack starts catching passes, I imagine him coming off the field a lot this year.
What about Nyheim Hines? Since Hines is primarily a pass-catcher, his owners should be hoping that Brissett struggles just a little. If Brissett struggles, he’s likely to look for short dump-off throws. This means the running backs and tight ends could win out. Hines is the perfect safety valve, and I think a total collapse wouldn’t hurt him too much. I think Hines (ADP 14.02) is an obvious buy-now candidate and I’ll happily invest in him, whoever the QB is.
Let’s finish up with our wide receivers and tight ends. T.Y. Hilton’s ADP peaked at the top of the third round this offseason, but don’t expect that to last. Hilton’s stock will nosedive without Luck around. Let’s take a look at Hilton’s stats with and without Luck:
In 2016, Andrew Luck was healthy and put up a solid year–4200 yards and 31 touchdowns. Hilton, in lockstep, saw career highs in targets, receptions, and yards. In 2017, Luck was out and we see the impact on Hilton’s numbers: he lost 46 targets, 34 receptions, 482 yards and 2 touchdowns. In 2018, Luck returned and Hilton’s numbers jumped across the board despite playing 2 fewer games. If he had played all 16 he would have had 137 targets, 87 receptions, 1451 yards, and 7 touchdowns. To put this simple, Hilton plays better with Luck. He has flown so high thanks to having an elite QB, and losing Luck is going to sting. Hilton was a low-end WR1 for me, but now he’s probably around WR20. He will still be valuable, but it’s going to be a bumpier road.
How about the other receivers? The further down the pecking order you are, the more likely you get squeezed out. Devin Funchess will be battling Eric Ebron for the diminished TD pool, so I’ll pass on him. Parris Campbell and Deon Cain were interesting options because of the offense’s high ceiling. Having 40+ passing TDs means 3-4 guys can be heavily involved. Now? I’m probably not interested in either guy other than as a late flyer. I think they will both have some nice weeks, but it’s all going to be hard to predict. Keep an eye on both players, but watch from a distance right now.
Eric Ebron has had a disappointing start to his career considering he was a first round draft pick by the Lions in 2014. Once Detroit traded him, Andrew Luck quickly turned Ebron into a star. He caught 13 touchdowns, or more than his previous four years combined. Well as we know, Luck is now gone. So what happens to Ebron? I expect a stat line closer to his first four years in the league; think 500-700 yards and 4-6 touchdowns as a likely range. This would be the upside though. There’s still a chance that Jack Doyle gets in the way. Here are the stats from when Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron were both on the field last year:
|Games 1, 2, 8-11 (both healthy)||Targets||Receptions||Yards||Touchdowns|
So Doyle saw more targets, receptions, and yards when both he and Ebron were healthy. Doyle also saw more snaps than Ebron (not pictured), though he lagged considerably in the touchdown department. I’m guessing that those touchdown numbers would normalize a bit over a full season as I can’t imagine ANY tight end would score 19 times this year. That being the case, we could argue that Doyle creates a 50-50 split or close to it, between him and Ebron. That would ruin the season for both guys considering Luck has flown the coup. I’ll pass on both guys this year.
With Luck gone, everyone is going to be hurting in Indy. Here is a summary of the ADP changes I’d make:
- Jacoby Brissett is around QB20 and shouldn’t be drafted in single QB leagues. He does have value in superflex though thanks to all the weapons surrounding him.
- T.Y. Hilton should be expected to lose around 2 receptions per game and should slide from WR13 to around WR20.
- Parris Campbell and Deon Cain should go undrafted until we know more about the Indy offense under Brissett.
- Marlon Mack will slide a little bit from his current spot of RB20. His value will depend heavily on the Colts defense and game script.
- Nyheim Hines is still an excellent value at his ADP, and he could see increased value if the Colts face a lot of negative game scripts.
- Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle are both close to undraftable for me. If either guy gets hurt, the other would become a much more appealing option.
(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)