Andrew Luck Shocking Retirement Fantasy Fallout: Stock Down Across the Board - Roto Street Journal
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Andrew Luck Shocking Retirement Fantasy Fallout: Stock Down Across the Board

He… he did what?

As you all know by now, Andrew Luck has decided to retire from the NFL at the age of 29. I know you came here for fantasy analysis, but I’d like the chance to speak directly to my fellow Colts fans for a moment.

Hey, Horseshoe Nation. What stage of grief are you in? Personally, I’ve moved past denial, anger and bargaining and am currently on depression. Hopefully, acceptance will come soon. Does anyone want to start a support group together? My house is typically empty. We can set folding chairs in a circle and talk about how we’re coping as we smoke cigarettes and drink black coffee. I’ll see you Saturday.

Anyway, back to the task at hand. The news not only derails expectations for the Colts’ franchise, but throws a major wrench in fantasy projections during the heart of draft season. To understand how Indy’s weapons will perform without Luck, we must start with the man replacing him — Jacoby Brissett.

Brissett, 26, is entering his fourth season in the NFL, his third with the Colts and his second under head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. That’s far removed from the situation he was thrust into in 2017, when he was acquired from the Patriots on September 2 and asked to replace the struggling Scott Tolzien the following week. By September 17, Brissett became the full-time starter for the rest of the season.

With two weeks to become acquainted to a new playbook and new teammates, Brissett completed 58% of his passes, threw for over 3,000 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven picks, while adding another 260 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. That’s not too shabby for a guy forced to learn on the fly and play behind an offensive line that gave up the most sacks in the league (56).

In 2019, Brissett is in a much better situation to succeed. He has an offensive line that surrendered the fewest sacks in the NFL last season (18) and has been preparing as the team’s starter for most of the summer. Luck participated in a limited basis in three of the first four training camp practices, but that’s it. Since then, it’s been all Brissett.

Listen to what general manager Chris Ballard had to say about Brissett after his franchise quarterback retired:

“We’ve got a good football team,’’ he said. “This is a good football team. We’re young, good on both fronts, some good, young skill players and a good young quarterback in Jacoby Brissett.

“We’re not gonna ask Jacoby Brissett to be Andrew Luck. Andrew Luck was a unique, unique player. But Jacoby Brissett is a winning football player in this league. Jacoby Brissett is a rare, rare leader. He is. He’s a rare human being, man. The locker room loves Jacoby Brissett. They love him.”

While Brissett gives something for Colts fans to hang their hopes on after the loss of Luck, there’s no debating the drop off in talent. Even if Brissett proves to be a quality starting quarterback, he’s not the all-time great talent Luck was. And for that, every weapon in Indy’s arsenal has to take somewhat of a hit. Luck threw for 39 touchdowns and nearly 4,600 yards last year. If Brissett has a successful season, a reasonable stat line for him would be around 3,500 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, which obviously leaves less meat on the bone for his pass-catchers.

T.Y. Hilton had himself the best training camp of his career this summer with Brissett. In mid-August, Hilton boasted about catching 29 of the first 30 balls thrown to him during scrimmages. Though the Luck-to-Hilton connection was special, The Ghost’s fantasy value may take the shortest tumble of all the Colts’ skill players. Though he can no longer be trusted as a WR1, he still provides value as a rock solid WR2 and should be considered in the Amari Cooper tier, just below the Julian Edelmans, Adam Thielens and Stefon Diggses. You might even be able to snag Hilton at a value if your league-mates panic and overreact to Luck’s retirement.

Marlon Mack‘s fantasy value now becomes much more iffy. On one hand, the Colts might become a little more run-heavy without a MVP-caliber quarterback to lean on. But on the other hand, the drop off in QB play may allow defenses to stack the box more often in an attempted to force Brissett to beat them. Mack went on a tear last season after returning from a hamstring injury in week six and put up the eighth-most fantasy points of any running back during that time. He has had a rock solid training camp and should continue to see 15-25 touches per game so long as his health holds up. Mack should be considered a mid-to-low-end RB2. However, with less expected goal line opportunities in an offense that will take a step back, Mack’s RB1 upside may have just become overly optimistic.

Tight ends Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle may see the biggest decline in fantasy production without Luck. As I broke down in a previous article before the Luck news, Ebron was going to be a touchdown dependent, mid-to-low end TE1 with the return of Doyle. Now that the Colts’ passing touchdown total is expected to decrease significantly, Ebron will have less touchdowns to depend on. Ebron’s fantasy outlook is now squarely behind those of Jared Cook and Vance McDonald, though some would argue it was before.

Doyle was borderline undraftable before Luck retired due to his low ceiling with Ebron stealing much of the tight end redzone targets. With Brissett now slinging the ball, you’re better off swinging for the fences at the end of your draft with a high-upside tight end prospect.

Wideouts like Devin Funchess and rookie Parris Campbell, who used to be worth taking a chance on in the later rounds, are now wait-and-see options. With a smaller aerial pie in Indianapolis, one has to question how much production will be left for secondary options. Though I expect Funchess to have more of an immediate impact that Campbell, it’s hard to imagine either producing consistent numbers in a crowded offense that has a question mark at quarterback.

To wrap things up, Hilton and Mack are no longer potentially elite options, but still offer value in the third round of your draft or later if you’re lucky.

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