Out of Luck: The Dynasty Fantasy Football Impact of Andrew Luck’s Retirement

Ryan McDowell

There are moments in your time as a fantasy football player and NFL fan that you will never forget. Tonight around 9:30 eastern time, while the Indianapolis Colts were hosting the Chicago Bears, will be one of those. Mentally worn down from battling physical ailments, quarterback Andrew Luck has informed the Colts that he is retiring from the league, effective immediately.

Back in May, there was a report that Luck was dealing with a calf injury (thought to be minor) that should not impact his training camp availability. The issue forced Luck to sit out of the team’s mini-camp but he was reported to be 100% healthy for the beginning of camp last month. After the first week, Luck began missing practices and head coach Frank Reich sounded concerned, saying Luck was “not ready to take the next step” in his recovery.

Doubts about Luck’s status for Week One of the regular season began to arise and fantasy players felt a sense of déjà vu, thinking back to the 2017 season when a shoulder issue ultimately cost Luck his entire season. The Colts and Luck himself were not very forthcoming two years ago and this entire situation was beginning to mirror that.

Colts owner Jim Irsay admitted two weeks ago that Luck was actually dealing with a “small little bone issue,” which really sent fantasy players and Colts fans panicking. General manager Chris Ballard referred to Luck’s “ankle” injury and Reich suggested he would make a decision about the team’s Week One starter following the third preseason game. Before that game concluded, Luck had made the decision himself. He is leaving the NFL.

For dynasty players, to say this announcement has a major impact would be a huge understatement. In the five seasons in which Luck had played the majority of his team’s games, he has produced fantasy ranks of QB8, QB6, QB1, QB4 and QB5. The most recent was last season, coming back from the shoulder injury that cost him a full year, Luck proved he was back and the Colts were once again contenders.

Thanks to our friends at FF Statistics, here’s a look at Luck’s career performances, including fantasy points.

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Just as Luck’s production returned to normal, his dynasty value also quickly bounced back. After dipping to an all-time low of 120 early last season, when there were still doubts about his health and overall ability, Luck’s dynasty ADP had climbed back into the top 65 overall. Here’s a quick look at his monthly ADP since 2014.

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Luck’s retirement leaves a massive hole on dynasty rosters. The good news is there are many moves to make in the short term to address the 2019 season if you were one of many, including myself, counting on Luck as your fantasy starter.

First, pick up Jacoby Brissett. This was not a surprise, but Brissett was already named the Colts’ Week One starter following Luck’s announcement. The Colts traded for Brissett and that paid off as he became their 2017 starter. He was far from matching Luck’s expected production, finishing as the QB21 in 2017, but he did produce four QB1 (top-12) games that season. He also offers rushing upside to boost his fantasy stat line. Don’t get me wrong, Brissett won’t fill Luck’s shoes for the Colts or your dynasty team but with less than two weeks until the 2019 season begins, you have to act quickly.

Also, the quarterback position is probably deeper now than it has been in years. You probably won’t be going out and trading for another quarterback who will produce the top-five season you were hoping for from Luck. Young signal callers like Baker Mayfield and Deshaun Watson will simply be too expensive and every other player in your league will be ready to feast on you, the poor Luck owner. Instead, make a move for a proven, dare I say, “boring” producer at the position. Our latest dynasty ADP shows players like Philip Rivers (QB25), Ben Roethlisberger (QB19) and Tom Brady (QB22) could all be had at reasonable prices.

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Obviously, in what was projected to be one of the league’s top offenses, Luck is not the only player to discuss in this story. The Colts drafted wide receiver Parris Campbell on day two of the NFL Draft and, of course, wide receiver TY Hilton was expected to have another monster season, paired with Luck. Tight end Eric Ebron enjoyed the best year of his career by fan playing alongside Luck a season ago. Brissett will not allow these players to match their production ceiling this season.

Let’s look back to the 2017 season when Hilton played with Brissett. After five straight seasons finishing as a top-25 fantasy receiver, including a WR5 season in 2016, Hilton was the WR27 in 2017 and that was only due to a couple of spike weeks. Along with four weeks finishing as the WR12 or better, Hilton also had ten games where he was outside of the top 40 fantasy receivers. He also had six games in which he caught two passes or fewer. Add in the fact Hilton will soon turn 30 years old and his value is about to take a major hit. He has played without Luck in 26 of his 108 games, most of those coming in 2017 and the contrast between his performances without Luck is staggering. Using the Game Splits App from Rotoviz, we see Hilton’s weekly fantasy production drops by more than four points with Luck out of the lineup. Obviously, his targets, receptions, yardage and touchdowns also decline without the star quarterback.

So, what do we do with our Colts now? Just hours ago, dynasty players felt confident about rolling out Luck, Hilton, Ebron and Marlon Mack on a weekly basis. Campbell was an exciting player to stash on benches and Jack Doyle and Deon Cain looked like they would contribute after injuries in 2018. Now, it will be difficult to trust any of these players. The drop-off from Luck to Brissett cannot be overstated. Even if the Colts supporting cast are able to produce, their dynasty value and ADP will drop with Luck out of the picture.

Here’s how I would personally be handling each of the key pieces from Indianapolis. Doyle and Ebron simply don’t have enough trade value in the typical dynasty league, so I will be holding them. Campbell’s short-term upside is downgraded, as is the case with all of his teammates, but he has age on his side and we’ve seen the Colts relatively quickly recover from this type of situation in the past. Campbell could have Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert tossing him passes in 2020. I’m buying Campbell if my leaguemates are panicking. Mack and Hilton are different situations. Due to Hilton’s age and Mack’s talent, I don’t view either as cornerstone dynasty assets. I won’t be rush to sell either but as soon as each player enjoys a big game, I will take my chance to sell.

Oh, and as for Luck. I’m not dropping him just yet.

ryan mcdowell