Indianapolis Quarterback Andrew Luck Announces His Retirement
Well, that was unexpected. At the age of 29, one of the NFL’s biggest stars has called it quits, citing how numerous injuries have lessened his love for football. I respect that Luck has chosen to protect his body and end his career on his own terms, but this is obviously a big loss for Indianapolis and football fans everywhere. Of course, the loss of a star quarterback also dramatically changes the fantasy outlook of all of Indianapolis’ players, so let’s look at how Luck’s retirement will affect the team’s position groups:
With Luck gone, fourth-year quarterback Jacoby Brissett will take the reins. Brissett started 15 games in 2017 when Luck was sidelined with a shoulder injury, and he finished the season with 3,098 passing yards, 13 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions, in addition to 260 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. However, Brissett was traded to Indianapolis just a week before the 2017 season started, and he was playing behind a much worse offensive line at the time. With more starting experience and a significantly improved group up front, it’s fair to assume that his numbers will be better in 2019. Still, it’s unlikely that Brissett will be a fantasy starter himself, so it’s more worthwhile to analyze the effect he will have on the team’s other players.
Marlon Mack had a breakout season last year, carrying the ball 195 times for 908 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games. He also helped Indianapolis win nine of its last 11 games after returning from a hamstring injury in Week 6. That trend presents something of a “chicken or the egg” dilemma: did Indianapolis win those games because of Mack’s play, or did Mack benefit from a perpetually positive game script? The answer to that question is probably “both,” which raises questions about how Mack will fare with less favorable game flow. It’s safe to assume that Indianapolis will be playing from behind more often this season, so Mack’s value undoubtedly takes a hit. However, he’s still projected to be a heavily utilized early-down back, which keeps him in the RB2 conversation. If you haven’t drafted yet, I would look for Mack around Pick 50, which is roughly 15 spots lower than where he was previously going. If that’s too rich for your blood, then take a look at receiving specialist Nyheim Hines, who figures to benefit from negative game scripts and can be drafted in the last few rounds. Given the new situation, it’s not hard to imagine Hines breaking into flex territory in points per reception (PPR) leagues.
T.Y. Hilton, who has frequently been a high-end WR2 with Luck at quarterback, takes the biggest hit of any Indianapolis player. Hilton has had at least 1,000 yards and five touchdowns in five of his last six seasons, with the lone exception being 2017 when Jacoby Brissett was under center. Still, Hilton managed 966 yards and four touchdowns on a fairly pathetic offense that year, so there’s plenty of reason to expect him to remain productive. For now, WR3 numbers seem like the most likely outcome, but any improvement in Brissett’s play could push Hilton back into WR2 territory. Prior to Luck’s retirement, Hilton was being drafted around Pick 25, but he should now be drafted in the 55-60 range. Devin Funchess, Parris Campbell and Deon Cain are the other Indianapolis receivers worth noting, but I wouldn’t spend a draft pick on any of them in standard-sized leagues.
I was already skeptical about Eric Ebron’s ability to recreate last year’s 13-touchdown season, and Luck’s retirement now makes that a virtual impossibility. On top of that, Jack Doyle – who finished as TE8 with Brissett throwing to him in 2017 – is back in the mix after missing 10 games last season. Unless one of these tight ends gets injured, I would avoid both guys in leagues with 12 teams or fewer. If you’re in a deep league, then either player could be a starting option, although it’s impossible to know which one will be better. Ebron’s production and athletic profile make him my preferred option of the two, but Doyle saw significantly more snaps in five of the six games he and Ebron played together, so there’s a decent chance Doyle puts up better numbers.