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Andrew Luck: A Case Study in Similarity Score Red Flags

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I didn’t set out to write an Andrew Luck hit piece.

If that’s what this seems like, I apologize, because I think his long-term prospects are somewhere in that rarified air with his predecessor, Peyton Manning. That stupid-high career ceiling doesn’t change a simple fact: Luck may be the most overvalued player in 2013 fantasy football drafts.

Luck is the sixth quarterback off the draft board today, and with Bruce Arians’ departure, Luck’s almost-league leading 18 interceptions and completion percentage in the Mark Sanchez range (54 percent) didn’t give you pause, I think rotoViz’s 2013 Quarterback Similarity Scores will.

They should, anyway.

Luck scored more fantasy points than all but seven signal callers in 2012, proving a godlike value for owners who snagged him in the 10th round. That’s great. And kudos to you if you got a QB1 almost for free.

It’s time to reset your Luck-loving brain for his latest fantasy iteration: A quarterback with a fairly low 2013 ceiling being drafted in the middle of the fifth round, five to nine rounds earlier than QBs projected by rotoViz Similarity Scores to average more fantasy points per game.

For the uninitiated, Similarity Scores give us the results of what similar players did after they had a season that was comparable to the subject player – in this case, Luck. These scores aren’t by any definition the final say in how a player will fare in 2013 – just as linear regressions are anything but a surefire model – but I’ve found the app more than a little helpful in understanding which guys to fade, and which guys to target, in 2013 fantasy drafts.

Jay Cutler in 2009 is probably Luck’s best 16-game comparison. Cutler threw for 3,666 yards, 27 touchdowns, and a rather shocking 26 interceptions that season. He was the 11th highest scoring fantasy quarterback this year. Cutler’s 252 points would’ve made him QB14 in 2012.

Plotting Luck’s Similarity Scores shows that his ceiling is somewhere around Brett Favre in 2001, when Favre racked up 3,921 yards, 32 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, adding up to 335 fantasy points. Favre’s 2001 numbers would’ve ranked fifth among QBs in 2012.

This upside, more than anything, shows why Luck shouldn’t be anything close to a fantasy pariah in 2013. At his current average draft position, however, he’d need to perform awfully close to his ceiling to validate owners who take him as the sixth QB off the board.

Put simply: You’re banking on Luck outperforming the vast majority of his projections if you’re going to break even on him at his current ADP.

And if Luck’s projected ceiling isn’t particularly inspiring, his fantasy floor is the stuff of a degenerate’s nightmare. The Similarity Score app puts his worst prospects around Drew Bledsoe’s 2003 season, a 16-game slog that saw the aging quarterback post 2,860 yards, 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Bledsoe’s 2003 season would’ve ranked one spot ahead of Ryan Tannehill in 2012, making him QB24.

A big, waving red flag should be slapping you in the face right about now.

Now for the part that could spur Luck fans and apologists to riot in their various streets. Here are quarterbacks projected by rotoViz to average more fantasy points per game than Luck in 2013.

Matt Ryan – QB9, 6th round ADP

Tony Romo – QB12, 8th round ADP

Eli Manning – QB13, 9th round ADP

Ben Roethlisberger – QB14, 10th round ADP

Joe Flacco – QB15, 11th round ADP

Michael Vick – QB17, 12th round ADP

Josh Freeman – QB18, 12th round ADP

Philip Rivers – QB20, 14th round ADP

Maybe you know that Luck had the fifth most attempts (627) in 2012, behind only Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, and Tom Brady. He had the second most drop backs of any quarterback, trailing only the constantly-throwing machine that is Stafford.

I don’t think anyone is expecting Luck to throw as often this season, as Colts coaches have talked up the running game that was largely ignored by the pass-happy Arians in 2012. This by itself doesn’t dampen Luck’s 2013 prospects, but I don’t think it helps either.

Perhaps one mitigating factor that we should consider when looking at Luck’s similarity scores is that they are not adjusted for QB age.  Adding in QB age as a variable doesn’t improve the accuracy of all of the QB projections, but there is a chance that it would improve the accuracy of the similarity scores as they related to young QBs specifically.  In addition, if we removed Luck’s comparables players that got benched in the season after they were similar to Luck, it would also improve his projection.

Andrew Luck Comparables in Season N+1 (With Benched QBs Removed)

NAME SEAS GMS ATTS COMPS CMPPCT PYDS PTDS INTS
Jay Cutler 2009 16 34.69 21.00 0.61 228.81 1.69 1.62
Drew Bledsoe 2003 16 29.44 17.12 0.58 178.69 0.69 0.75
Aaron Brooks 2005 13 33.31 18.46 0.55 220.62 1.00 1.31
Brett Favre 2001 16 32.00 19.69 0.62 244.75 2.00 0.94
Jon Kitna 2007 16 35.25 22.19 0.63 253.81 1.12 1.31
Jason Campbell 2010 13 25.31 14.92 0.59 182.62 1.00 0.62
Peyton Manning 2003 16 35.38 23.69 0.67 266.69 1.81 0.62
Donovan McNabb 2009 14 31.64 19.07 0.60 253.64 1.57 0.71
Ryan Fitzpatrick 2012 16 31.69 19.12 0.60 211.19 1.50 1.00
Marc Bulger 2005 8 36.00 24.00 0.67 286.50 1.75 1.00
Ben Roethlisberger 2012 13 34.46 21.77 0.63 249.38 1.92 0.62
Matt Cassel 2009 15 33.07 18.20 0.55 194.67 1.07 1.07
Mark Brunell 2001 15 31.47 19.20 0.61 219.47 1.27 0.87
Aaron Rodgers 2009 16 33.81 21.88 0.65 276.94 1.88 0.44
Aaron Brooks 2003 16 32.56 19.12 0.59 217.12 1.50 0.50
Elvis Grbac 2001 14 33.36 18.93 0.57 216.29 1.07 1.29
Jake Plummer 2005 16 28.50 17.31 0.61 210.25 1.12 0.44
Jay Cutler 2011 10 31.50 18.20 0.58 231.50 1.30 0.70
Average 0.61 230.16 1.40 0.88

However, there are far too many high-upside, low-risk quarterback options for you to invest in Luck at QB6 this summer. Your draft board will be littered with late-round quarterbacks with top-12 potential.

Unless his ADP – for whatever reason – plummets in the next four months, take a cue from the Similarity Score app and take a pass on Luck.

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