Early 2016 Projections: The Indianapolis Colts, or Why Andrew Luck Is a Bargain

Now that the NFL draft is over and the high-impact free agents have found their homes, we can starting doing some early 2016 fantasy football projections. Today: the Indianapolis Colts, including why Andrew Luck is a bargain.

First things first, using our staff projection machine I set some baseline team-wide assumptions:

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I went with the league median for average scoring margin. While the team has an impressive win-loss record with Andrew Luck, there’s a reason they only went 2-5 with him last year. It is not a particularly strong team, in my opinion. For pass tendency (how often they pass relative to expectations) and pace tendency (how many total plays they run relative to expectations) I went with the means of their 2013 to 2015 numbers. I was not overly worried about their 2015 numbers being misrepresentative due to Luck’s absence for much of the season because their 2015 pace and pass tendencies were actually in-between their 2013 and 2014 numbers.

Quarterback

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For yards per carry, percentage of team rushes, interception rate, and sack rate I went with the means of Luck’s 2013 to 2015 numbers. We have a fairly large sample on Luck, so I have a relatively high degree of confidence in this projection.

This projection gives Luck the highest projection of any QB I have projected thus far, though I should mention that I have yet to project Russell Wilson or Cam Newton. I have however projected the likes of Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, and Tony Romo. I have Brees, Rivers, Romo, and Andy Dalton projected for more impressive passing seasons, but ultimately Luck’s rushing contributions give him the edge. Per the Best Ball ADP App, Luck is currently being drafted in the sixth round. While I wouldn’t spend an early round pick on Luck, you currently don’t have to. He’s a bargain at his current price. Additionally, he could easily outperform this projection due to potential wide receiver breakouts, which I will discuss below.

Wide Receivers

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For TY Hilton’s yards per target, catch rate, and touchdown rate, I went with his means from 2013 to 2015. His percentage of the team’s targets over that timeframe was a little below the league-wide median for a team’s WR1, so I went ahead and bumped it up to there since the team has shed the likes of Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, and Coby Fleener over that timeframe. The almost 16.0 PPR fantasy points per game projected here would have made him the WR20 last season. Hilton is currently being drafted as the WR16. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s overpriced; he was the WR12 on a per game basis in 2014. But you’re not getting a huge discount or anything.

I gave modest bumps to Donte Moncrief’s 2015 numbers. That meant raising his catch rate and yards per target to the league-wide medians for a WR2, and raising his percentage of team targets and TD rate to the 75th percentile for a WR2. I did that because Moncrief should still be improving based on his age and level of experience. This projection works out to 13.2 PPG, which would have made Moncrief the WR31 on a per game basis in 2015. Moncrief is currently being drafted as the WR24.

This projection does not qualify as the breakout some may be expecting or hoping for, but it is important to note that to project a breakout you almost have to make a conscious effort to do so. This should merely be considered a baseline projection. It should not be taken as skepticism that he will break out. The difference between WR24 and WR31 is minimal enough1 that I think the odds of a breakout make it in your favor to target Moncrief.2

You can see that Phillip Dorsett’s projection is rather uninspiring. But it’s still a notable improvement over what was a thoroughly mediocre rookie campaign. I set his share of team targets, TD rate, and yards per target to the median for a WR3. I set his catch rate to the 25th percentile since he is typically considered a deep-threat WR, even if that isn’t borne out in his 12.5 yards per reception as a rookie. Much like Moncrief, Dorsett breaking out would also provide a boost to Andrew Luck’s prospects.

For the rest of the WRs, I just went with means from the 2013 to 2015 seasons.

Tight Ends

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This was a bit tricky, as Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener have had to contend with each other their entire careers, and to the extent that Allen’s been injured it just makes the situation trickier. I ultimately set his target percentage to 15 percent, which is about where Fleener’s has been over the last three seasons as the primary receiving TE. I’ll admit to not being fully confident about that projection. This very well could be overly conservative. I went with his mean from 2013 to 2015 for catch rate. I set his TD rate to the 75th percentile. His rate over the last three years has actually been higher than that, but I suspect it will lower as his usage becomes less concentrated to the red zone. I bumped his yards per target up to the median, as his mean from the last three seasons was just a tad below it. At under 10.0 PPG, this isn’t a particularly notable projection. But if you view it as his floor, he may be worth targeting anyway, especially as he is only being drafted as the TE14.

For the TE2, I just went with league-wide medians.

Running Backs

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For Frank Gore’s target share and percentage of team rushing attempts I just went with his 2015 usage. I set his yards per carry and TD rate to the league-wide medians for a RB1. I set his yards per target and catch rate to the 25th percentile mark, as Gore struggled as a receiver last year, and really, his receiving usage fell off of a cliff all the way back in 2011. Gore would have been the RB15 on a per-game basis last year at 14.4 PPG. He is currently being drafted as the RB29. Charles Kleinheksel thinks people are underselling him.

Don’t know who Josh Ferguson is? Ben Gretch would be happy to tell you why Ferguson to Indianapolis was his favorite match of the draft. I set his percentage of rushing attempts to the 25th percentile mark for a RB2, his yards per carry and TD rate to the medians, and his receiving variables to the 75th percentile mark.

I set Robert Turbin’s percentage of the rushing attempts and targets to the 25th percentile marks for a RB3, his TD rate to zero, and the rest of his variables to the medians.

  1. Less than 2.0 PPG last season.  (back)
  2. At least in a vacuum, there may be other WRs available that are better picks.  (back)
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