We will grapple with the questions from Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement for years. There are also questions about how Luck’s retirement will affect the rest of the Colts for fantasy football purposes, and with the season starting in just 10 days we have no choice but to examine them. Let’s look at the players on Indy’s offense affected by Luck’s departure.
Jacoby Brissett, Quarterback
Brissett replaces Luck for the second time in two years. The drop-off is undeniable, but not as steep as it may seem. Indy acquired Brissett from the Patriots the week before the 2017 season began while Luck dealt with a shoulder injury that cost him the entire year. Brisset took over as the starter in Week 2 and started 15 games, throwing 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions and averaging 193.6 passing yards per game. There were a lot of growing pains for the inexperienced quarterback playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in football, highlighted by a league-leading 52 sacks. The Colts finished 4-12.
There are plenty of reasons to believe Brissett will be far better this year than in 2017. First, he wasn’t added to the team the week before the season began. Always a plus. The difficulty of a second-year quarterback taking over as the starter on a new team cannot be overstated. Instead of two weeks, Brissett has been in this offense for two years. The current offense designed by head coach Frank Reich is built around quick passes and should be a far better fit for Brissett than the offense the team ran out in 2017. The players are better too. General manager Chris Ballard swapped out Jeremy Vujnovich for Quenton Nelson at guard and Le’Raven Clark for Braden Smith at right tackle to fill in alongside left tackle Anthony Castonzo and center Ryan Kelly. Luck was sacked just 18 times in 2018, the fewest in the league for any qualified starter and the lowest of his career in a full season by far, so Brissett could easily see the 52 sacks from 2017 cut in half this year. Instead of getting two weeks to learn a bad offense and then playing behind a bad line, he’s had a year and a half to learn a good offense behind a great line. That could illuminate Brissett’s skill set. He does not have Luck’s accuracy or ability. But Brissett has a big arm—hence his being subbed in for that Hail Mary last year—and the poise in the pocket to keep his eyes downfield as he takes on pressure.
Fantasy-wise, Brissett could be a decent streaming option. From when he became a starter in Week 2 through Week 16, when most fantasy seasons end, Brissett was the 16th-highest-scoring quarterback, two spots ahead of Matt Ryan. That performance was buoyed by 260 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He should keep the offense chugging enough that it won’t see the usual drop-off teams typically do when they lose their starting QB.
Marlon Mack, Running Back
Mack’s value takes a hit. The Colts offense without Luck will be less likely to get first downs, leaving Mack fewer snaps on the field. He also lost a lot of potential fourth-quarter carries: Instead of giving Mack plenty of opportunities to bleed the clock with a late lead, the Colts may find themselves playing catch-up. This could help Mack if the Colts are committed to making him a three-down back, but it may also lead to more snaps for pass-catching back Nyheim Hines. Mack dropped 21 spots in the Fantasy Pros consensus rankings from no. 26 overall to no. 47 over the weekend, going from a solid second running back to a solid third running back or flex option.
Mack may be a value at that spot because most of the other running backs behind him on the depth chart aren’t healthy. Second-year back Jordan Wilkins has sat out practice with a foot injury. Spencer Ware is still on the physically unable to perform list, free-agent signing D’Onta Foreman was waived last week, and Jonathan Williams broke a rib this preseason. Mack may be taking the lion’s share of carries simply because he has to, and even on a lesser offense that could make him a tremendous value if he falls outside the top 50 players.
T.Y. Hilton, Wide Receiver
Hilton falls the furthest with this news. On Fantasy Pros, Hilton’s consensus expert ranking has fallen from no. 24 overall to no. 55, dropping from just outside the top 10 at his position around Oakland’s Antonio Brown and Minnesota’s Adam Thielen to the top 25 among wide receivers, roughly around Atlanta’s Calvin Ridley and Philadelphia’s Alshon Jeffery. The fall is understandable. Hilton’s 2017 with Brissett was the only season of his career with fewer than five receiving touchdowns and the first time since he was a rookie he’s failed to break 1,000 receiving yards or surpass 60 receptions. The Colts have more receiving options now with receivers Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell and tight ends Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle, who could take more of Brissett’s attention away from Hilton, making him even more of a boom-or-bust play. But Hilton may be falling too far. Even in 2017 Hilton still was the 20th-best fantasy receiver from Week 2 to Week 16—though more than half of his 966 receiving yards came in three games. The Colts offense will be better than it was two years ago, suggesting Hilton could still be a top-20 receiver who could fall outside the top 30 at his position in some drafts.
One of the players who finished above Hilton in 2017 was Funchess, the former Panthers receiver now in Indianapolis on a one-year contract. It’s far murkier how this will affect Funchess since Brissett and Hilton have a track record. Funchess has fallen from a late-draft flier outside the top 130 to undrafted in most leagues. He was an intriguing sleeper earlier this month but may face more competition for snaps from receiver Deon Cain as their season goes on.
Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle, Tight Ends
The Colts tight ends were already a tough bet before Luck’s retirement. Ebron’s 13 receiving touchdowns last year were more than he had in the rest of his four seasons combined (11), so he’ll almost certainly score fewer in 2019. After Luck’s retirement, he fell from no. 99 overall on Fantasy Pros’ consensus rankings to no. 140 overall, dropping from the 10th tight end off the board to the 18th. That might still be too high. Doyle significantly out-snapped Ebron, had more targets, red zone targets, and ran more routes in the five full games they played together last year. Following Saturday’s news, Doyle’s now going undrafted in standard leagues. Neither is worth more than a late-round pick and may not be worth a pick at all, though it’s worth monitoring how the Colts distribute the ball in the first few weeks of the season to see whether either emerges above the other.