Bust-a-Move: The Andrew Luck comeback begins

Every season, we do our best to predict who the big sleepers and breakout candidates are going to be. Every season, we get a few of them wrong -- very wrong. But just because a certain player goes bust one year doesn't mean they'll be a bust forever. Welcome to "Bust-a-Move", where we're breaking down some of 2015's biggest fantasy football disappointments to determine if you can expect some stat sheet salvation in 2016.

As the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck made good on his hype with a top-10 fantasy finish among quarterbacks. When he followed that up with top five finishes in the next two seasons, we all believed that the next great fantasy quarterback had arrived.

"What's going to stop Andrew Luck from being the top fantasy quarterback in 2015?" At least that's how the conventional wisdom went. This is the part when I remind you that conventional wisdom isn't always so conventional. Nor is it always wisdom.

A large portion of Luck's frustrating 2015 was due to multiple injuries that put him on the shelf for much of the season. But even when Luck was on the field, he struggled for long stretches. Once again, conventional wisdom would suggest that a player of Luck's caliber should rebound to his previous form. But, well ... you know.

What went wrong

Luck has always been a bit of a risk taker in his young NFL career. Even in his best seasons, he was something of a turnover machine with double-digit interceptions in three of his four seasons. Were it not for the injuries that forced Luck to miss nine games last season, he would have been a prime candidate to win the inaugural Marc Bulger Award (given to the fantasy quarterback who succeeds in spite of himself).

The difference between 2015 and every other year for Luck is that he struggled enormously with his accuracy. When he wasn't overthrowing deep balls, he was badly underthrowing them. Most notably, Luck was frequently off-balance while making throws which lead to a number of passes sailing on him.

Perhaps the most surprising part is that Luck often had a tough time with intermediate throws. More than 80 percent of his picks last season (10-of-12) were thrown on passes covering fewer than 20 yards in the air. The range between 11 and 20 yards was particularly vexing with Luck completing just 42 percent of those tosses with six interceptions. Some of his best fantasy games last season came when he threw fewer than 10 passes in that range.

Later in the season, there were reports that Luck was battling a shoulder injury and played through the pain of fractured ribs before ultimately being sidelined with a lacerated kidney. That certainly can't be discounted when discussing Luck's uneven play in 2015. One also has to hope that it's the biggest reason his fundamentals went south last season.

What must improve

The first thing that needs to happen is Luck getting healthy. If he's back at 100 percent (or pretty close), then we'll have a better clue of what led to his bouts of erraticness last season. But just for added measure, Luck says he wants to get back to fundamentals -- especially in the area of footwork. That can only be a positive for a player with Luck's ability.

The next step in the Andrew Luck Resurrection Project would be helping him stay upright with through an improved offensive line. Two of the team's first three picks in this year's draft were spent on offensive linemen. That should help a group that was mediocre (at best) when protecting the quarterback last season. Indianapolis surrendered 37 sacks in 2015 -- including 15 when Luck was under center. But that doesn't take into account all of the quarterback hits that didn't result in a sack.

What we expect

This team was built around the strengths of Andrew Luck and if they're going to compete in an improved (but still winnable) AFC South, it will need to be primarily on the strength of his arm. With an aging Frank Gore leading an otherwise underwhelming running back corps, expect the Colts to lean quite heavily on Luck yet again this season.

Verdict: Chalk up last season as an anomaly due to poor health. If the offseason has been kind to Luck's recovery, he should once again be knocking on the door of being a top-five fantasy quarterback once again. Hopefully people in your fantasy league are blinded by short-term memory, which could cause Luck to slip in drafts. He has the makings of a potential draft bargain in 2016.

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