Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s 2017 season ended before it began. On November 2nd, 2017 the Colts placed Luck on season ending injured reserve with an ongoing labrum injury in his throwing shoulder. Luck was supposed to miss the first game or two of season, then it turned into the first six weeks and finally ended with him not playing at all in 2017.
To be clear: People within the Colts org have legitimate concerns as to whether Andrew Luck will ever play again. Not everyone is on the same page with GM Chris Ballard when he said last week that Luck's injury wasn't career-threatening.
— Brad Wells (@BradWellsNFL) November 7, 2017
Luck initially injured his shoulder during week three of the 2015 season and missed the following week’s game. Then during the 2016 preseason, Luck re-injured his shoulder, only worse this time, but played with the labrum tear for the entire 2016 season. Luck then had surgery in January 2017 to fix the issue. However, Luck suffered pain while rehabbing at practice in mid October and the team decided to shut him down.
So should the Colts look for Luck’s replacement during the 2018 draft? Let’s take a look at both sides.
The Case For
Over his first five NFL seasons, Luck has suffered four injuries that have caused him to miss at least one regular season game. By the time the 2017 season ends, Luck will have missed 27% of his career games (26 out of 96 games). Furthermore, there has been speculation that Luck’s career could be in jeopardy.
The Colts are looking at a likely top five pick in the 2018 draft and could be in position to take an elite quarterback prospect. The last time the Colts picked in the top five was in 2012 (when they drafted Luck) and in the season leading up to that draft, Peyton Manning missed the whole year with his neck injury. The team took advantage of drafting an elite quarterback prospect and moved on from Manning.
If the Colts really like one of the quarterback prospects in this draft, the team could always try to trade Luck to a QB needy team (Jets, Jaguars, Broncos, among others) for a kings ransom of draft picks and young talent. However, that would seem unlikely as if the Colts feel Luck’s career is over it’s safe to assume the rest of the league would feel similarly.
The Case Against
To put it simply, if the team’s medical staff feels Luck will make a full recovery, there is ZERO reason why the Colts should move on from Luck or draft his replacement. Yes, Luck has missed 27% of games and that may scare many people. However, Luck isn’t injury prone but rather unlucky. Luck has suffered two major injuries in his career that have led to the majority of his games missed. His torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and a lacerated kidney have been the cause of 24 out of 26 missed games. Both injuries are rare and not your typical ACL tear.
When Luck is healthy, he has been one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the league. Luck never missed a game in his first three seasons, as he posted averages of 4,319 passing yards and 33 total touchdowns per season, while finishing with an 11-5 record each season. Furthermore, Luck has regular season career averages of 2.1 touchdowns and 293 total yards per game, while compiling a 3-3 playoff record and an AFC championship game appearance in 2014.
If Luck is healthy, the team would be better off using that top five pick on an elite offensive lineman prospect or trading the pick to a quarterback needy team in a mega Robert Griffin like trade for many picks and young players. With several new picks and young players, the Colts can put a more complete team around Luck. Without Luck, the Colts roster has looked even more exposed than in year’s past.
The argument could be made either way on what the Colts should do about Luck and their quarterback position. However, the Colts’ decision is likely to come down to Luck’s health. If the team doctors are confident that Luck will return to his old form, it makes no sense for the team to replace him. Furthermore, the Colts know what kind of player Luck is when healthy, but who are they going to take out of this class to replace him? Who really knows if any of the 2018 draft QB prospects will be franchise QBs or busts.
However, the Colts should protect themselves if Luck’s shoulder become a long-term issue. To do that, the team shouldn’t trade Jacoby Brissett unless they are offered a “too good to pass up” offer; which isn’t likely. Brissett has shown flashes of being a starting caliber quarterback and at the very least will give the Colts the best backup they’ve had behind Luck.
Furthermore, while the Colts shouldn’t spend their first round pick or even a day two pick on a QB, they should spend a day three pick on a developmental quarterback. Now I think almost every team should do this during every draft because quarterbacks are worth their weight in gold on the trade market. If the Colts can develop a young quarterback with starting abilities, that gives them one more asset to trade for picks to build around Luck. And if Luck’s career ends prematurely because of his shoulder, a development quarterback could turn into the next Kirk Cousins.
Bottom-line with Luck is simple: if he is healthy, he is the guy and the Colts needs to use their top five pick to build around him. If Luck isn’t healthy, they need to make alternative plans at QB which would include Brissett and an early pick spent on a QB prospect.