When Andrew Luck throws, the result is often a perfectly-placed spiral, a sight we saw often last night during the latest Colts uprising, and the latest reminder that the Jacksonville Jaguars are clinging to their status as a professional football team.
The spirals and passing proficiency were expected, as is the case with any first-overall pick at the quarterback position. The running and scoring wasn’t, or at least not to this extent.
Luck has only attempted 34 carries this year, a lowly average of just 3.7 per game. Yet 14 percent of those attempts have ended with him in the opposition’s end zone, an unexpected goal-line efficiency that’s added to his already climbing fantasy value.
After scoring twice more last night for five total rushing touchdowns this year, there are now only six players in the league with more rushing TDs than Luck. And although this is still subject to change, as of right now he still plays quarterback. Not running back.
There really isn’t much separation either, as ahead of Luck there are four players tied with six rushing TDs apiece, and then one with seven (Doug Martin) before there’s a bit of a gap when we get to Arian Foster at the top (10). One of those in the cluster with six TDs is Robert Griffin III. You may know him from previous rushing action films such as “76-yard gash of the Vikings,” a critically-acclaimed hit.
There’s a lengthy list of running backs behind Luck in rushing scores, most notably Matt Forte (3), Chris Johnson (3), and Jamaal Charles (2), all of whom were drafted significantly ahead of the Colts rookie. But perhaps an even more significant name is that of Cam Newton, who set the single-season rushing touchdown record for quarterbacks a year ago with 14, and he now has just four at midseason.
Luck and Griffin will forever be connected since people who wish to compare them simply because they were in the same draft — the simplest, easiest comparison for the lowest common denominator — will always exist. But no one is comparing their running skills on the most basic level: how fast they can run. Griffin has 529 rushing yards at a pace of 58.7 per game, a weekly average that’s only about 100 yards less than Luck’s overall rushing yardage (159 yards).
But when we consider that massive gap in overall yardage — a chasm of 370 yards — the difference in fantasy points gained from rushing yards between the two isn’t as large as it likely should be, as Luck has 45 points on the ground, while Griffin has 88. Of Luck’s 140 overall points, 32.1 percent of them have come through rushing, a large chunk for a rookie quarterback who’s far less known for his running skill. Griffin’s percentage is 48.3, a gap that again seems small.
Now that we’ve indulged the stereotypical Luck-Griffin comparison, here’s a better one for rushing purposes that was mentioned by Mike Mayock last night: Aaron Rodgers. Although he hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown yet this year so his fantasy points through rushing are lagging, Rodgers has 162 rushing yards, putting Luck only three yards behind. Rodgers and Luck are currently the best rushing QBs not named Griffin, Newton, or Vick, the trio that immediately comes to mind when the mobile QB moniker is tossed around.
Last night Luck played only his ninth career game, and yet he’s already tied Rodgers’ single-season high in rushing touchdowns, and after recording a 50-yard rushing game earlier this year he’s also only seven yards behind Rodgers’ career single-game high.
Is there some happenstance to such a scoring trend when we’re discussing Luck, a quarterback who averages only 4.7 yards per carry while, say, Griffin is moving along at 6.5? Yep, certainly. A goal-line opportunity is required for Luck to score on the ground, while Griffin and Newton can explode to create their scoring by finding green grass and breaking away for long runs.
But what we have here in this early trend with Luck is an unexpected addition to his arsenal that’s accounted for a significant chunk of his fantasy production. We knew Luck would be athletic, and we knew when he came out of Stanford that he wouldn’t be your typical stationary pocket passer. His 957 rushing yards over three years in college (only 157 of which came in this final year) didn’t indicate anything otherwise, but despite that he still only scored seven touchdowns as a Cardinal.
Now he’s already just two scores shy of that mark midway through his first professional season.