As you rigorously prepare and research leading up to each fantasy football season, sometimes it’s fun to take a step back and look towards the future of the NFL. This feature is going to do just that, and while its focus won’t be fantasy related, maybe it sparks some thoughts for those of you pondering a keeper league strategy or something of that nature. The idea is simple: rank the top trade assets in the NFL (only including players at the skill positions on offense: QB/WR/RB/TE). Again, this has nothing to do with fantasy trades, this is in terms of how valuable these players are to their actual teams in the longterm. Yes, this means names like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be left off since it’s my list. I’m sure there will be plenty of debate, as everyone’s picks are likely different. So sit back, and enjoy the ride!

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No. 2: Andrew Luck — QB, Indianapolis Colts

Luck has been the real deal since the moment he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2012. The most simple way to identify Luck’s value is the fact that the Colts chose him over Peyton Manning more than three years ago now. With Manning still having a successful career in the AFC, the Colts have had no need to defend their choice. Luck’s been every bit of what he was expected to be.

Since Indy selected Luck, both the team and individual have improved each season.

As anticipated, Luck had no issues adjusting to the NFL, throwing for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns as a rookie. His 18 interceptions weren’t ideal, but considered part of the learning process. He immediately fixed the problem in his second season, throwing for 23 touchdowns once again, but only nine interceptions this time. Although his passing yards dipped in 2013, it’s important to remember that Luck is a duel threat QB when he needs to be. He didn’t put up Russell Wilson numbers on the ground, but his career-high 377 rushing yards and four touchdowns did help make up for his lack of yards through the air.

In his third season, Luck broke out just as he was expected to. The reason many saw him as 2015’s top ranked fantasy QB was due to his 4,761-yard, 40-touchdown performance in 2014, including 10 games of 300+ yards. Of course, Luck is off to his worst start yet in 2015, but the history suggests he’ll figure it out and turn things around.

The Colts have finished with an 11-5 record in each of Luck’s three seasons at the helm, but he’s made his team better when it counts as his career has progressed. He got his team to the postseason as a rookie — an accomplishment of it’s own — but was unable to win a Wild Card game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens.

Luck was right back in that Wild Card game the next season, this time leading his team past the Chiefs in an insane 45-44 comeback you may remember.  It was certainly improvement, but Indy went on to lose to New England in the Divisional round in a game that wasn’t close. Then, we all remember 2014, when Luck carried his team all the way to the AFC Championship game, including a road win against Manning’s Broncos, further justifying the organizations decision to go with Luck. I don’t think I need to remind you what happened in the AFC Championship game against New England.

Luck’s continued success made his team one of the Super Bowl favorites this season. Despite a rocky start, Luck brought his team back from 0-2 last season. After a big win on Sunday, he seems poised to do the same in 2015, but this time with championship aspirations.

Frankly, I don’t think this will be the Colt’s year. Not yet at least. But this is a big picture concept. When it comes down to it, there’s probably no organization with higher expectations for the next 10 seasons, and that’s all due to Luck. He very well could be No. 1 on this last, but in today’s NFL I think there’s one guy that remains more valuable.
Find me on Twitter @julianedlow

See below for more features from “NFL Trade Assets.”

Honorable Mention: Jameis Winston/Amari Cooper

10. Cam Newton

9. Odell Beckham Jr.

8. Demaryius Thomas

7. Antonio Brown

6. Dez Bryant

5. Russell Wilson

4. Julio Jones

3. Rob Gronkowski