September 01, 2008
The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. And we're finally near the end. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here, only fantasy potential. These rankings are not to be questioned.
It shouldn't be necessary for us to explain why, exactly, the Colts will have a terrific offense this season. We'll just remind you that they've finished among the NFL's top five in points and yards every year since 2003, and we'll refer you to the team statistics below (28.1 PPG and 358.7 YPG in '07).
In an era of unpredictability, they have been both consistent and excellent.
Indianapolis is the only team with a quarterback, running back and wide receiver ranked among the top five at their position for fantasy purposes. They also have the No. 6 tight end, the No. 7 kicker, and the No. 14 team defense.
It would be a severe understatement to say that there are lots of useful Colts. There are, in fact, many elite Colts. Let's review them by average draft position in Yahoo! leagues...
Joseph Addai, RB, ADP 6.0. Entering his third NFL season, Addai already has 23 career touchdowns. His workload was light over the final six games in 2007, but he was also dealing with an injury (or injuries) to his neck and/or shoulder and/or chest. (The Colts are not a dumb team. They reveal very little). Indianapolis has averaged 18 rushing touchdowns per season over the past three years, so it's not like the ground game is an afterthought. Addai will rarely fall beyond the seventh overall pick. If you're handcuffing, the picks are Dominic Rhodes and rookie sixth-rounder Mike Hart, not the recently cut Kenton Keith.
Manning said he hadn't worn a knee brace during his rehab. "Especially anybody that knows me, I wear tight jeans. There's no way a knee brace could fit under my blue jeans."
When our desire for fantasy information takes us inside Peyton Manning's pants, we've probably gone too far.
The Colts' QB hasn't missed a game in his pro career, and he's not going to miss the opener this season against the Bears. It's possible that the injury you should worry about belongs to an offensive lineman:
Jeff Saturday is weighing options that include playing with an injured right knee or undergoing surgery that could force the Indianapolis Colts' three-time Pro Bowl center to miss a good portion of the 2008 season.
"Jeff is trying to determine the best course of action to take," Ralph Cindrich, Saturday's agent, said Tuesday afternoon. "He could have surgery or he could strap it up and play."
The Colts actually selected a few centers in the draft, so they'll have replacement options.
Injury worries have caused Manning to drop to No. 4 in our preseason QB ranks, but it's important to note that he's basically been the most reliable player of the fantasy era. In Manning's worst seasons, he's still passed for more than 3700 yards and 25 touchdowns. He's thrown 30 or more TD passes in three of the past four seasons. Tom Brady has only reached that total once. (True, Brady only needed eight weeks to get there, but still).
If the Colts were panicked about Manning's knee, they would have kept more than two QBs on the roster.
Reggie Wayne, WR, ADP 15.9. It felt like Randy Moss broke every meaningful receiving record last season, but Wayne actually led the NFL in yardage (1510) and he had six more receptions than Moss. If you're a believer in the reemergence of Marvin Harrison, then maybe you're dropping Wayne a spot or two in the WR ranks. There's no reason to exclude him from the second tier, however, nor from the top six at his position. Wayne arguably offers less risk and fewer question marks than any other receiver.
Marvin Harrison, WR, ADP 47.9. Yes, he's playing, despite the knee issues that ruined his 2007. And yes, prior to those injuries he'd gone eight consecutive seasons with at least 80 receptions, 1100 yards, and double-digit touchdowns. And yeah, apparently he separates himself from gun charges as easily as he separates from DBs.
You're drafting Harrison in the fifth round as a WR2, just ahead of Calvin Johnson (ADP 48.8) and a full round before Roddy White (55.8) and Dwayne Bowe (59.0). That's not consistent with our preseason ranks, where Harrison is the No. 24 receiver behind Johnson at 19, White at 20, and Bowe at 23.
There's a difference between playing at peak level and merely playing; clearly we're not all convinced that the 36-year-old Harrison is about to have a vintage season. Notes like this from KFFL inspire little confidence:
Mike Chappell, of the Indianapolis Star, reports Indianapolis Colts WR Marvin Harrison (knee) did not shed much light on his condition when he talked to reporters Tuesday, Aug. 19. He offered no opinion on whether he is back to where he was before he suffered his left knee injury last season.
Dallas Clark, TE, ADP 54.5. In Harrison's absence last season, Clark had the best year of his career. He caught 58 passes, and nearly one in five resulted in a TD. He was fifth among tight ends in fantasy scoring last season (121 points). However, if you're bullish on Harrison, then you shouldn't reach for Clark in the sixth round, not with so many other high-ceiling TEs on the board.
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, ADP 100.0. This is everyone's favorite mid-round sleeper at WR, and you'll earn some "Nice pick" comments in draft chat when you take him. Gonzalez was terrific in Weeks 12-15 last season, catching 20 passes for 347 yards and three TDs. He was productive in the playoff loss to the Chargers, too, catching four passes for 79 yards, including a 55-yard TD that gave the Colts a fourth-quarter lead. Those of you drafting Harrison enthusiastically should consider Gonzalez three or four rounds later as a hedge.
The Colts' defense scored reasonably well last season in fantasy leagues (150 points), but they certainly don't face a soft schedule (.594). Non-division opponents include Minnesota, Green Bay, New England, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Cleveland and Cincinnati. The best IDP options on the Colts roster are Gary Brackett, Freddy Keiaho, Bob Sanders, Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. As with the Colts' offense, there are a bunch of useful defensive pieces to choose from.
Oh, and another thing: We haven't made a big deal about kickers here in the Index, but it's worth noting that Adam Vinatieri's longest field goal last season was 39 yards. He was 9-for-11 from 40-plus yards the prior year.
2007 Indianapolis team stats
Rushing: 106.6 Y/G
Passing: 252.1 Y/G
Points per game: 28.1
Red Zone possessions and TDs: 69, 39
'08 Schedule strength: .594
The rest of the Index...
32) Chicago, 31) Tennessee, 30) San Francisco, 29) Miami, 28) Baltimore, 27) NY Jets, 26) Oakland, 25) Tampa Bay, 24) Atlanta, 23) Houston, 22) Kansas City, 21) Buffalo, 20) Carolina, 19) Detroit, 18) Seattle, 17) Denver, 16) Washington, 15) St. Louis, 14) Minnesota, 13) Arizona, 12) Jacksonville, 11) Cincinnati, 10) Philadelphia, 9) Pittsburgh, 8) Green Bay, 7) NY Giants, 6) Cleveland, 5) New Orleans, 4) San Diego, 3) Indianapolis
Photos via Getty Images