Juggernaut Index, No. 9: The Indianapolis Colts

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Juggernaut Index, No. 9: The Indianapolis Colts
Juggernaut Index, No. 9: The Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck has passed for more yardage over his first two NFL seasons (8,196) than any quarterback in league history. He just needs to throw for another 46,633 and he'll own the all-time Colts career passing mark. So that's practically in the bag.

Luck is, without question, one of the game's most talented young QBs, and he clearly made gains in his second pro season. His yardage total may have dipped, but his completion percentage jumped from 54.1 to 60.2. Luck also slashed his interceptions from 18 to nine, he absorbed fewer sacks and he led his team to its second straight 11-win season. We should note that he did all this despite playing behind an O-line that made him the most-hit quarterback in the league (again), and despite season-ending injuries to key members of his receiving corps (Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen).

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In a nutshell, Luck is pretty great. He won't turn 25 until September, so he's still just a kid — eligible for coverage under his parents' insurance, in fact. It's not unreasonable to project a top-5 position finish for Luck in 2014. He figures to be an upper-tier fantasy QB for perhaps the next decade. The weapons at his disposal are excellent this season, plus there's an underrated rushing component to his game (nine career rush TDs). Thus, he shouldn't need to exceed 600 pass attempts, like he did as a rookie (627), in order to again finish among the top scorers at QB. Draft and enjoy.

Reggie Wayne gets back to work (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Reggie Wayne gets back to work (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Reggie Wayne suffered a torn ACL and meniscus last October, which brought an end to his streak of 189 consecutive games played. At the time of the injury, Wayne was easily on pace for another 1,000-yard season, which would have been his ninth in 10 years. Wayne has never really been a red-zone monster, but he's a highly competitive receiver with sure hands, and he's clearly a gifted route runner. He's an all-timer, basically. His rapport with Luck is well known, as the pair combined for 106 completions in 2012. All of the offseason reports on Wayne's recovery have been positive (like this one), and he's returning on a reasonable timeline. With a mid-draft ADP (98.9), Wayne offers minimal risk and significant profit potential. Sometimes, the old and boring guys are the right picks.

Third-year receiver T.Y. Hilton was tremendous in 2013, hauling in 82 balls for 1,083 yards on 132 targets and visiting the end zone five times. In the postseason, he was ridiculous, blowing up for 327 yards and two TDs over two games. Hilton averaged 7.7 targets per game while Wayne was healthy and 9.3 in the weeks that followed, so maybe he won't quite match last year's receiving volume. Still, you shouldn't assume his opportunities will drop substantially. He's a talented wideout with Luck's full confidence, a player at the border of the WR2/WR3 line for fantasy purposes. Hilton, like most starting-quality receivers, should have a couple of monster weeks and a few duds, with a bunch of 45-to-60-yard efforts throughout the year.

Hakeem Nicks is new in Indy, signed to a one-year make-good deal. It's tempting to refer to Nicks as "inconsistent," except that he was actually the most consistent player in the game last season — he never scored, not once. Zero touchdowns on his 56 receptions for the Giants in 2013, despite his three 100-yard games. Nicks didn't exactly fire up the locals during camp, but we know the man has 1,000-yard talent. He's twice reached that plateau in his five-year career. Nicks opens the season as the presumptive No. 3 target in this team's passing game, more a bench-worthy flier than fantasy starter. But he's a once-great receiver tied to a now-great quarterback, so he's clearly worth a look. Mississippi rookie Donte Moncrief could sneak into the fantasy conversation this year — he's already a smart dynasty target — as he's ascended to the No. 4 receiver spot on the depth chart. He's a size/speed combo player (6-foot-2, 4.4) with a near-40-inch vertical, a guy who looks the part of a dangerous deep threat. Here's a highlight reel, deep leaguers. Moncrief is a rookie of interest.

Allen is a quality all-around tight end who was ticketed for a significant role last season, but was limited to all but 32 snaps due to injury (hip). The Colts will line up two tight ends regularly, so both Allen and Coby Fleener will have opportunities, though neither projects as a high-yardage player. You're hoping for red-zone looks with these guys; they're probably not on your cheat sheet in 10- and 12-team leagues, where you won't need to roster bench TEs.

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The Indianapolis rushing attack often looked like this last season, unless Donald Brown (5.3 YPC) was running the football. Brown is now with the Chargers, so the backfield is basically down to Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. Richardson was abysmal last season for Indy, averaging just 2.9 YPC, giving the team just one run of 20-plus yards on his 157 attempts. In fact, we're now 455 carries into T-Rich's pro career, and he's produced only three runs of 20-plus yards (and none of 40). What I'm saying is, there is currently no evidence to suggest that Richardson is a starting-quality NFL running back. He might lurch into the end-zone a few times if he maintains the lead role in this backfield somehow, but it's tough to imagine a respectable season in terms of scrimmage yards.

You'll no doubt recall this quote about Richardson, upon his arrival in Indianapolis ...

But that now seems like a cruel joke. Instead, Richardson has been a rolling ball of ... what? Dryer lint? Not sure, but it's nothing as threatening as knives. Crazy things happen in the NFL each season, so perhaps there's a chance for an eventual Thomas Jones-like value jump from T-Rich. If you can draft him as a decoration for your bench — a player you won't mind cutting, if/when he struggles — then I'm willing to look the other way. Just don't draft yourself into a scenario in which you need him to be effective.

Bradshaw is still only 28 years old, though he has a deep history of ankle, foot and other issues. He underwent neck surgery last fall, ending his season after 41 carries. Still, he's the guy behind an unimpressive starter and he's tied to a potentially great offense, so he deserves fantasy attention. Bradshaw has averaged 4.6 YPC for his career, which is 1.3 more than T-Rich. Keep him in your end-game plans.

The Indianapolis defense is absolutely buried in our preseason ranks, the team will be without Robert Mathis until Week 5 due to suspension, and the Colts open the season with matchups against Denver and Philadelphia. Interested? Me either. Draft D'Qwell Jackson in IDP leagues, then try to forget this defense.

2013 team stats: 24.4 PPG (NFL rank 15), 247.0 pass YPG (18), 23 pass TDs (19), 108.9 rush YPG (21), 25.6 rush attempts per game (23), 36.4 pass attempts per game (15)

Previous Juggernaut Index entries: 32. Oakland, 31. Miami, 30. Jacksonville, 29. NY Jets, 28. Tennessee, 27. Cleveland, 26. Baltimore, 25. Carolina, 24. Buffalo, 23. Tampa Bay, 22. St. Louis, 21. NY Giants, 20. Kansas City, 19. Houston, 18. Arizona, 17. Minnesota, 16. Pittsburgh, 15. San Diego, 14. San Francisco, 13. Atlanta, 12. Cincinnati, 11. Washington, 10. New England

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