Colts Fantasy Preview

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2020 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 6,049 (10th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 44 (14th)
Offensive Plays: 1,062 (16th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 573 (23rd)
Rush Attempts: 459 (10th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 84 (19th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 39 (23rd)

Coaching Staff

The Colts are going through a coaching staff overhaul this year, losing a handful of members to promotions from other teams. Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni was hired to lead the Eagles and he took cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon with him as well. Hiring from within, the Colts elevated quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady to the position of offensive coordinator. All of this may signal a lack of continuity for Indianapolis but Frank Reich remains at the helm. Under Reich, the Colts have finished top-10 in points and yards in two of three seasons. Reich is an adaptable play-caller, shifting from run-focused to pass-heavy depending on the quality of his quarterback play. With Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett under center in the past two seasons, Indianapolis has been a top-10 team by rush attempts. When Andrew Luck was under center, Reich dialed up the second-most passing plays in the league and chose to throw on 61.6-percent of his plays. Not married to any one style of football, the Colts’ approach on offense will hinge on the success or failure of their newly acquired quarterback, Carson Wentz.

Passing Game

QB: Carson Wentz, Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger
WR: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal
WR: Michael Pittman, Dezmon Patmon
WR: Parris Campbell, J.J. Nelson
TE: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox

Indianapolis traded a third and second-round pick for Wentz, who was coming off a meltdown year with the Eagles, in the spring. The second-rounder can become a first-round pick if Wentz plays 75-percent of the Colts' offensive snaps or 70-percent and the team makes the playoffs. Wentz was available for trade because of his ghastly performance in 2020. He made every back-breaking mistake possible before getting benched for Jalen Hurts. Wentz led the league in interceptions (15) and sacks (50) while only playing in 12 games. The greatest scientists and statisticians of our time have yet to figure out how this was even possible. Pro Football Focus graded Wentz as their No. 35 quarterback (min. 100 pass attempts). To his defense, Wentz was not put in a place to succeed by any stretch of the imagination. His former team set the record for different combinations of offensive line starters within a single season dating back to 1983. His receivers offered no assistance either. He’ll go from an offensive line that couldn’t field the same unit in consecutive weeks in Philly to an elite unit with the Colts. His receiver room remains a question mark though.

T.Y. Hilton slouched through the 2020 season, failing to reach 100 yards until Week 12. It was the only time he topped the century mark last year. Hilton was an air yards connoisseur, finishing 23rd in air yards share among receivers. His efficiency lagged though, as he converted his air yards to actual yards at a rate of 65-percent. That was just below the rates of N’Keal Harry and Anthony Miller. At 31 years old, Hilton doesn't look capable of leading a receiving room anymore.

With Hilton clearly on the backend of his career, Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell will be asked to step up in 2021. Campbell suffered a knee injury in Week 2 of the 2020 season and missed the remainder of the year while Pittman missed three games and looked limited in others following surgery to repair compartment leg syndrome in his calf. At times, Pittman looked like his team’s No. 1 receiver and was the Colts’ go-to weapon in the air. Those moments were infrequent but showed that he could make a leap in his second season. Pittman has the size (6’4/223) to be an alpha receiver and showed that ability in his final season at USC when he racked up 1,275 receiving yards. Pittman doesn’t project as more than a WR4 but he has the upside to make his projection irrelevant within the first few weeks of the season. Wentz believers should be pairing him with Pittman in every fantasy draft.

Campbell is now two years into his NFL career and has less than 200 yards to his name. Injuries have plagued him but he did appear to be highly involved in the Indianapolis offense to open 2020. In Week 1, he tallied nine targets and a rush attempt, converting that into six catches and 80 scrimmage yards. Now fully recovered from the torn MCL and PCL, Campbell should be able to solidify himself as the team’s slot receiver in training camp. That role should suit him well as he was dynamic with the ball in his hands at Ohio State, excelling on short routes and as a kick returner. Although Campbell doesn’t have the immense upside that Pittman holds, his Best Ball ADP of WR64 still doesn’t capture the ceiling outcome.

The Colts’ tight ends may be fine at their real-life jobs in the NFL but they are comically underwhelming for fantasy purposes. Jack Doyle, a glorified third tackle, never topped 50 yards in a game last year. He’s done so just four times in the past three seasons. Mo Alie-Cox is the player to watch at this position. He finished fourth in yards per route run among tight ends (min. 30 targets) last year and averaged a staggering 10.1 yards per target. Those numbers won’t scale perfectly if he sees more volume but they do indicate that he has a level of playmaking ability that Doyle can only dream of. If MAC (we’re calling him MAC now) appears to be an every-down player in Week 1, fantasy managers should be tripping over themselves to add him.

Running Game

RB: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack
OL (L-R): Eric Fisher, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, Braden Smith

After beginning his career in sluggish fashion, Jonathan Taylor showed the world why Indianapolis took him at the top of the second round with a dominant stretch of games to close out the year. He rushed for 651 yards in his final five regular season contests. In that span, he out-carried Nyheim Hines and Justin Wilkins 97-34. One of the most productive runners in college football history, Taylor’s combination of tackle-breaking ability and top-end speed is uncanny. Neither Marlon Mack, returning from a torn Achilles’ tendon, nor Wilkins should take significant carries away from him. His only threat for work will be Hines, who served as the Colts’ pass-downs back last year.

Hines only earned 89 carries in 2020 but he did finish second on his team in targets. He saw 76 looks in the passing game but Phillip Rivers was notorious for his use of running backs as pass-catching threats. The switch to Carson Wentz could knock Hines down a peg, making him a less stable option in PPR leagues and a weekly gamble in half-PPR leagues. Interestingly, Reich deploys Hines in the red zone frequently, both as a receiver and a runner. Last year, Hines saw 26 red zone carries, five of which came inside his opponent’s five-yard line. He tacked on an additional 12 red zone targets which were only one behind the team’s leader, Zach Pascal.

Hines is a shifty runner with smooth hands but he has hit double-digit carries four times in his three-year career. He’s a viable FLEX option in leagues that award any amount of points for catches but even if Taylor goes down, he won’t earn a meaningfully larger role. Marlon Mack would reemerge as a between-the-tackles grinder in that scenario. Taylor doesn’t have stone hands either. He averaged 7.7 yards per target as a rookie and scored five receiving touchdowns on 25 receptions in his final collegiate season. The bull case for Taylor is that he consumes much of Hines’ pass-catching role on top of being a Derrick Henry level runner. If that ceiling comes to fruition, Taylor will be a top-three fantasy back in his second pro season.

Win Total

The Colts are lined at 9.5 wins, an optimistic outlook for a team taking on the Herculean task of fixing Wentz. However, Reich was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator in Wentz’s near-MVP season. If anyone can fix the broken passer, it would be Indy’s current head coach. Because of this, the Colts’ range of outcomes could be somewhat binary. If Wentz flops, they will fall many games short of 10 wins. If he looks like even a shade of his former self, they will run over the AFC South, a considerably soft division outside of the Titans. Because of that, a bet on Indianapolis to win their division at +105 odds may capitalize on their volatile nature more accurately.