2017 Fantasy Football: Indianapolis Colts Team Outlook
After making the playoffs 14 times over 16 seasons with a Super Bowl, the Colts have hit hard times over the last two years with no playoff berths. Missing the playoffs in 2015 was due to the injury to Andrew Luck. They've gone 8-8 in back-to-back years with too much weakness on their defense. Last season Indy allowed the 3rd most yards in the league while ranking 22nd in the league in points allowed. Chuck Pagano returns for his sixth season as head coach. He has a 49-31 career record with three playoff appearances. He earned his stripes on the defensive of the ball with his best success coming as the defensive coordinator for the Ravens in 2011. Ted Monachino takes over as the defense in 2017. Over the last six years, he has been the linebackers coach for Baltimore. This is a step up in job. With Luck back running the offense, the Colts finished 8th in the league in points scored (411), which was 78 more than 2015. They had the 10th best offense in the league in offense in yards. Rob Chudzinski improved in his second year as the offensive coordinator for Indy. He has 14 seasons of NFL coaching experience including one failed year as a head coach (4-12 – Browns in 2013).
Indianapolis lost four players off their defense – CB Patrick Robinson, S Mike Adams, LB Josh McNary, and DE Zach Kerr. Adams was the other player of value, but he'll start the year at age 36. They lost two backup type offensive lineman as well – Jonotthan Harrison and Hugh Thornton.
In effort to improve their defense, the Colts brought in seven new defensive players with best three options looking like DE Jabaal Sheard, LB John Simon, and LB Sean Spence. All three players played at the league average or better at their position in 2016. Sheard should be the best overall player with Simon only having one season of value on his resume. Barkevious Mingo could be a nice add if Indy can unlock the keys to his upside. He's been a bust over the last two seasons after the Browns selected him in the first round in 2013.
WR Kamar Aiken was added to improve the wide receiver depth. G Brian Schwenke will compete for a backup job in the offensive line. They signed Jeff Locke to take over the punting duties.
With their eight picks in this year's draft, the Colts added six defensive players with three coming in the secondary. In the first two rounds, Indianapolis selected Malik Hooker and CB Quincy Wilson.
Hooker will upgrade the pass coverage while offering excellent vision and feel of developing plays. He lacks impact speed and limited experience. Malik has weakness as a tackler and he could struggle when sucked into play coverage close to the line of scrimmage where his tackling and speed could be exposed. He won't be an edge in run support without improvement in his tackling technique. On the positive side, he tends to be a playmaker when he has a chance to get the ball in his hands.
Quincy fits the profile as a press corner with his best value coming when he wins his battle at the line of scrimmage. He plays with a physical style that will have value in run support. His technique and acceleration out of his backpedal are below par with questions about his ability to change directions. Quincy has some short area quickness. He may end up playing safety down the road.
In the third round, Indy drafted DE Tarell Basham. He's a raw passer rushing with limited moves while showing power and quickness at the point of attack. His game should offer more upside with coaching and development.
OT Zach Banner was added in the fourth round. Power is his game while being a massive man (6'8" and 353 Lbs.). He has solid hands with some questions with his reaction speed at the next level. Pass blocking looks to be an issue especially on the outside vs. a player with speed and quickness. Zach needs to keep his weight under control.
With their second pick in the 4th, the Colts invested in RB Marlon Mack. Home run type back who lacks the power to run between the tackles while lacking the vision to see big play cut back runs. Mack will have plus value in the open field if Indy can get him past the first level of the defense. Possible risk with the ball plus his value in the passing game and his ability in pass protection.
It's pretty clear that Indy wants to be more physical on defense. They added more thump to the defense with DT Grover Stewart with their third pick in the fourth round. I sense that this pick will offer high upside with better development in his technique and improvement in his hands. Grover will improve the run defense with enough power to push his way to the quarterback. He just needs to be more aggressive at the point of attack with a sense of urgency to beat his man.
With their two selections in the fifth round, Indianapolis grabbed two more defensive players – CB Nate Hairston and LB Anthony Walker. Hairston is a project due to him switching from WR to CB in 2016. He looks the part at times, but he's still a thinker leading to a lost step in coverage at times. For now he'll work in deep coverage until his reaction speed picks up along with his ability to dissect plays. Walker will need a clear run to have value while lacking the change of direction speed to be effective against backs on the move. Anthony will have some value in pass coverage.
The Colts finished 23rd in the league in rushing yards (1,628) with only eight rushing TDs and four runs over 20 yards (lowest in the NFL). They didn't have one run over 40 yards all season. Indy had 38 runs over 10 yards while posting a league-low 22 negative runs.
Their offensive line allowed 44 sacks and 128 QBs hits. Indy still threw for 4,202 yards (5th) with 32 passing TDs and 15 Ints.
LT Anthony Castonzo played well in the run game while finishing with a high grade as his position. The Colts drafted him in the first round in 2011. He's played in 61 of the last 64 games. The ability of Luck does help him.
LG Jack Mewhort was an asset again in 2016, but he only able to play ten games due to a knee injury. When healthy, his game tends to have value in both runs and pass protection. Indy picked him in the second round in 2014.
C Ryan Kelly ended up being a great find in the 2016 draft after the Colts drafted him in the first round. Kelly who projects as a possible Pro Bowler. Kelly offers an edge as run blocker with solid technique and understanding of his position. Ryan can play multiple interior positions with his upside tied to more added strength. He didn't allow a sack in his rookie season.
RG Denzelle Good started ten games in his second year in the league (7th round pick). He battled issue in September while his season ended after Week 13 with a concussion. Denzelle was a weak link on this line last season inviting job loss risk in 2017.
RT Le'Raven Clark work his way into a starting role over the last three games of 2016 thanks to some injuries. Indy drafted him in the third round in 2016. Clark has the makings of a top left tackle when he gets stronger. His foot quickness and hands give him an edge while also adding intelligence to his upside. Le'Raven has first round talent with improvement of his technique so he should be able to handle the right side of this line.
Joe Haeg will be in the mix for playing time as well after starting 14 games in his rookie season (5th round pick). He'll offer quickness and athletic ability to the offensive line, but Joe needs to add more strength while lacking experience against elite players due to playing at a small school (North Dakota St.).
The weakness in this line comes at right guard, but there is enough talent on this roster to offer upside from that spot in the starting lineup. This rest of the line has four players of value while all options need to improve in run blocking. It could be the chicken and egg theory as better play at the running back position could make this offense better in all areas. Frank Gore is just a grinder.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).
This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We'll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.
2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.
2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.
Overall, Indianapolis has a neutral schedule for their rushing offense. The 49ers look to be the best matchup based on 2016 data. They have three other games of value (CLE, BUF, and DEN). The Colts have four tough games (ARI, SEA, TEN, and BAL) on the ground.
On paper based on last year, Indy has one of the tougher schedules in the passing game. They have six tough games (DEN, ARI, JAX X 2, and HOU X 2) plus five other below par matchups (BUF, SEA, CIN, LAR< and BAL). The Colts have only two favorable games with both coming against the Titans.
Indy only ran the ball 409 times in 2016, which accounted for 41.2 percent of the offensive plays. They should throw the ball more in 2017, so It wouldn't surprise me to see over 600 pass attempts.
The Colts play three games (BUF and TEN X 2) with strength running the ball plus three teams with weakness on the ground (Rams, Broncos, and Ravens).
The passing defense catches a break by facing three bad teams throwing the ball (LAR, BUF, and SF) plus Houston had risk in the pass in 2017. I expect them to be improved in 2017. In addition, they have four other favorable matchups (CLE, TEN X 2, and DEN). Overall, Indy may have the easiest schedule vs. the pass.
The Colts finished 25th in the league in rushing yards allowed (1,926) with ball carriers gained 4.7 yards per rush while scoring 12 rushing TDs. They allowed ten runs over 20 yards.
Indy struggled to defend the pass (4,200 yards – 27th). QB threw 27 TDs and eight Ints with 33 sacks. Receivers caught 55 passes over 20 yards.
DT Johnathan Hankins signed a three-year $30 million contract in April. He only has ten sacks over his 52 games in the NFL. His best value will come defending the run. All of their options at defensive end will be in the development process, or they don't have offer upside.
The linebacker position will have new faces in 2017. Jabaal Sheard is a solid defensive end, but he'll be asked to play many plays at linebacker in this defense. He has 36 sacks over his 89 career games. LB Antonio Morrison saw limited action in his rookie season. Morrison is an attacking linebacker with more quickness than overall speed. He suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in early 2015 leading to him sliding to the fourth round in 2016. Antonio has an edge in strength while lacking size (6'1" and 232 lbs.). LB Sean Spence saw rotational value last year, which was his best year in the league. LB John Simon had almost similar value as Spence with a couple more sacks (5).
CB Vontae Davis had a regression in 2016 after being one of the best corners in the league over the previous couple of seasons. First round draft pick Malik Hooker is expected to start at free safety. He'll improve the pass coverage, but he has risk vs. the run and his tackling ability. CB Darius Butler was switched from CB to safety in 2016. He finished three picks, and seven defended passes over 12 games, but he does have risk in coverage. Butler will battle Clayton Geathers for playing time. Clayton missed seven games in his second year in the league due to a neck injury that required surgery. Geathers had value in run support with five defended passes. Indy has a weakness at the second cornerback position.
This defense has a ton of risk in all areas, which may be a good thing for anyone looking to roster any offensive player on this roster. The Colts will need to score to win games. I don't expect much improvement in 2017 even with the additions in the draft and free agency. The Colts' defense has no Fantasy value over the long haul in the season long games.
QB Andrew Luck, IND - Gamble (high risk)
Colts QB Andrew Luck was activated from the PUP list. While this is good news, it doesn't mean what some of you may think. Luck is most definitely missing Week 1 and most likely a few more weeks as well. This simply assures us that he'll be back before Week 6. Meanwhile, the Colts made contingency plans by trading for former Patriots QB Jacoby Brissett. Andrew Luck's season status is very much still uncertain.
I must admit that I didn't trust Luck in 2016 due to his questionable depth at the receiving positions. I even thought he was over-drafted. In the end, Andrew finished as top 5 QB despite missing a game. He passed for 4,240 yards with 33 combined TDs and 341 yards rushing. Over five years in the NFL, Luck has a 43-27 record while setting a career-high in his completion rate (63.5) and yards per pass attempt (7.8). He did this even with a career-high sack rate (7.0 percent). Over his last nine games played, Andrew had two TDs or more in eight games. He finished with five games with over 300 yards passing (once over the last eight games). Luck has one top player at WR in T.Y. Hilton while he needs Donte Moncrief to stay healthy. Overall, I like the talent on the offensive line so he may have more time to throw this year. Andrew throws a ton of ball to the TE (109/1287/12 on 149 targets), so he does make the talent around him better. The Colts need more explosiveness in the running game to help extend drives. Solid floor of 4,800 combined yards with 30+ TDs. If he's going to offer more in 2017, someone needs to step up at WR. His division opponents are improving on defense.
QB Jacoby Brissett, IND - Dynasty Only
Update 12/29/17Brissett passed for 225 yards or fewer in each of his last six games while tossing only three combined TDs in his last five starts. On the year, Jacoby has two TDs or fewer in all 15 games. One of his best games of the year came on the road against Houston (308/2). T.Y. Hilton tends to play well vs. the Texans and they have the 31st ranked defense against QBs with five teams scoring over 25 Fantasy points (40.50, 30.10, 40.60, 30.05, and 28.3). One of the better backend QB options in Week 17 with the success of Hilton being the key to his playable value.
RB Frank Gore, IND - Gamble (high risk)
Update 12/09/17Gore keeps plugging along with his 60 yards per game, which leaves him well below a winning play in the daily games especially when you add in one TD in his last nine games. Frank doesn't have a game with over 85 yards rushing this year. He averages 16.2 touches per game. Buffalo has been a disaster against RBs over the last six games (14 TDs with 1,149 combined yards with 38 catches). Doesn't look like much on paper, but this is a favorable matchup if riding the tortoise to the finish line is your kind of play.
RB Marlon Mack, IND - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Update 11/10/17After a nice game in Week 8 (63 combined yards with a TD and three catches), Mack struggled to find running room against the Texans (9/29) while receiving no chances in the passing game. The Colts gave him 27 snaps last week compared to 40 by Frank Gore. More of a play in the season long games. Marlon could hit on a long play with rising value in the passing game.
RB Josh Ferguson, IND - Not Draft Worthy
Fantasy owners were drafting Ferguson as Gore's backup in 2016, but his game wasn't ready. He rushed the ball 15 times for only 20 yards with some value in the passing game (20/136 on 26 targets). Over five seasons at Illinois, Josh had 4093 combined yards with 26 TDs and 168 catches. His best value will come in the passing game, and he did have two seasons with 50 catches while his third chance was cut short due to an injury leading to one nine games played in his senior year. Passing catching back, but he can't get on the field without better pass protection something Gore does well.
RB Robert Turbin, IND - Low Potential
Over the last five games of 2016, the Colts used Turbin as the short yardage and goal line back. Over this span, he had 25 rushes for 91 yards and four TDs plus some value in the passing game (10/84/1 on 15 targets). Over six years in the NFL, Robert has never had a full-time starting opportunity. Overall in 2016, Turbin had eight TDs while only touching the ball 73 times. Limited upside with his best value in 2017 coming in TDs.