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2017 Team Report: Indianapolis Colts

Offensive Philosophy

General manager Ryan Grigson was fired for failing to surround Andrew Luck with enough talented players to take the pressure off his shoulders, but that firing didn't magically bring in the personnel the Colts need. Luck is by now a grizzled veteran who is used to the team's demands of him, but it's possible that all that stands between the Colts and losing all semblance of run/pass balance is the health and continued effectiveness of 34-year-old running back Frank Gore.


Starter: Andrew Luck
Backup(s): Scott Tolzien, Jacoby Brissett

Starting QB: Andrew Luck suffered a shoulder injury in early 2015 which limited him to seven games. After the season he opted to rest his shoulder choosing rehabilitation over surgery. In 2016 he finished with 4,240 yards passing with 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He ranked 4th among fantasy quarterbacks, but his shoulder still gave him challenges. This off season it was decided that he would have corrective surgery on his ailing shoulder. It's always risky projecting outcomes for players who have gone under the knife, but all indications suggest Luck will return to form for the 2017 season. In four seasons of full time, non-injury filled work, Luck has averaged 29 touchdown passes, 3.5 rushing touchdowns and 4,299 yards passing with a 5.5 average ranking. He's been a stalwart at the quarterback position, despite suffering from a lingering shoulder injury that has plagued him since 2015. Luck has shown that he can produce with all levels of talent at both tight end and wide receiver. Great quarterbacks not only make big plays in key situations, but they elevate their teammates making good receivers great and great receivers elite. Andrew Luck is one of those quarterbacks. He is expected to be one of the Top 5 quarterbacks in the league and the questions surrounding his off season recovery could make him a super value in drafts this year. On July 24th just a few days from the start of training camp, Luck was placed on the preseason physically unable to perform list (PUP list). He missed all of preseason and will likely not be able to return for Week 1. On September 2nd, he was removed from the physically unable to perform list, which means he can come back at anytime, without needing to wait until Week 6 of the season. There is some concern that Luck will be rusty when he does return to the field, which may not be until Week 2 or 3.

Backup QB: The Colts don't have particularly strong depth at quarterback after Andrew Luck. Scott Tolzien is the second string option with 10 career appearances totaling 937 yards passing with 2 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Tolzien was buried behind Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay before signing with the Colts in 2016. In his only start with Indianapolis last year against Pittsburgh, he had 205 yards on 22 of 36 passing with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Expect the Colts to give Tolzien plenty of reps and action in the preseason while Luck continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. The Colts made an early September trade to acquire Jacoby Brissett from the Patriots for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. The move suggests there may be some additional concern regarding Andrew Luck and his shoulder recovery. It is unclear who will be the Week 1 starter, but it's looking highly unlikely that it will be Luck.

Running Backs

Starter: Frank Gore
Backup(s): Robert Turbin, Marlon Mack[R] Matt Jones

Starting RB: Frank Gore at age 34 remains the Colts starting running back heading into the 2017 season. Indianapolis opted to spend their first four picks in the 2017 draft on other positions before selecting South Florida running back Marlon Mack with one of their three fourth round picks. The move seemed peculiar, knowing that Gore's abilities will eventually fade, which could happen as soon as this season. If anyone can squeeze out another productive year, it's Gore. He is the back every team would love to have. He's a coach on the field and he's an excellent example of how the running back position should be played. He has averaged an astounding 247 carries in 12 years in the league. For a running back to have that consistency with that longevity is astonishing. He has topped 1,000 yards rushing in nine of his 12 seasons including 1,026 last year with the Colts at age 33. Eventually the sunset will drop below the horizon and some suggest it will be this year for Gore. His yards per carry has dropped to below 4.0 in each of his last two years (3.7 and 3.9). His fantasy value is difficult to predict, but his ceiling appears to be in the RB3 range, if he continues to defy his age and the forces acting against body through nearly 3,000 career carries.

Backup RBs: Robert Turbin, rookie Marlon Mack and last year's rookie, Josh Ferguson make up the team's current backup rushing corps. The state of the Colts ground game, including longtime veteran Frank Gore is one of the weaker positions in the league. Outside of Gore the Colts don't have a go-to running back, but the team is expected to remain a potent offense as long as Andrew Luck is under center. Robert Turbin figures to see some action, but not enough to make him a fantasy mainstay. The trending interest as we get closer to the 2017 season is rookie fourth round pick Marlon Mack. Mack has good speed and can excel in open space. He has been compared to Atlanta's Tevin Coleman, but he has a lot to learn before he makes the jump to his level. Ball security, indecisiveness and every rookie's challenge, pass protection, could keep him from being a consistent player for the Colts this season. It's also entirely possible that another running back will join the team before the season or during, that makes an impact and leaps ahead of the current depth chart. The Colts claimed former Washington running back, Matt Jones off waivers on September 3rd. Jones automatically becomes an interesting piece to the Colts rushing corps. He is now the best interior rusher on the team behind Frank Gore.

Fullback: The Colts don't use a traditional fullback in their offense and often use an in-line tight end to block when needed, or run short to intermediate routes with regularity.

Wide Receivers

Starters: T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief
Backups: Chester Rogers, Kamar Aiken, Quan Bray, Matt Hazel

Starting WRs: T.Y. Hilton is the Colts primary receiving threat. He dominated targets totaling 155 in 2016, besting Jack Doyle, the next closest teammate by 80 targets. The shoulder injury to Donte Moncrief had a direct effect on Hilton's usage, but that doesn't take anything away from his abilities to perform and produce. It may be even more impressive that he was able to do so when defenses knew the ball was going his way. Hilton has excellent separation skills and can run the entire route tree. He finished 5th among fantasy wide receivers in 2016, due to his constant usage and is expected to remain a Top 15 receiver in 2017. Donte Moncrief suffered a shoulder injury in Week 3 that virtually wiped out his 2016 season. He managed to play nine games, but he struggled to be a consistent option for Andrew Luck, catching more than five passes only twice. He was a consistent red zone threat as evidenced by his 7 touchdowns - he had only two games where he didn't score. His ability to produce in the red zone makes him a prime candidate for a comeback in 2017. Moncrief is only 23 years old and he's still entering his prime. Look for him to be a key fixture in the Colts offense this season.

Backup WRs: The Colts have struggled to find complementary wide receivers who can develop their craft. Kamar Aiken followed up a strong 2015 season with the Ravens with a disappointing effort in 2016. Perhaps a change of scenery with Indianapolis will be the jump start he needs to resurrect his career. The player to watch in the Colts receiving corps is second year pro, Chester Rogers who has catapulted ahead of Dorsett and Aiken for the third wide receiver role on the team early in camp. If he solidifies this role, he is someone to have on your fantasy radar. You may recall his eye-opening preseason last year, which was a stepping stone in his career development. Rogers has earned a place higher on the depth chart and is one to watch as a potential fantasy relevant receiver on an Andrew Luck-led offense.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jack Doyle
Backups: Erik Swoope (inj), Darrell Daniels, Brandon Williams

Jack Doyle enjoyed a breakout year in 2016, going from 5, 18 and 12 receptions in his first three years to 59 receptions for 584 yards and 5 touchdowns in his fourth season. The Colts and Andrew Luck have an affinity for targeting tight ends, which is what makes Doyle a hot commodity heading into the 2017 season. The Colts depth chart at tight end has evolved over the last two years going from Doyle being the third fiddle behind Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener in 2015 to Allen's understudy in 2016, to the main perceived tight end threat in 2017. The departure of Allen to New England in the offseason makes Doyle the Colts top target at tight end this year and many are expecting him to continue to excel. His fantasy stock is rising amidst a potent offense and team led by Andrew Luck. The Colts have long operated their offense with two tight ends and this year will be no different. Just like Doyle rose to the occasion last year, the Colts have a gem in waiting in Erik Swoope who will fill the void of the second tight end in the offense. Swoope is a former basketball player, turned tight end who has developed his craft in his first two years in the league. The training wheels are off for Swoope this season. If he shows what he's capable of, he could be the one who sees the biggest jump in production among the team's tight ends. Swoope is more athletic and rangy than Doyle and could see more opportunities in the red zone, as a result. The presence of both tight ends could cancel each other's fantasy value, which is something we have often seen from Colts tight ends in the past, especially in the Luck era.

Place Kicker

Adam Vinatieri: Adam Vinatieri has been around the league long enough that he once chased down Herschel Walker from behind on a kickoff return. While he has been a constant, his offseason brought change as long-time holder Pat McAfee retired and long snapper Matt Overton was released after the draft. Vinatieri was a strong fantasy option last year, making 27 of 31 field goal attempts, including 7 of 9 from 50+, and all 44 extra point attempts. In leagues that reward bonus points for distance, he finished in the top five kicker options. He is going off of the board outside of the top ten kickers in some 2017 drafts, and is worth a pick outside of the top five kickers with the quality of his offense and indoor home confines despite the change in his kicking routine. If you do take Vinatieri, beware of early struggled and be ready to make an early move.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Quan Bray

In his two seasons in the league, two things are true of Quan Bray: he handles almost all of the Colts' returns when he's active on game days, but between injuries and demotions it's never a sure thing that he'll be active. When Bray wasn't in, the Colts relied on backup running back Jordan Todman on kickoffs in 2016. In 2017, with Todman gone, they might turn instead to backup running back Josh Ferguson.

Punt Returners: Chester Rogers, Quan Bray

Chester Rogers was Indianapolis' top punt returner last year and played well enough to get first crack at the job in 2017. The Colts' relationship with Quan Bray tends to run hot and cold, with Bray handling the bulk of the returns when he's active, but so far he hasn't been able to handle a full season.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Jack Mewhort, C Ryan Kelly, RG Denzelle Good, RT Joe Haeg
Key Backups: LeRaven Clark, Brian Schwenke, Austin Blythe, Deyshawn Bond, Ian Silberman, Jeremy Vujnovich

The Colts' offensive line is a young, up and coming group. Left guard Jack Mewhort has been rock solid since he was drafted and has seen starts at tackle when needed. Center Ryan Kelly had an outstanding rookie season and hasn't allowed a single sack dating back two years to his senior season at Alabama. Right tackle Joe Haeg stepped up to own the job last season. Haeg played like a veteran even though he was a rookie. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo is the old man of the group at 28 but he is another talented athlete who even caught a touchdown from Andrew Luck in the 2014 season. Right guard might be the weak point on paper but the coaches like the physical upside of Denzelle Good, a former late round pick out of Mars Hill. LeRaven Clark should be the swing tackle while Brian Schwenke can fill in at both guard and center, if needed. This line has all the ingredients to be a top tier unit.

Team Defense

The Colts are a perennial cellar-dwelling D/ST in fantasy leagues, but at least it seems like this year new general manager Chris Ballard threw some valuable resources at rebuilding the porous unit. While they did lose veteran free safety Mike Adams in free agency, first-round pick Malik Hooker has some of the best range at the position that we have seen in years. Jonathan Hankins was added to shore up a papier mache run defense, and John Simon, Jabaal Sheard, and Sean Spence were all signed in free agency to start right away in a limp front seven. Second-round pick Quincy Wilson is physical and aggressive and should give Vontae Davis his best complement in a long time. With Andrew Luck healthy, the Colts could at least give us some matchup home start streaming potential, especially later in the year after the new personnel gets used to playing with each other.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Henry Anderson, DT Margus Hunt, NT Jonathan Hankins
Backups: DE/DT Hassan Ridgeway, DE Tarell Basham [R], Grover Stewart [R], NT Al Woods

Starting DL: Indianapolis' GM Chris Ballard has actively worked in both free agency and the Draft to improve the Colts defensive line, a problem area for many years. The team finally gave up on the Arthur Jones experiment, cutting him after enduring three years of injuries and suspensions. Margus Hunt, a rotational player for the Bengals, joins this group to play defensive tackle. Hunt has struggled with injuries throughout his career, but managed to stay healthy the entirety of 2016. The Colts also brought in more help from the outside when they recruited run-stuffer Johnathan Hankins late in free agency. Hankins can generate some pressure on the interior, as he proved by notching three sacks and a forced fumble with the Giants last year. Henry Anderson is talented, but has largely not been able to stay healthy in his two years as a Colt. Speaking of Anderson and the released Kendall Langford, Defensive Coordinator Ted Monachino said, "Having those guys healthy, having them both on the roster and contributing on game day, that's going to make a huge difference. Both of those guys are talented in different ways. Both of them have a skillset that we use each week."

Backup DL: Indianapolis has many options from which to choose for rotational purposes or if one of the starters gets hurt or underperforms. Hassan Ridgeway handled himself well in his rookie year, showing competency when he saw playing time. Terell Basham was taken in the third round of the Draft by the Colts. Many believe Basham has the size and physicality to play defensive tackle, but also feel he has the versatility to play as an outside linebacker. One round later, Indianapolis took the much more unrefined Grover Stewart. He has the size to matter at this level of competition, but will need to work on technique before he is ready to contribute as either a starting defensive tackle or nose tackle. David Parry got into some hot water this offseason after being arrested for stealing a golf cart and crashing it. While he managed to avoid jail time with a plea deal, he still faces the possibility of suspension because of the NFL's personal conduct policy. The Colts also managed to add Al Woods, formerly of the Tennessee Titans. Woods was purely rotational in 2016 with the Titans and will merely provide solid depth for the Colts this year.


Starters: ILB Antonio Morrison, ILB Edwin Jackson (IR), OLB John Simon, OLB Jabaal Sheard
Backups: ILB Jon Bostic, ILB Anthony Walker [R], OLB Barkevious Mingo, LB Jeremiah George, LB Luke Rhodes

Starting LBs: The starting unit is composed of completely new faces after D'Qwell Jackson, Josh McNary, Erik Walden, Trent Cole, Robert Mathis, and Nate Irving were all shown the door. Competition that will not be settled until closer to the start of the season is very likely across all four linebacker spots. Antonio Morrison got a taste of starting duty late last year and is a current favorite to win one of the two inside spots. John Simon of the Texans was also signed by Indianapolis this offseason. General Manager Chris Ballard offered the following when Simon signed: "John possesses a strong balance between his pass rushing ability and run defense. He's a physical linebacker who has matured on one of the top defensive units in the league over the past three seasons. John provides a significant upgrade to our defense and we're excited to welcome him to Indianapolis." Jabaal Sheard comes over from the Patriots. His 2016 season with New England was largely disappointing and he was even deemed inactive for a few games. He has the versatility to line up outside or inside, which should help him to see a lot of starting snaps this year.

Backup LBs: Jon Bostic is also someone who is very much in the conversation to earn a possible starting linebacker spot. The former Detroit Lion missed all of 2016 with a foot injury. When asked about his opportunity to come play with Indianapolis, Bostic said, "At the end of the day, I was just looking for a place I could come in and compete. I don't need anything given to me. I want to go earn everything. Like I said, for me, I just wanted to find a place that's just going to let me come in and do that. Let me be me." Edwin Jackson also figures to be in the mix to earn a starting spot after starting alongside Morrison late in the 2016 campaign and doing well with that opportunity. Northwestern's Anthony Walker is the rookie addition to this unit. A fifth-round selection, Walker will need to lose some muscle tone to have the flexion and speed he needs to play at an inside spot. Former Cleveland Browns first-round selection Barkevious Mingo has bounced around the league, but now finds a home in Indianapolis with a good chance to be a primary backup in an outside linebacker role. There's a chance for a bigger role for Mingo if he can marry his physical tools to consistency and technique. Former Tennessee Volunteer Kurt Maggitt hurt his knee against the Texans late last December and landed on injured reserve. He continues to simmer as a developmental pass rushing play.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Vontae Davis, CB Rashawn Melvin, FS Clayton Geathers, SS Malik Hooker [R]
Backups: CB Quincy Wilson [R], CB Nate Hairston [R], FS T.J. Green, SS Darius Butler, DB Kenny Moore, DB Pierre Desir, DB Chris Milton

Starting DBs: Vontae Davis remains the crown jewel of this secondary and is now its oldest member. After much trial and error last season, the Colts stumbled across a potential starter in Rashawn Melvin, who played very well as the starter opposite Davis in nine contests. Clayton Geathers will benefit from getting to move up and play more of a box safety role this season, something that the team experimented with last season and found success. Geathers appears to be recovering well from a neck injury that put him on injured reserve late in the year. Mike Adams signed with the Panthers and most figured that second year T.J. Greene would get the opportunity to move up the depth chart. However, in somewhat of a surprise move, Indianapolis took Malik Hooker with their first round Draft selection. Hooker had some health concerns (a labral and hernia repair), but a positive prognosis and the team's willingness to take him early are good signs for his long-term outlook. He is adept at generating turnovers and that is what Indianapolis will turn him loose to do.

Backup DBs: Throughout the Draft, the front office injected the roster with young talent in the secondary. The additions of Quincy Wilson in the second round and Nate Hairston in the fifth round were illustrations of that youth movement. Wilson is prototypically sized for a corner and prefers to play a press style against his opponents. He could win an opening day starting job. Hairston converted from receiver to corner in his junior and senior years and found more success at that position. He will need time to learn the nuances of the position, but appears to have the core requisites to be a competent NFL corner in time. After Hooker was selected in the Draft, the news came out that T.J. Green and the team had been considering a shift from corner to safety, but ultimately decided that Green will remain at safety. It seems that Indianapolis was not pleased with what they saw from Green in year one, hence why he will remain the backup and see the field primarily in subpackages. Darryl Morris could possibly move into the slot role vacated by Darius Butler. He requested to move to safety last year and the team granted Butler's wish. The Colts indicated before the Draft that this move would be permanent.

Last modified: 2017-09-05 12:14:06