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2014 Team Report: Indianapolis Colts

Quarterbacks

Starter: Andrew Luck
Backup(s): Matt Hasselbeck, Chandler Harnish

Starting QB: Andrew Luck began his career as the most prolific rookie quarterback, passing for over 4,300 yards with 23 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns. His pace dropped off some in year two, but his touchdown passes remained the same (23). He actually finished higher in fantasy rankings last year (7th) than the year prior (10th), despite passing for 500 fewer yards. Year three should continue to yield positive results thanks to the return of veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), the continued emergence of T.Y. Hilton and the off season acquisition of free agent Hakeem Nicks. Luck's ability to run the ball (632 rushing yards and 9 rushing touchdowns in his first two years) makes him a more sought after fantasy quarterback. If he can increase his touchdown totals into the low 30's or even the upper 20's, he'll be considered one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in the league.

Backup QB: Andrew Luck has not missed a game in his brief career, which is good news for the Colts. Backup quarterback and journeyman Matt Hasselbeck played in three games last year and put up minimal stats in the process. All appearances were in the fourth quarter with the outcome of the game secure. Hasselbeck is entering his 16th year in the league and comes with a great deal of experience as an NFL quarterback. He has over 34,000 passing yards in his career with 201 touchdown passes. His numbers have diminished in recent years, but he is still capable of running an offense and making timely plays if called upon. He is arguably the most experienced and able backup quarterback in the league. The Colts also feature Chandler Harnish as their third string quarterback. Harnish was a seventh round draft selection from Northern Illinois in the 2012 NFL Draft. He has yet to accumulate any pro stats.

Running Backs

Starter: Trent Richardson
Backup(s): Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw, Dan Herron, Chris Rainey
Fullback(s): Stanley Havili

Starting RB: The Colts traded their 2014 first round pick early in the 2013 season to the Browns for Trent Richardson. Richardson was thrust into the Colts lineup in week three last year without having any off season practice in the Colts system. He struggled to be a dominant rushing force in the early going, resulting in the Colts decreasing his touches. As the season wore on, Richardson slowly began to get more familiar with the offense and his involvement increased. He did not register a 100-yard rushing game last year and he has a career 3.3 yards per carry average. Perhaps we've seen the best of what he can offer? Or maybe he can rise to the occasion and show what he's capable of doing on the field. Richardson should receive the bulk of the team's carries, approaching 200 rushes, however Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw will also see extended time running the ball, especially if Richardson doesn't improve. The presence of the two other backs could limit Richardson's fantasy production, which makes him less of a high round target in upcoming fantasy drafts. On the bright side, his size and power combination makes him a popular goal line contributor, which should yield a good amount of rushing touchdown opportunities.

Backup RBs: Donald Brown has signed a free agent contract with the Chargers and is no longer an option for the Colts running game. Both of the Colts backup running back options for 2014 are coming off injuries that kept them sidelined in 2013. Ahmad Bradshaw is returning to the field after having neck surgery last season, while Vick Ballard is returning from an ACL tear. Both are expected to be ready to contribute by training camp. Bradshaw may have the upper hand to see the most duty after Trent Richardson, but he hasn't played a full season since 2010. Bradshaw when healthy is capable of being a productive backup. He brings experience and a combination of toughness and determination, while Vick Ballard brings youth and versatility. Both should see the field in a similar capacity, which could further limit fantasy production of any one back.

Fullback: Stanley Havili is entering his second year with the Colts. He is not a lead back type of fullback that runs defenders over, but he does come with adequate rushing skills and above average receiving capabilities. Last year he managed only 7 yards on 7 carries, but he flourished as a receiver, catching 18 passes on 21 targets for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks
Backups: LaVon Brazill, Da'Rick Rogers, Donte Moncrief, Griff Whalen, Deion Branch, Josh Lenz

Starting WRs: T.Y. Hilton dominated all Colts wide receivers last year with 82 receptions for 1,083 yards, however he only found the end zone five times. Reggie Wayne was lost for the season after a week 7 torn ACL injury and finished second in receiving yards and receptions among wide receivers. Wayne is expected to return to the field in 2014 for his 14th year in the league. Prior to the injury, Wayne hadn't missed a single game since his rookie season. It is difficult to gauge how Wayne's knee will respond in his first year back, however he is only one year removed from a top 15 season that saw him total 106 receptions on 213 targets. T.Y. Hilton emerged as a receiving threat in his rookie season and he further climbed up the ladder in year two. Some of his success can be contributed to hard work and dedication, but there's also some benefit attributed to Wayne's season-ending injury. The 2014 season will not only include both Hilton and Wayne, but also newly signed free agent Hakeem Nicks. Nicks is looking to benefit from new scenery after struggling to find consistency in New York. Nicks has had his share of leg/foot injuries in the past, which he is hoping to leave behind him. The Colts definitely have some weapons at the wide receiver position, especially if their trio remains healthy. Injuries and return from injury may be the only obstacle keeping the Colts and Andrew Luck from flying high in the AFC South.

Backup WRs: The Colts have a strong first wave of receiving expertise in Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks, but they also boast a solid mixture of experience and youth operating off the bench. Griff Whalen, Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill each added two touchdown receptions last season. This may very well be a season dominated by the Colts starting trio, but there is a capable blend of others who have proven to be effective with Andrew Luck. Rookie third round pick, Donte Moncrief is a big receiver with outstanding measureables, but he is coming off of a down year at Ole Miss. The Colts have plenty of depth at wide receiver, but Moncrief could get more involved as the season wears on.

Tight Ends

Starters: Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener
Backups: Jack Doyle, Weslye Saunders

Dwayne Allen is returning to the field after a hip injury in week one last year that cut his season short. Allen is joined by Coby Fleener as the team's one-two punch at tight end. Despite the recent signing of free agent wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, the Colts are still expected to often put both Fleener and Allen on the field at the same time. Allen is more of an in-line tight end, handling blocking duties on the line, but he can also venture down field and be a physical mismatch to opposing defenses. Fleener saw increased action last year and occasionally made plays in open space, which is exactly what made him a success at Stanford. The combination of the two gives Andrew Luck and the Colts offense several options on offense. As good as it sounds, temper your expectations for any one given player. The presence of both tight ends, plus Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks, decreases the potential for weekly production from a fantasy perspective. The opportunity is there for both to thrive, but consistency week to week will be a challenge.

Place Kicker

Adam Vinatieri, Cody Parkey: The Colts kept the services of Pat McAfee as punter, holder, and kickoff specialist with a new 5-year deal. Placekicker Adam Vinatieri, now age 41, got a new 2-year deal. He was busy last year, hitting 35 of 40 (87.5%) on field goals Ė career highs in attempts and makes. Available for camp leg duties is undrafted rookie Cody Parkey from Auburn. Matt Overton is back at long snapper for his third year. The Colts made a big climb in kicker scoring opportunities the past three years, from 28th to 15th to 2nd.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Griff Whalen, Daniel Herron, T.Y. Hilton, Phillip Dorsett [R]

The Colts return game was given a boost last season by the addition of aging return ace Josh Cribbs. A fumble in the playoffs seems to have cost Cribbs his job, and returned the kickoff return situation to an uncertain one. Receiver Griff Whalen handled most of the returns for the Colts and may have the advantage starting out in the fight for the job, assuming he makes the roster at what has become a deep position for Indianapolis.

Punt Returners: Phillip Dorsett [R], Griff Whalen

Given the team's depth at wide receiver, many people were surprised by the Colts using a first round draft pick on speedster Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett later stated in an interview that he knows for a fact he will be used as a punt returner. Given Griff Whalen's mediocre 7.2 yard average last season, Dorsett may be given first crack at the punt return job.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Donald Thomas, C Khaled Holmes, RG Jack Mewhort, RT Gosder Cherlius
Key Backups: T Xavier Nixon, G/T Hugh Thornton, G/C Joe Reitz, G John Ulrick

The Coltsí offensive line grades out as a below average group, which is a result of change at two positions (left guard and center) and a lack of truly elite talent. That being said this is actually an underrated group with the ability to rise in the rankings quickly, should those problems resolve themselves. The best player on the line is probably left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Castonzo was a steady performer for most of last season and should be on the borderline for Pro Bowl honors in the season to come. Castonzo has started all but four games over the last three seasons and is a leader that the team is building around. On the right tackle position, Gosder Cherilus joined the Colts from the Lions before last season and he too has been a good productive player, starting all sixteen games in 2013. Both of these tackles hail from Boston College, which has traditionally been a factory for NFL caliber offensive linemen. Along the interior is where the uncertainty appears. Second round pick Jack Mewhort was actually taken with the teamís first draft pick of the year (they had no first rounder) and there is an expectation that this player will start early, probably at guard. Khaled Holmes is a natural center and should have the lead on winning that job in preseason. Donald Thomas has recovered from a season ending injury and looks to win one of the guard spots. Hugh Thornton held down the right guard position as a rookie last season, but was plagued by inconsistency and he will be facing tons of competition to keep that job this year. Utility vet Joe Reitz has starting ability and could compete at center and guard positions. In summary there are five players competing for three spots and at this point itís just a guess that Thomas, Holmes and Mewhort will emerge, leaving Thornton and Reitz on the bench. Overall this line has the ability to rise in the rankings but they have a lot of uncertainty to wade through before the lineup can be set in stone and the players can focus on gelling as a unit.

Team Defense

The Colts defense took a major hit when they found out they'd lost Robert Mathis for the first four games of the season. Mathis is a beast on the outside coming off the best year of his career. Their strength, at least early in the year, will be at inside linebacker with Jerrell Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson forming a dynamic duo. Greg Toler and Vontae Davis play a physical style outside at cornerback and Laron Landry provides support at safety. This defense relies on a good pass rush to let the corners play at the line of scrimmage and that will be a challenge until Mathis returns.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Kendall Langford, DT Arthur Jones, NT Josh Chapman
Backups: NT Montori Hughes, NT Zach Kerr, DT Kelcy Quarles

Starting DL: With Cory Redding and Ricky Jean Francois moving on, it will be up to a mixture of young players off the bench and draft picks to emerge and fill the void. Free agency acquisition Kendall Langford is a player in a similar mold as Redding and seems to have been signed expressly to take his place on the line. Josh Chapman didnít perform well in 2014 and is clearly on the bubble between starter and backup. Arthur Jones should be over the ankle issues that plagued him last season, so look for the run defense that was abysmal at times last year to be much improved with his return.

Backup DL: Colts GM Ryan Grigson made comments at the Annual League Meetings to suggest he expects his backups Montori Hughes, Zach Kerr, and Kelcy Quarles to have expanded roles this year. Former fifth-round pick Montori Hughes is entering his third year in the league and had playing time in 12 of the 16 games last year. Interestingly, Hughes is the only non-UFA out of the group. Expect the Colts to add someone in the draft to help improve this rather lackluster unit.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Jerrell Freeman, ILB D'Qwell Jackson, OLB Trent Cole, OLB Robert Mathis
Backups: ILB Nate Irving, ILB Henoc Muamba, OLB Bjoern Werner, OLB Jonathan Newsome, OLB Erik Walden OLB Bjoern Werner, ILB Kelvin Sheppard, ILB Mario Harvey, OLB Andy Studebaker

Starting LBs: The Colts made some interesting moves to improve this group in the off-season, the most notable being the signing of Trent Cole. Cole will undoubtedly add some pass rush punch to a unit that was forced to blitz in order to generate sufficient pressure in 2014. Jerrell Freeman struggled with a nagging hamstring injury for the better part of last season. The Colts brought him back with a second round tender, so he appears to still be an integral part of their plans. Robert Mathis is eyeing a return from injury by training camp, but Jim Irsay speculated at the Competition Committee meetings that it could be as late as November. In either case, his return will be a major boost to this LB corps. DíQwell Jacksonís play was declining anyway, but an assault arrest in February could bring league discipline upon the aging veteran.

Backup LBs: Backup LBs: Nate Irving was signed to a relatively cheap (roughly three million a year) three-year deal and will probably make his appearance in the lineup in run-defending packages. Donít be surprised if he cracks the starting unit before the year is out, however. Werner continues to disappoint, and Coleís signing is a big indication that the Colts arenít happy with his production. Additionally, the outstanding play of 2014, fifth-round rookie selection Jonathan Newsome has forced the team to engage in some internal discussion about moving Werner to the strong side. Erik Walden bounced back last year, but Wernerís move would presumably block his depth chart ascension.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Vontae Davis, CB Greg Toler, FS Dwight Lowery, SS Mike Adams
Backups: CB Darius Butler, CB Jalil Brown, FS Dewey McDonald, SS Colt Anderson SS Clayton Geathers

Starting DBs: Vontae Davis continued his career renaissance with the Colts, earning his first Pro Bowl appearance. He posted 35 solo tackles and 4 interceptions in 2014. Toler proved a liability in coverage for most of last season. Despite this, he remains in the starting role, at least for one more season. After a suspension and injury-ladened 2014 campaign, Laron Landry exited in free agency. Dwight Lowery was signed to a one-year deal this off-season and is projected to start alongside the aging Mike Adams. Like the Colts defensive line, there are adequate starters in this posse, but not much depth of which to speak.

Backup DBs: Darius Butler continued to play the slot corner role well. The Colts rewarded him with a contract extension that will keep him with the team through 2017. When talented UDFA Loucheiz Purifoy was cut due to off-field problems in November of 2014, the team also re-signed Jalil Brown for the third time, a player who also spent some time with the Dolphins and Chiefs. Dewey McDonald showed some flashes in camp last year, but did little in-season to show he was ready to emerge. Colt Andersonís value seems to be solely as a special teams player. Clayton Geathers is an interesting prospect out of Central Florida that was drafted in the fourth round this year. According to our very own Jene Bramel, Geathers could challenge for significant playing time in 2015.

Last modified: 2015-05-04 21:58:38