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2019 Team Report: Indianapolis Colts

Offensive Philosophy

The Colts finished 10-6 in Frank Reich's first year as head coach. They advanced to the playoffs and defeated division rival Houston on the road before losing to the Chiefs in the Divisional round. Indianapolis ranked 7th in passing yards, thanks to a healthy season from their star, Andrew Luck. The Colts offense is built around the passing game, which includes contributions from their running backs, namely Nyheim Hines. Indianapolis finished 20th in rushing yards and 17th in rushing attempts last season. They added 13 rushing touchdowns which was 3 more than the prior year. Marlon Mack dominated carries, while the aforementioned Hines was a heavy contributor as a receiver. The team finished with 97 receptions to their running backs (10th in the league), 225 receptions to their wide receivers (8th), and 108 receptions to their tight ends (3rd). From an offensive perspective, Andrew Luck loves to target his stable of tight ends in the red zone. The Colts had a league-high 21 touchdown passes to the tight end in 2018. The next closest was Kansas City with 13. Expect to see more of the same offense in 2019, which is an aggressive, up-tempo attack featuring multiple personnel groups and formations. Reich found success running similar plays but disguising it in a way that is difficult to defend. Another year of Andrew Luck healthy with multiple offensive weapons, combined with Reich's offensive ingenuity spells trouble for the defenses in the AFC South.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Andrew Luck
Backup(s): Jacoby Brissett, Phillip Walker, Chad Kelly

Starting QB: After missing the entire 2017 season recovering, rehabilitating, and resting from shoulder surgery, Andrew Luck returned to the Top 10 among fantasy quarterbacks. Luck will enter his 8th year in the league, but he has only played six seasons. He has finished in the Top 10 in five of those seasons, including three Top 5 finishes. Last season he reached 39 touchdown passes, second only to Patrick Mahomes' 50. This marked the third time in his career where he surpassed 30 touchdown passes in a season. One year ago, there was uncertainty if Luck could come back to form after enduring major rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder. The year off in 2017 did him well, and he is expected to be fully healthy once again for the 2019 season.

Backup QB: The backup role for the Colts is currently occupied by Jacoby Brissett. You may recall, the Colts acquired Brissett in a trade with New England in early 2017 as a precaution for the uncertain availability of Andrew Luck. Brissett gained valuable experience in 2017, starting 16 games for the Colts. He passed for over 3,000 yards with 13 touchdown passes and 7 interceptions in a down year for the Colts. Brissett added 4 rushing touchdowns on 64 carries that year and showed that he can be a versatile option in the ground game. If Brissett is called into action in 2019 the Colts should feel confident in his ability to move the ball and make plays. He gives Indianapolis an above-average understudy at the quarterback position with the ability to find success both as a passer and rusher. The third-string quarterback is Phillip (P.J.) Walker, an undrafted free agent from Temple (2013-2016). This is his third year with the Colts. He has yet to take a regular season snap in the league. Walker is 5'11 and 216 pounds.

Running Backs

Starter: Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines
Backup(s): Jordan Wilkins, Spencer Ware, Jonathan Williams
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: The Colts employed a duo-attack from a running back standpoint under Head Coach Frank Reich's offense. Marlon Mack and rookie Nyheim Hines were nearly 50/50 on total snaps throughout the 2018 season with Hines slightly edging Mack. Hines finished with 63 receptions in 2018 He joined Saquon Barkley and Calvin Ridley as the only rookies in the league with 60 or more receptions last season. Hines added 85 carries for 314 yards (3.7 YPC), but his biggest strength was in the receiving game. Marlon Mack finished just shy of 200 carries (195), but he amassed 908 yards rushing with 10 total touchdowns despite missing four games early in the season due to a hamstring injury. The thunder and lightning attack of the Colts running backs worked well. The expectation of a similar attack is presumed for 2019. Another year of growth and development for a youthful and already impressive rushing corps gives the Colts the versatility needed to sustain power in the AFC South.

Backup RBs: After Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines, the Colts have Jordan Wilkins entering his second year, followed by Jonathan Williams who had stops in Buffalo and New Orleans before landing in Indianapolis in the offseason. Wilkins added 60 carries to the rushing attack in 2018 averaging 5.6 yards per carry with 1 touchdown. He added 16 receptions on 17 targets in a reserve role in his rookie season. When called upon, Wilkins filled in admirably, but he only had three games where he exceeded 20 snaps. The extent of his role in 2019 is uncertain, but another year will give him the opportunity to develop and improve as a running back on a formidable offense. He may be called upon to fill in any given week which would warrant fantasy consideration.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess
Backups: Parris Campbell [R], Deon Cain, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal, Daurice Fountain, Steve Ishmael, James Wright, Krishawn Hogan, Jordan Veasy, Penny Hart

Starting WRs: T.Y. Hilton is the veteran leader of the Colts wide receiver corps. In seven seasons he has never finished lower than a fantasy ranking of 25 and has never had less than 4 touchdowns in a season. He has four seasons of 75 receptions or more and five 1,000-yard efforts on his pro resume. He is one of the most consistent veteran wide receivers in the league. Joining Hilton in 2019 is free agent acquisition, Devin Funchess. The Colts had an abundance of cap dollars to spend and they decided on Funchess early in the free agency process. Funchess found success with Carolina as one of Cam Newton's favorite red zone targets. He totaled 21 touchdowns in four seasons with the Panthers. He'll be 25 at the beginning of the season and could surpass his production in a much more pass-friendly offense than what he experienced in Carolina. Head Coach Frank Reich was thrilled to land Funchess saying "I'm so excited about Devin, I mean, when I watch his tape, what I see is a big man who is really athletic."

Backup WRs: The Colts reserve wide receivers are young, eager, and talented led by rookie Parris Campbell who is expected to compete for targets right off the bat. Campbell is a speedster who blossomed at Ohio State, especially after Dwayne Haskins took over at quarterback. Campbell has adequate size, along with 4.31 speed. If he can develop into more of a polished route runner, he could be fantasy relevant this year. Deon Cain was a victim of an ACL tear before his rookie season even began. Cain is another product of the Clemson wide receiver fraternity that includes recent namesakes such as DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, and Martavis Bryant. Cain is expected to make his debut in 2019. He'll join Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal as the role players in the Colts receiving corps. In his third season, Rogers had a career high in snaps (594), targets (72), receptions (53), receiving yards (485), and touchdowns (2). While those numbers aren't electric, it shows that he is ascending and developing into a serviceable, complementary receiver. Zach Pascal was a contributor primarily in the short-ranged passing game in his rookie season, catching four passes or more four times. Last season, Rogers, Pascal, and Ryan Grant (now with Oakland), shared snaps in a reserve receiver role. The loss of Grant in free agency could mean an increase in target volume for Rogers and Pascal.

Tight Ends

Starters: Eric Ebron
Backups: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Ross Travis, Gabe Holmes, Billy Brown

The Colts dominated the league in tight end production in 2018, thanks in large part to the resurgence of Eric Ebron, who finished with 13 touchdowns in 2018. Andrew Luck-led teams have long featured success from the tight end position, but not just one player, multiple players. Last year a hip injury slowed Jack Doyle, thus leaving more of the target volume to Ebron. He didn't disappoint. Doyle had surgery on his hip in February and could be out of action until training camp, or perhaps longer. The duo of Ebron and Doyle is a dangerous combination with fantasy value for both, especially Ebron. If Doyle is not fully recovered by Week 1, look for Mo Alie-Cox to step in and contribute. Alie-Cox added two touchdowns on seven receptions in limited action in 2018. Erik Swoope is a free agent, which bumps up Alie-Cox in the depth chart. A tight end on the Colts roster is a good place to be. Injuries happen, and the right scenario could present itself for Alie-Cox to become fantasy relevant.

Place Kicker

Adam Vinatieri: The ageless Adam Vinatieri is back for yet another year. Some of the 2019 draft class wasn't even born yet when Vinatieri played his first game back in 1996. Vinatieri's field goal attempts dropped to their lowest number since the disastrous 2011 season, but he still made 23-of-27 and was an acceptable 9-of-12 from 40+ yards. The return of Andrew Luck boosted Vinatieri's extra point total enough to land him in the middle of the pack in scoring. He's usually one of the last kickers selected if he is drafted, but there is probably a better choice available even if you are the final team to take a kicker. He's a fine bye week/injury fill-in.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Zach Pascal, Chester Rogers

The Colts have one of the league's most settled return units heading into 2019 after Zach Pascal, who handled nearly all of Indianapolis' kickoffs, returns and appears poised to reprise his role. If Pascal falters, Chester Rogers usually handles punts but can play on kickoffs as well.

Punt Returners: Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal

The Colts have one of the league's most settled return units heading into 2019 after Chester Rogers, who has handled Indianapolis' punt returns for several years, returns and appears poised to make the squad again. If he falters, Zach Pascal is the team's primary kickoff returner and could make a bid for all-around return specialist.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, Braden Smith
Key Backups: LeRaven Clark, Joe Haeg, Josh Andrews, Jackson Barton [R], J'Marcus Webb

Left guard Quenton Nelson had a historic rookie campaign, making the Pro Bowl as a starter and first team All-Pro. Nelson gives this line a nasty attitude in the running attack and the line as a whole didn't allow a sack of quarterback Andrew Luck for the entire month of October. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo remains a high performing veteran and right tackle Braden Smith was a revelation last season after many pre-draft sources had the second-round rookie projecting to guard in the league. The front office brought back Mark Glowinski in the offseason and their lineup appears to be set. The key to this line is the health of center Ryan Kelly; when he's in the lineup they can be the best line in football. Overall, this is a top-tier unit headed into the season.

Team Defense

The Colts had one of the weakest defenses in the league on paper heading into the season, but rallied around rookie linebacker Darius Leonard to hold their own in both NFL and fantasy terms. They had a takeaway in every game but one, held the opponent to 10 points or less in five games (including a Week 15 shutout against the Cowboys) and four games with at least five sacks. They did all this without the benefit of a defensive touchdown. The 2018 edition of the defense is returning basically intact, and added one of the league's best edge rushers (when healthy) in Justin Houston. They also drafted Rock Ya-Sin in the early second to bolster the cornerback group. and should see further development from a very young defense in their second year under coordinator Matt Eberflus. The season opening matchup at the Chargers isn't the most promising, so they might not be worth drafting, but assuming the Colts take a step forward on the whole, they will be a top streamer and potentially one that we stick with week in, week out if the last few draft classes bear the fruit that their investment promises.

Defensive Line

Starters: LDE Jabaal Sheard, RDE Justin Houston, NT Margus Hunt, DT Denico Autry
Backups: DT/DE Tyquan Lewis, DE Kemoko Turay, NT Grover Stewart

Starting DL: By trading Hassan Ridgeway on the last day of the draft, the Colts showed that they want to move from bulky personnel in favor of quickness and speed on their front. The biggest offseason addition to this group was made in free agency when they signed Justin Houston. He will have to make the transition from 3-4 rush linebacker to defensive end. The team will hope that Houston can lead the way in teaching some of its younger and still developing pass rushers the tricks of the trade. Jabaal Sheard remains an experienced piece who will be a nice complement to Houston. With some of the blocking attention focused on Houston, it's possible Sheard could end up with more than the five and a half sacks he logged last year.

Backup DL: Margus Hunt played very well last season, recording a career-high 19 tackles, ten assists, and one sack. He will continue to rotate in, especially on clear running situations. In the second round, the Colts selected Tyquan Lewis. A versatile pass rusher, the Colts expect immediate rotational contributions from the young man. Denico Autry, formerly of the Raiders, has not had much success as a pass rusher in his career, but the Colts are hoping to tap into his potential. Ballard was effusive in his praise of Grover Stewart in a recent press conference, telling the media, "Grover Stewart, one of the reasons I was so attracted to him coming out was he had great get off. For a big man, Grover can really run." Former Detroit and Washington depth option Caraun Reid will serve the same role for this retooling defensive unit.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Darius Leonard, MLB Anthony Walker, SLB Ben Banogu [R]
Backups: WLB EJ Speed [R], MLB Bobby Okereke [R], SLB Zaire Franklin

Starting LBs: Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard returns to attempt to build on an eye-popping seven sacks, 111 solo tackles, and four forced fumbles. Anthony Walker's season was one during which he was banged up with neck and shoulder injuries. However, in 14 games, he was on the field about 75% of the time and able to make 105 combined tackles. He will likely continue to be fairly productive next to Leonard. The Colts took Ben Benogu surprisingly high in the Draft when they selected him at 49 overall. They are likely looking to utilize Benogu's ability to pass rush from the strong side as another way to generate pressure for opposing quarterbacks.

Backup LBs: The starting unit seems to be much more solid than it was last year, but the backup unit continues to be shuffled by the coaching staff. Two rookies and one player drafted late last year are most likely to win backup duties. EJ Speed lives up to his surname and is an athletic linebacker who the Colts believe can play any of the three linebacker spots. Bobby Okereke is a linebacker that many draft pundits compared to Darius Leonard. The Colts brass thought highly of him and continued to tell him through the Draft process they would be excited to take him because they felt he was a system fit. Zaire Franklin, a seventh-round pick last year, had 29 combined tackles and started two games last year in his limited duties. He will have to work hard to hang on the roster this time around after all the competition the Colts have added at the linebacker position.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Pierre Desir, CB Rock Ya-Sin [R], SS Clayton Geathers, FS Malik Hooker
Backups: CB Kenny Moore, CB Quincy Wilson, FS Matthias Farley, SS Khari Willis [R]

Starting DBs: Overall, this unit looks much more complete than it did at this time last year. The Colts were able to find a diamond in the rough in Pierre Desir last year. He was rated by most metrics as one of the better corners that played in 2018, especially in the red zone. The team added corner Rock Ya-Sin in the Draft. A former wrestler, Ya-Sin has great foot frequency and upper-body strength that will serve him well in jamming opposing receivers. Both Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers continue to struggle with injuries, but play well when they are in the lineup.

Backup DBs: Kenny Moore will man the slot corner duties for this team and was one of the better performers at that position across the league last year. Quincy Wilson is an experienced depth option that the Colts did not have the luxury of having a year ago. When Malik Hooker or Clayton Geathers are out of the game with injuries, the team has turned to Matthias Farley, who performs admirably in backup duty. Day three rookie Khari Willis is a prototypical strong safety who might develop into a longer-term option if Geathers cannot stay healthy. He will serve in a special teams capacity to begin his career.

Last modified: 2019-05-20 10:35:58