Without Andrew Luck in the starting lineup, the Colts fell to 30th in points scored (263) which was 148 fewer than 2016 (411). Indy finished 31st in offensive yards leading to a 4-12 record. Their failed season led to Chuck Pagano getting fired. Frank Reich earned his first opportunity to be a head coach after a successful 2017 as the offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles. Reich started his NFL coaching career with the Colts in 2008 while having ten seasons of coaching experience in the NFL with the last four coming as an offensive coordinator.
Nick Sirianni takes over as the offensive coordinator for Indy after spending the last four seasons as the quarterbacks and wide receivers coach for the Chargers. Sirianni has nine years of experience in coaching in the NFL. Nick is a fast riser in the NFL at age 36, but his new opportunity is a step up in job.
The Colts allowed an average of 401 points over the last three seasons. In 2017, they ranked 30th in points allowed (404) and yards allowed. Indy needed a change at defensive coordinator. Matt Eberflus will run the defense after spending the last seven seasons with the Cowboys as the linebacker’s coach. He has nine seasons of coaching experience in NFL.
Indy added TE Eric Ebron, WR Ryan Grant, G Matt Slauson, and DE Denico Autry.
Ebron has talent, but he’s underperformed his expected value early in his career in the NFL. At the very least, Eric will give Andrew Luck another threat in the passing game. Grant played well off the bench in 2017 for the Redskins (45/573/4) pointing an upgrade in opportunity for the Colts.
Matt Slauson missed the last nine games of the seasons with a biceps injury. He has a long resume of success in the NFL as a starter, but he’ll start the season at age 32. Denico Autry had his best season in the NFL in 2017 (36 tackles, five sacks, and seven defended passes). He projects as a neutral player against the run.
The Colts lost four players (CB Vontae Davis, CB Rashaan Melvin, LB Jon Bostic, and LB Barkevious Mingo) from their defense to other teams in the NFL.
Davis was once a top CB in the NFL, but he struggled with his health in 2017 leading to a failed season. A Melvin played well over ten games in his fourth year in the league. He posted a career-high in defended passes (10) and interception (3) while missing the last five games with a hand injury.
Bostic is a former second-round draft pick (2013) who offers upside in run support with risk in coverage and minimal value in sacks. Mingo hasn’t lived up to his first-round draft value (2013) over his five seasons in the NFL. As a rotational player in 2017, he had 47 tackles, two sacks, and two defended passes. Barkevious has risk against the run.
Indianapolis parted ways with RB Frank Gore and WR Donte Moncrief. Gore has a long career of success in the NFL, but he’s at the end of his usefulness as starting player in the NFL. Moncrief struggled to stay healthy over the last two years with the Colts leading to his release. Donte has size and speed, which hasn’t translated into a high level of success on the field.
The first order of business for Indy in this draft was upgrading their offensive line. They selected G Quenton Nelson in the first round and G Braden Smith in the second round.
Nelson is a power player who will offer upside as a run blocker. Quenton can have risk vs. speed pass rusher when asked to defend outside his blocking window. Nelson should develop into an impact player early in his career. Smith can match Nelson in power, but he may lack the range and athletic ability to create a winning window outside his small piece of real estate on the field. Braden has a mechanical feel to his game while lacking the vision to anticipate a defender’s plan in the pass rush. His best value comes in a power run game.
With their three other picks in the second round, the Colts added three players to upgrade their defense (LB Darius Leonard, DE Kemoko Turay, and DE Tyquan Lewis).
Leonard is a speedy linebacker who has explosive speed while lacking size (6’2” and 234 Lbs.) He needs to add more strength to combat offensive linemen at the point of attack. Sideline to sideline defender who offers the most value attacking the line of scrimmage in the run game while needing a clear lane to get to the QB. Turay projects as a one-dimensional speed rusher who struggles to translate his quickness to power. Kemoko offers value in his tackling skills with enough vision to handle the run on his side of the field. Lewis doesn’t have enough size (6’3” and 269 Lbs.) to handle the interior run defense at the pro level. His quickness works well off the line on the outside, but Tyquan lacks the overall skill set to earn starting snaps in the NFL.
The next step in rebuilding the Colts’ franchise came from the fourth to the sixth round. Indy drafted RB Nyheim Hines, WR Daurice Fountain, RB Jordan Wilkins, and WR Deon Cain.
Hines is a speed back (4.38) who lacks size (5’8” and 198 lbs.). His best asset early in his career will be his value in the passing game. Nyheim may lack the initial quickness to beat defenders over the short areas of the field, but his top gear has home run ability. Pass protection is going to be an issue, and Hines doesn’t run with enough power to win battles at the point of contact. I expect him to be overhyped in the preseason.
Fountain is more athletic than football ready. His route running is in a developmental mode with questions about his hands under fire. Daurice won’t be a productive Fantasy option early in his career. Wilkins has upside in his open field ability thanks to his vision and elusiveness at the second level of the defense. His lack of power hurts him when he needs to create his own space moving through the line of scrimmage. Jordan plays with a pretty boy style while lacking the fight to battle for a long career in the NFL. Wilkins pretty much wears a skirt in pass protection.
Cain may offer the most upside of any of the offensive prospects drafted in 2018. He runs with winning speed (4.43) while providing skills in route running. His first step gives him an edge vs. press coverage, but his lack of strength hurts him if he’s unable to create space. The biggest question for Deon will be his hands, and his willingness to work to improve his overall game.
In the seventh round. The Colts drafted a pair of linebackers – Matthew Adams and Zaire Franklin. Based on size (6’0” and 229 Lbs.), Adams should have a feel of a speed linebacker. Unfortunately, his game is built on more power with questions about his short area quickness. Matthew may develop into an early-down run stopper while lacking change of direction speed. Franklin has below NFL average speed (4.81) at linebacker, which pushes him toward a rotational run role in the NFL. He plays well vs. the run, but his tackling isn’t great.
The Colts ranked 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards (1,661) with 11 TDs and eight runs over 20 yards. Their ball carriers gained only 3.7 yards per rush.
Indy had the 30th ranked passing offense (2,892 yards) with a league-low 13 TDs and nine Ints. Their offensive line allowed 56 sacks. Their QBs had 36 completions over 20 yards and nine passes gaining more than 40 yards.
LT Anthony Castonzo played well in the run game while finishing with a high grade as his position in three of the last four seasons. The Colts drafted him in the first round in 2011. He’s played in 77 of the previous 80 games.
LG Quenton Nelson will be a huge upgrade to the offensive line after being selected sixth overall in this year’s draft. He’s a power player with high upside as a run blocker.
C Ryan Kelly ended up being a great find in the 2016 draft after the Colts drafted him in the first round. Kelly projects as a possible Pro Bowler, but his game took a huge step back in 2017 due to nine missed game (foot injury and concussion). Kelly should offer 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 Matt Slauson missed the last nine games of 2017 with the Chargers after suffering a torn biceps muscle in Week 7. He’s been a steady to above average player at his position over the previous seven seasons while playing at the center. He’ll be changing positions while entering this season at age 32.
Braden Smith should be the future at the position after Indy added him in the second round. Smith has a mechanical feel to his game while lacking the vision to anticipate a defender’s plan in the pass rush. His best value comes in a power run game.
Denzelle Good will compete with Austin Howard for the starting job at right tackle. Good started ten games in 2016, but he made only five starts last year due to a knee issue. He has risk in all areas as a seventh-round pick in 2015. Howard started all 16 games for the Colts last year. Only once in his seven years in his NFL career has Austin graded above the league average at his position. Last year Howard was neutral run blocker with some risk in pass protection.
Based on the additions over the last couple of seasons on the offensive line, Andrew Luck should step into a much better situation in 2018. Indy should be much better in run blocking, which will be a win for the overall offense.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2017, which will work as our starting point for 2018. 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.
2017 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2017.
2017 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
2017 Adjustment is based on the 2017 league average and the 2017 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
The Colts have three games (PHI and TEN X 2) vs. teams that played well defending the run last year. They have two games (CIN and WAS) against teams with risk running the ball. Overall, Indy has league average schedule for their run game.
Mr. Luck will have the toughest time passing the ball against the Jaguars in two games, but he won’t face another team with a top pass defense. Indy should have the best success against the Patriots, the Giants, and two games vs. the Titans.
Without their star QB, Indy turned into a ding and dunk passing team while becoming more balanced on offense. The Colts ran the 48.1 percent of the time while gaining only 6.6 yards per pass attempt.
QB Andrew Luck – After the 2016 season, Luck had surgery on his right shoulder to repair a torn labrum. Unfortunately, his recovery lingered all season. Last November Andrew went to Europe to solve his shoulder woes. In late May. Luck still hasn’t thrown a football. In 2016, I didn’t trust Luck due to his questionable depth at the receiving positions. 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). His shoulder injury is a huge concern, but it sounds as though he’s trending in the right direction. His offensive line is improving, but his receiving core is league average at best. I don’t see an impactful run game to take the pressure off his right shoulder. When healthy, Luck is a winner who can deliver impact games. Before drafting him in 2018, a Fantasy owner needs to see him at full strength in the preseason. Possible 4,000 yards with a run at 30 TDs.
Update: 7/27/18 > The Colts expect Luck to play their first preseason game in August, which will create momentum in his draft value. For now, Andrew is on a path to regain his previous form.
QB Jacoby Brissett – Twice over the last two seasons, Brissett has been asked to cover an elite QB. Over 17 starts in his career, Jacoby has 5-12 record. Last year he passed for 3,098 yards with 13 TDs and only seven Ints. Brissett was sacked 52 times leading to only 6.6 yards per pass attempt. Jacoby added 260 yards rushing with four TDs. Over his junior and senior season at NC State, he threw for 5,268 yards with 43 TDs and 11 Ints while completing close to 60 percent of his passes. Jacoby added 899 yards and nine TDs in the run game.
Other Options: Brad Kaaya, Phillip Walker
RB Jordan Wilkins – In his senior season at Mississippi, Wilkins gained 1,192 yards with ten TDs and 26 catches while pushing his yards per rush to 6.5 yards. Jordan runs with a smoothness to his game when given an open run through the defensive line. He has vision with open field ability, but Wilkins doesn’t run with power or tackle breaking ability. His value in pass protection in a huge concern. Based on the early down options on the Colts in 2018, Jordan appears to be the top player for early down action. He needs to add more strength and more fire to his game when engaging oncoming tackles. The running back situation will be fluid in 2018. Wilkins looks to be inline for 150+ touches for 650+ yards and a handful of TDs.
Update: 8/11/18 > Wilkins will get a bump in value early in the season, which may lead to more growth in his value in 2018.
RB Marlon Mack – In his rookie season, Mack gained 583 combined yards with four TDs and 21 catches. He missed two games early in the year with a shoulder injury. After the season, Marlon had surgery to repair a torn labrum. His best game of the season came in Week 5 (93 combined yards with one TD and one catch). Mack has what the Colts’ offense lacks at the running back position – explosiveness. He scored six TDs over 40 yards in 2016 in college. Over three years at South Florida, Mack rushed for 3,609 yards on 586 carries with 32 rushing TDs. He had the most production in TDs (15) in 2016 while his best chances for success came in 2015 (1,492 combined yards on 226 touches). His yards per carry (6.2) improved each season (5.2, 6.6, and 6.8) while offering some value in the passing game (65/498/1). Marlon is built to provide speed from the outside while having risk with small holes on the inside. He runs with the ball away from his body in the open field, which will lead to fumbles in the NFL. I don’t believe he can handle his responsibilities on pass downs at this point in his career. Based on all options on the Colts in late May at RB, Mack is the player with the most upside even with questions about the health of his shoulder and his pass protection skill sets. Possible 225+ touches for 1,000+ yards with 30+ catches and sneaky value in TDs.
Update: 7/27/18 > Mack has been cleared to play in training camp, which sets the stage for him to be the lead back in Indy in 2018. If his shoulder doesn’t have any setbacks, Marlon should have a nice opportunity in touches in 2018.
Update: 8/11/18 > Marlon Mack suffered a hamstring injury in the first preseason game, which will cost him the rest of August and possibly multiple games in the regular season. His injury will create an early window for Jordan Wilkins in September. I’m going to downgrade his projections by two games.
RB Josh Ferguson – 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 4,093 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. Last year Josh saw minimal action over ten games after suffering an injury in the preseason.
RB Christine Michael – Over four seasons in the NFL, Michael gained 1,215 yards with eight TDs and 26 catches on 291 touches. His best success and opportunity came in 2016 over nine games with Seattle (565 combined yards with seven TDs and 20 catches). He missed all of 2017 due to an undisclosed injury. May emerge as the lead runner on early downs.
RB Robert Turbin – 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. Last year Turbin missed two games due to a dislocated left elbow. He finished with 109 combined yards with one TD and nine catches on 32 touches. Over seven years in the NFL, Robert has never had a starting opportunity.
RB Nyheim Hines – In his junior season at NC State, Hines gained 1,265 yards with 12 TDs and 26 catches. His value at receiver was much higher in 2016 (43/525). Over three seasons in college, Nyheim caught 89 catches for 933 yards and one TD. He’ll offer explosiveness to the return game thanks to his plus speed (4.38). Hines lacks size (5’8” and 198 lbs.) with questions about his strength to run through tight quarters or add value in pass protection. His quickness isn’t elite, but he does show a spin move at the point of contact. In 2018, I expect Hines to offer the most value in the return game.
Other Options: Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin, Troymaine Pope, Terry Swanson, Lavon Coleman
WR T.Y. Hilton – After the best season of his career in 2016 (91/1448/6), Hilton was a shell of himself without Andrew Luck behind center. Last year he caught 57 of 109 targets for 966 yards and four TDs while delivering only four strong games (7/153/1, 7/177, 5/175/2, and 6/100). Over his other 12 games, T.Y. caught three catches or fewer in ten games plus eight games with 30 yards or fewer. Hilton caught five passes for 40 yards or more in five of his last six seasons. In 2016, he gained over 20 yards on 28 plays compared to 14 in 2017. The key here is the health of Luck. With a healthy season from his QB, T.Y should have a floor of 90 catches for 1,300+ yards and about seven TDs.
Update: 7/27/18 > Hilton has made an effort to get tip-top shape in the offseason and the positive news on Luck’s health will start to push up his draft value. Complete steal as WR3 on a wide receiver strong team in PPR leagues. The most recent drafts in the FFWC have him ranked as a back-end WR1.
WR Ryan Grant – As the third/fourth option in the Redskins’ passing game in 2017, Grant caught 45 of 65 passes for 573 yards and four TDs. His best success came in Week 11 (3/59/1), Week 13 (5/76/1), and Week 16 (4/85). Ryan has been in the NFL for four seasons while never securing a starting job. In his last two seasons at Tulane, Grant caught 153 passes for 2,188 yards and 15 TDs. Worth a late flier as someone emerge at WR in the Colts’ offense.
WR Chester Rogers – Over three seasons at Grambling, Rogers caught 153 passes for 2,232 yards and 15 TDs. He signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Over two seasons in the NFL, Chester caught 42 passes for 557 yards and one TD on 71 targets. Last year he missed the first five games with a hamstring injury. His best game in 2017 came in Week 10 against the Steelers (6/104/1). Rogers lacks size (6’1” and 184 lbs.), which points to him being the third WR in Indy in 2018.
WR Daurice Fountain – In the fifth round in 2017 draft, the Colts drafted Fountain. He caught 150 passes for 2,077 yards and 23 TDs highlighted by his senior year (66/943/12). Daurice needs to improve his route running, and his hands may have risk at the next level.
Other Options: Deon Cain, James Wright, K.J. Brent, Krishawn Hogan, Seantavius Jones
TE Jack Doyle – The lack of options in the Colts’ offense led to Doyle being the king of the dink and dunk passes. Jack caught 80 of his 108 passes for 690 yards and four TDs. He had an exceptional catch rate (74.1), which was lower than his success in 2016 (79.7). In his career, Doyle gains only 8.5 yards per catch with only ten catches for 20 yards or more. Over the last two seasons, Indy completed 207 passes for 2,157 yards and 17 TDs on 289 targets with the higher level of success coming with Luck behind center in 2017 (109/1287/12). Excellent opportunity to provide steady catches from week-to-week in PPR leagues even with Eric Ebron added to the roster. I’ll set the bar at 70 catches for 650 yards and five TDs, which will be a borderline top 12 TE in 2018.
TE Eric Ebron – After starting to make a step forward in 2016 (61/711/1), Ebron struggled out of the game last year. Over his first nine games, Eric caught only 20 of his 39 targets for 234 yards and two TDs. His role in the Lions’ offense gained momentum over his next six games (32/331/2 over 41 targets) highlighted by his game in Week 14 (10/94). Over four seasons in the NFL, Ebron has 186 catches for 2,070 yards and 11 TDs on 288 targets. He’s a former first-round draft pick (2014) who is reaching the prime of his career at age 25. There’s upside here, but Ebron needs to do a much better job catching the ball in the end zone. Based on the receiving structure in this offense, Eric should emerge as the top three options in the Colts’ passing game. At the very least, 50+ catches for 500+ yards with low value in TDs. Interesting TE2 in PPR leagues.
Other Options: Erik Swoope, Darrell Daniels, Ross Travis, Mo Alie-Cox
K Adam Vinatieri – After underperforming his Patriots’ resume early in his career with the Colts, Adam has been impressive over his last five seasons (89.1 percent) with crazy value from 50 yards or longer (23-for-29) highlighted by his 2016 success from long range (7-for-9). Over the last three seasons, Vinatieri made 98 of 103 extra points. He needs 58 points to pass Morten Anderson for the most points scored all -time. Solid kicking opportunity with an excellent chance of being a top ten kicker again in 2017 at age 45.
The Colts’ run defense will be challenged in four games (PHI, JAX x 2, and DAL). They have two matchups (CIN and MIA) against two teams that struggled to run the ball in 2017. Overall, they have an unfavorable schedule for their run defense.
Indy only has one tough game (NE) for their pass defense. They have six games (CIN, NYJ, BUF, DAL, and TEN X 2) vs. teams that struggled to pass the ball last year. The Colts have an edge in their pass schedule.
Indy finished 26th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (1,927) with 15 rushing TDs. Game score led 30.5 carries per game with rushers gaining 3.9 yards per attempt.
The Colts defense managed only 25 sacks while allowing the most catches (64) over 20 yards in the NFL in 2018. They ranked 28th in passing yards allowed (3,946) with 23 TDs and 13 Ints.
The best player on the Colts’ defense in 2017 was DE Jabaal Sheard. He finished with 55 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and three defended passes in his seventh season in the NFL. Sheard was excellent against the run leading to his best season in his career. DE John Simon missed 12 games over the last two seasons while finishing as a neutral player. Over nine games in 2017, Simon had 43 tackles, three sacks, one defended pass, one Int, and one TD.
The interior of the Colts’ defensive line is loaded with mediocrity. Indy doesn’t have any impact defensive tackles on the roster inviting failure risk defending the run up the middle. In this season draft, the Colts did try to add more speed at DE to help create a better pass rush and funnel running plays inside.
LB Antonio Morrison posted 109 tackles in his second 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.). He finished as a liability in all areas last year. LB Darius Leonard will add speed to the defense while needing a clear run through the line of scrimmage to earn sacks and winning plays in the run game. The Colts added him in the second round in 2018.
At the other linebacking position, Indy may turn to one of their pass rushing 2018 draftees to help attack the QB. Overall, the depth at linebacker is young and pedestrian.
S Malik Hooker only played in seven games in his rookie season after getting drafted in the first round in 2017. His season ended with a torn ACL and MCL. Hooker should add value in pass coverage. He has 22 tackles, four defended passes and three Ints in his first year in the league. S Matthias Farley was an upgrade against the run leading to 98 tackles while holding his own in pass coverage (seven defended passes and two Ints). He signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016. S T.J. Green will offer value against the run off the bench after being selected in the second round in 2016.
A knee injury cost CB Quincy Wilson nine games in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round. 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 sort area quickness. He may end up playing safety down the road.
CB Pierre Desir has been in the NFL four seasons while never grading as an asset in coverage. Last season he missed seven games with a torn pectoral muscle. He was on a pace to set a career high in tackles (32), defended passes (7), and Ints (1). Overall, Desir ranks well below the top starting CBs in the NFL. His job could be at risk to CB Kenny Moore who posted 39 tackles and five defended passes in his rookie season after signing as an undrafted free agent.
There’s loads of downside on the Colts’ defense. Their secondary has risk in coverage with health being a concern for two of their young early round draft picks. The linebacking core lacks depth while the interior of the defensive line will struggle to rush the QB and stop the run. The only positive is that Andrew Luck will have to throw the ball to win in 2018. Indy’s defense has minimal Fantasy value.
2018 NFL Team Outlooks