|By Shawn Childs, Wednesday, June 10, 2015|
The Colts have only had two bad years over the last 16 seasons (2001: 6-10 and 2011: 2-14). In the other 14 seasons, Indianapolis has won ten games or more and a playoff berth. Over this span, they have one Super Bowl victory. Indy scored the sixth-most points (458) in the league, which was the second-highest amount in the team's history. Their success was driven by the third-most yards gained per game (406.6) in the league. The Colts' defense had growth in total yards allowed (342.7), which led to them finishing 11th in the league after ranking 20th or below in each of the last four years. Even with better defensive play, they allowed the 19th-most points (369). Chuck Pagano returns for his fourth season as head coach. He's gone 11-5 in each season. Pep Hamilton will run the offense for the third straight year. Pep has 11 years of NFL experience. He'll have the pleasure of working with one of the best young QBs with outstanding receiving options. Greg Manusky will make the defensive calls for the fourth straight year. Greg has been a coach for 14 years with eight years of experience as a defensive coordinator.
Based on last year's success, LB Trent Cole and WR Andre Johnson were the two biggest additions to the Colts' lineup. Cole will start the year at age 32. He had seven sacks, 14 QB hits, and 26 QB hurries last year with only league-average success against the run. Johnson has a long resume of accomplishments and he will add another dimension to the Colts' passing game even at the age of 34. Andre will replace the retired WR Reggie Wayne on the roster.
S Dwight Lowery was added to take over the free safety job. He allowed the most passing yards (630) for his position last year with just above league average value against the run, but he didn't allow a TD. S Sergio Brown left to play with Jacksonville. S LaRon Landry was cut.
DT Cory Redding and DE Ricky Jean-Francois have both moved on to other teams. Redding was the Colts best pass rusher on the defensive line, but he'll turn 35 in November. Jean-Francois was no more than a league average defender.
RB Trent Richardson signed with the Raiders and WR Hakeem Nicks now plays with the Titans. Both players played well below expectations in 2014. RB Ahmad Bradshaw was released. RB Frank Gore was added for RB depth.
The Colts have talent at WR, but they felt they needed to focus their offense in the future so Indy selected the speedy WR Phillip Dorsett. He has plus, plus speed with elite quickness, but he needs to add more strength.
Indianapolis didn't have a second round pick. They tried to improve the depth on the defense with their next four picks – CB D'Joun Smith, DE Henry Anderson, S Clayton Geathers, and NT David Perry. Smith looks like a player with play-making ability and solid cover skills. His lack of top-end speed hurts him when he makes a mistake and he needs to prove he can handle NFL WRs in press coverage. Anderson has disruption quickness, but he needs more bulk to help him finish plays. He has a solid motor with very good feel for the game. Geathers will add a physical presence to the secondary with solid cover skills. He likes to hit, but he will miss tackles by getting himself out of position. Perry will have the most value as a run clogger with solid strength and some underlying quickness with an edge in intelligence. He won't be a full-time player in the NFL.
Sixth round pick RB Josh Robinson has limited upside in all areas of the game. He lacks speed, yet possesses some short-area quickness and power.
With their last two picks, the Colts drafted LB Amarlo Herrera and OT Denzelle Good. Herrera has a solid feel for the game, but lacks winning NFL speed or quickness. He lets the game come to him rather than attacking the line of scrimmage. Good will be a developmental project with his most upside coming in run-blocking.
Indianapolis Colts WR Phillip Dorsett
Indy finished 22nd in rushing yards (1612) while only gaining 3.9 yards per rush with nine rushing TDs.
2011 first round draft pick LT Anthony Castonzo was the Colts best offensive lineman. He only allowed two sacks with just below league average success in run blocking.
LG Jack Mewhort started 14 games last year after being drafted in the second round in the 2014 NFL draft. Jack allowed three sacks with neutral value as run blocker.
The Colts don't have a strong option to start at center. C Jonotthan Harrison started 10 games last year. Harrison allowed two sacks, six QB hits, and 16 QB hurries. He will compete with C Khaled Holmes for the starting job. Holmes took over as starter in week 16 while showing no real upside.
RG Hugh Thornton played poorly as a starter in 2013 (seven sacks, 17 QB hits, and 19 QB hurries), which led to him only starting eight games in 2014. His season ended in January with a sprained MCL. RG Todd Herremans may have the inside track for the starting job after struggling in 2014 with the Eagles. His season ended in early November with a torn biceps. Herremans has been a strong run blocker in his career.
RT Gosder Cherilus played his way of out of a starting job after Week 15. He allowed six sacks, 15 QB hits, and 27 QB hurries. Cherilus is a former number one draft pick in 2009. Before last year, Gosder was at least average at his position.
This line only has one elite player with weakness across the board. Luck's talent offsets some of the downside, but there is no real upside in run blocking. Last year this line allowed 29 sacks with the Colts having the No. 1 passing attack in the league with 42 TDs and 16 INTs.
The Colts had one of the weaker run games in the league in 2014. Without elite QB play, their rush total would have been much lower. They ran the ball 38.6 percent of the time. Indy completed 22.4 percent of their passes to the RB and 24.1 percent to the TE. WRs caught 219 passes for 3,004 yards and 16 TDs.
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 2014, which will work as our starting point for 2015. 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.
2014 Average: The league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2014.
2014 Results: This is the results for each team in the NFL.
2015 Adjustment: The difference between a team's result and the league average in a certain statistic. This number will show if a team is above or below the league average in each stat and will serve as the basis for the strength of schedule.
Indy has five games with a favorable run schedule – NO, JAX (X 2), and TEN (X 2). The Colts really only have two tough run defenses – the Broncos and the Jets. Overall, I only see three tough passing matchups – MIA, BUF, and DEN. Most of the remaining games are neutral or favorable in passing yards with only one plus game – ATL.
QB Andrew Luck - Stud (low risk)
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Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck
RB Frank Gore - Solid/Safe Pick
Gore will be an interesting player in the Colts offense in 2015. Many fantasy owners have had him dead and buried a couple of years ago, but he keeps producing 1,000-yard seasons. Frank has four straight 1,000-yard seasons and eight in his last nine years. Gore hasn't missed a game since 2010. Even with solid value in the run game, Frank has been phased out in the passing game over the last four years after catching 255 passes from 2006 to 2010. He'll start the year at age 32. Indy will get him more involved in the passing game. Gore had the eighth-most RB snaps in 2014 (fifth in 2013, fifth in 2012, and seventh in 2011). He will be drafted as RB2 or lower this year with sneaky upside. I think he will catch more than 30-plus balls with 250-plus carries, which gives a 1,300 yard opportunity with some value at the goal line.
Indianapolis Colts RB Frank Gore
RB Dan Herron - Deep-league Only
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WR T.Y. Hilton - Stud (low risk)
Luck threw the ball a ton to Hilton over the first eight games in 2014. T.Y. had seven games with nine targets or more to start the year with three 100-yard receiving games and one game with 200-plus yards. At the mid-point of the season, he had 53 catches for 862 yards with two TDs on 78 targets. Over his next four games, defenses took Hilton away from Luck (15/279/3 on 23 targets). T.Y. had a career-high 19 targets in Week 14, which led to 10 catches for 150 yards and two TDs. A hamstring injury in the fourth quarter in Week 15 led to a missed game in Week 16 and limited action in Week 17. His catch rate in the playoffs was only 39.3 percent as Luck struggled to get him the ball. The Colts don't have a great line, which limits his upside in big plays. Last year Hilton caught 21 passes of 20 yards or more and six for 40 yards or more. The addition of WR Andre Johnson should create more open field for Hilton in some games as defense will need to decide which weapon they want to defend. He will be an important part of Luck's success and I expect him to catch close to 100 passes with a chance at 1,500 yards. Ideally, a fantasy owner would like him to be a pass-catching machine along the lines of WR Antonio Brown. T.Y. lacks size (5'10' and 183 lbs.) and his style hurts his TD production in the red zone. Hilton has a top-12 WR opportunity in 2015.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton
WR Andre Johnson - Solid/Safe Pick
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WR Phillip Dorsett - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
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WR Donte Moncrief - Deep-league Only
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TE Coby Fleener - Solid/Safe Pick
After splitting time with TE Dwayne Allen over the first nine games of the year, Fleener saw his opportunity spike over the last half of 2014 due an injury to Allen and some injuries to the WR position. Over the last eight games of the year, Coby caught 31 passes for 556 yards with five TDs on 48 targets. His value was created by his ability to make big plays (15.2 yards per catch) and his scoring ability. In comparison, Fleener only had 18 catches for 218 yards with three TDs on 34 targets over his first eight games. He out-snapped Allen 812 to 633 on the year, but Dwayne only played 11 full games. Last year Luck completed 99 passes to the TE position for 1,288 yards and 19 TDs. Fleener will be a big-play option with added value in TDs. His results will vary from week-to-week due to game plan and opponent. I expected him to see similar snaps as Allen, but Coby will hold a 2-to-1 edge in catches. Fleener has a very good chance of leading Indy in receiving TDs. Based on the talent at TE in the league, Coby should be a top five or six player at his position with a chance to catch 60 passes for 800-plus yards and 10-plus TDs.
TE Dwayne Allen - Gamble (high risk)
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PK Adam Vinatieri - Stud (low risk)
After a great career with the Patriots, Vinatieri struggled to make an impact with the Colts over six seasons due weak field chances (less than 30 FGs in each year). Over the last three years with Luck as QB, Adam has averaged about 35 field goal attempts per game. Last year he only missed one kick (96.8-percent success rate). Over his first 15 years in the league, New England and Indy only allowed him to attempt 22 kicks from 50 yards or more (he made 50 percent). His leg has started to gain value from long range over the last four years (13 for 19). Vinatieri has been a top five kicker in the last two years and this trend should continue in 2015. Adam ranks fourth all-time in the NFL in points scored (2,146) and he will move to third this year. He's made 83.7-percent of his field goal tries in his career. Indy had 205 possessions in 2014, which led to 53 TDs and 30 FGs.
Indianapolis Colts K Adam Vinatieri
Indianapolis - Bust (overvalued)
The Colts have a favorable schedule against both the run and the pass. They have five games with weak rushing offenses – BUF, ATL, TB, and TEN (X 2). The Bills will be better with McCoy on the roster. Their toughest four games against the run will be against the Jets, Panthers, and Texans (X 2). Indy will face 10 teams with below average passing attacks while facing four top passing games – Saints, Steelers, Falcons, and Broncos.
Indianapolis was about league average in rushing yards allowed (1,814). Teams gained 4.3 yards per rush with 14 rushing TDs.
The Colts don't have one impact run stopper on the roster. Their defense line will compose of DE Kendall Langford, NT Josh Chapman, and DE Arthur Jones headed into the 2015 season. Langford has been a below average run stopper in his career with minimal value sacking the QB. Last year the Rams used him as a rotational guy off the bench over the last 12 games of the year. Chapman started 18 of 19 games played by Indy, but he was only on the field for 35.4 percent of the plays by the defense. He will only be in the field on first down and running situation. Jones battled an ankle injury early in 2014. He offers no upside in the pass rush with declining value against the run.
Last year Indianapolis had the ninth most sacks (41) in the league while allowing the 12th lowest amount of passing yards (3,669). Receivers gained 7.2 yards per catch with 27 TDs. The Colts only had 12 INTs. This 2014 defense had more value against weak opponents when Indy was able to pull away on offense.
The Colts played without their best pass rusher in 2014 after LB Robert Mathis blew out his Achilles in September. Mathis had 19.5 sacks in 2013, but Indy doesn't expect him back until midseason and he will have limited upside due to his age (34). 2013 first round draft pick LB Bjoern Werner was only able to deliver five sacks as Mathis replacement with league average value against the run. Werner should improve in his third season in the league. LB D'Qwell Jackson looks to be past his prime, but he did played better against the run over the last half of 2014. Jackson had four sacks last year. LB Jerrell Freeman was a huge liability in run support with his best value in 2014 coming in pass coverage. The linebacker with the most upside is Trent Cole. Cole has enough talent to add value to the pass rush with league average success stopping ball-carriers.
CB Vontae Davis has developed into one of the league's best cornerbacks. Last year receivers didn't catch a TD against him while catching 41 of 92 targets for 444 yards with four INTs. CB Greg Toler allowed nine TDs in 2014 with receivers catching 70 passes for 903 yards on 125 targets. S Dwight Lowery won't add value in pass coverage. S Mike Adams is coming off his best season in the league in pass coverage (30 catches for 352 yards with two TDs and five INTs on 47 targets), but he'll start the year at age 34.
Indianapolis only has one star on defense with aging talent at every level of their defense. Their best defense this year will be their offense. I don't respect this core, but they will have some value in games when they can make the opposing team's offense one-dimensional.