The Colts are the next team up to get run through the projection machine and are coming off of back-to-back playoff berths to begin the Andrew Luck era. A lot went right and wrong in 2013, but Indianapolis still holds major fantasy relevance coming into this season.
2014 Colts Schedule
|9||@||New York Giants|
|11||New England Patriots|
You know the song and dance on using precaution when looking at schedules, but face it, we all do it in some capacity. The Colts pull the NFC East and the AFC North this season which is a much better draw than facing the NFC and AFC West a year ago on paper since they already play in a division in which they went 6-0 in last season.
The first thing we need to establish going forward is the myth that Pep Hamilton was a hindrance to this offense being able to produce. Despite having their lack of receiver depth exposed, a shaky offensive line, and a poor defense, this offense still made a major jump in efficiency under the guidance of Hamilton from the volume induced days of Bruce Arians. Doesn’t fit the narrative you normally hear? See for yourself.
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Under Arians, the only thing this offense had going for it was volume. Inefficiency can sometimes create its own volume, and that’s all the 2012 Colts had going for them. They went from the bottom third in the league in almost every category to the top half while remaining on average in the same game script that they had in 2012.
Andrew Luck: “If” or “When”?
Admittedly, we’ve been pretty spoiled when it comes to rookies playing immediately and producing at high levels recently. Luck has had some bumps and bruises along the way with some shining moments, creating two polarizing groups of detractors and supporters in two seasons. Fulfilling prophecies is tough business, especially when other quarterbacks in your draft class have been running neck and neck with you so far. Using the Career Graphs App available at RotoViz, let’s take a gander at Luck’s first two years compared to some of his 2012 cohorts.
Luck has very little green on his graph other than the counting volume created by Arians as a rookie. All of the others outside of Tannehill have spouts of top notch production so far. In 2013, he improved on nearly all of his peripheral statistics. His completion percentage, adjusted yards per attempt, and touchdown to interception ratio all improved, but he was overshadowed by the second year production from Foles, a player that may be ahead of him coming into 2014, and Wilson.
From a fantasy slant, he was a mixed bag in 2013. He finished 21st in fantasy points per aimed attempt (FPAT), tied with Jake Locker, Mike Glennon and Matt Cassel, but was also lights out in terms of FPAT to close the season. On the other hand, he posted nine top 12 scoring weeks and had a higher quality start rate than Cam Newton, Philip Rivers and Wilson. He was able to stabilize some of his shaky passing outputs because he had ten games in which he ran for 20 yards or more, third most in the league, and his legs accounted for 21.1 percent of his fantasy points.
So where does that leave us going into 2014?
C.D. Carter likes Luck right behind Peyton Manning this season because of his high end equity score while Mr. Fantasy Douche himself lays out why he believes Luck can be the number one quarterback in fantasy this season. Meanwhile, Jim Sannes from numberFire would like both to pump the brakes on that notion. See, I told you he was polarizing.
I clock in on the situation like this: Luck falls on the tier after the big three (Manning, Rodgers, Brees) for me, so he’s pretty much dead to me in serpentine drafts. While I wouldn’t mind rostering him in fantasy this year, I can’t choose to roster him over a receiver like Michael Floyd or Torrey Smith or even backs like Ben Tate or Pierre Thomas. I’ll likely pursue him some in auction leagues where that tier of quarterbacks doesn’t conflict with so much opportunity cost. His schedule, rushing boost and the new and returning additions to the offense all point forward for him continuing to climb the ladder, but the cost needs to be correct considering the position he plays.
As mentioned, last season the Colts suffered a plethora of injuries at the skill positions and were forced to rely on a lot of inexperience. This season, they’ll have the return of Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen to go along with the addition of Hakeem Nicks. They also selected rookie receiver Donte Moncrief in the third round. There’s a lot of talent, but quite a bit of uncertainty, which is why if I had the correct opportunity, I would rather just own Luck than wade through this group.
Wayne is coming off a torn ACL suffered in week seven of last season and also will be turning 36 this November. The only players 35 years or older to score 150 PPR points or more in a season since 2009 have been Terrell Owens and Derrick Mason. Wayne is a possible target for the Zero WR approach because of he’s the security blanket possession guy that Mason was for a young Joe Flacco, but there’s more concern than just his age. He’s turned just 17 of his past 330 (five percent) receptions into touchdowns since the 2009 season, which is Wes Welker in New England territory. He has also converted only six of 26 red zone targets with Luck for scores. His gaudy target volume is buoying his fantasy relevance. If that decreases, 2014 may be the sun setting on his career.
Nicks has had back-to-back injury and poor performance filled seasons as he tries to regain the form that he had during his first three seasons. In 2013, targeting Nicks spawned only 21.8 points for Eli Manning, which ranked 80th in the league for receivers and sandwiched him below Jason Avant and right above Brandon Gibson. Since converting 13 of 39 red zone targets for scores (33.3 percent) during 2009-2011, Nicks has turned just one of his past 27 red zone targets (bad percentage) into a touchdown.
Even having said all of that, I’m kind of intrigued by Nicks in 2014. He’s still only 26 with a great track record of young production and his career is nearly completely against a wall. I want to kick the tires on him, but his current ADP still falls into an area where I’m not willing to gamble on him. The main issue is that even with a bounce back in performance, the ambiguity in this passing attack at full strength still could prevent him from turning into a consistent fantasy contributor. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he steps up for an injury, but if I’m choosing between Nicks and Rueben Randle, Dwayne Bowe, Cecil Shorts and DeAndre Hopkins, he falls short of topping those options in a vacuum.
The Colts also have another receiver who actually played the entire year in 2013, and it’s T.Y. Hilton, one of the most up and down performers for fantasy football. Hilton finished as WR18 in PPR leagues in 2013, but he had only four top 24 scoring weeks -the same number as Nate Washington– but posted two weeks in the top three. He had five touchdowns that all came in two games and the 12 receiving scores he has through two seasons have come in seven games. He has ten 100-yard receiving games to start his career, which is the sixth most over the past two seasons and more than Dez Bryant has.
Most 100-Yard Receiving Games Past Two Seasons
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Unfortunately, he also has 18 games of fewer than 50 receiving yards out his 32 games played. He’s a complete all or nothing player that is currently being priced in as a WR2 on your team. The Colts have hinted as being intent of keeping Hilton in the role he’s played during his first two seasons, so the organization really is tilting their hand in the direction that they don’t ever see him as a volume receiver. He is a walking case against why overall output and rankings aren’t the same thing as his total output will disguise his weekly viability. His weekly volatility isn’t factored into his ADP at all right now and there’s no way I would feel good about my roster if Hilton is my second receiver.
Indy also has two young pups who are talented and are similar players to what Nicks is, so there’s a plan in place for what type of receiver the organization would like to fill that role. Da’Rick Rogers has become something of a forgotten man after getting snaps down the stretch last season. He caught six passes for 107 yards and two scores in the first week he ever dressed then saw his involvement dwindle from there on. Even in two playoff games that featured major off script offense, Rogers played only 37 percent of the plays underneath options like Griff Whalen and Lavon Brazill. He has one of the most unique contract situations in the league, so I believe he makes the club in 2014, though he still needs doors opened to have a real opportunity of being on your re-draft radar.
The other possible Nicks backup is third round selection Donte Moncrief, who like Rogers, has an immense ceiling coupled to a subterranean floor. Moncrief has a bit of a leg up on Rogers in my opinion because the team used actual draft capital on him from the beginning and even though his game is flawed, he’s a solid blocker in the run game. Both could move him in front of Rogers if Nicks disappoints or is lost to injury. This is one camp battle you’ll want to track, because either would be a hot mid season waiver wire snag if the time came for either to be heavily involved.
A lot of big things were expected out of Coby Fleener when Dwayne Allen was lost for the season in week one. For those who were invested, nothing but pain ensued as Fleener was among the least efficient tight ends last season. With the losses around him, at worst he should’ve ran into some volume, but was targeted just once every 5.5 routes, which ranked 32nd out of all tight ends with at least 100 snaps. With all of the pieces around him in 2014, it’s real easy to see Fleener being the odd man out in this offense and relegated to situational creative usage. I’ll be real interested to see if undrafted free agent Erik Swoope makes this team out of camp, because if he does, Fleener’s shelf life may expire quicker than expected.
Allen’s return will most certainly be welcome and has impact on every facet of the offense. Allen grabbed 45 passes as a rookie, something only 13 rookie tight ends have ever done, and had a 20-yard touchdown on his lone reception a year ago before injuring his hip and missing the remainder of the season. His superb run blocking will keep him on the field nearly at all times and is the best option the Colts have in the red zone. Here’s how the Colts receivers have fared in the red zone through two years with Luck.
Colts Red Zone Distribution Since 2012
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Allen is one of my favorite late round tight end options that you can draft with the intent to stream but can become a weekly starter if things align properly. There may not be enough balls to go around to really give him the boost needed to be relevant outside of the paint, but all of the new and returning pieces could open up a lot for him and the addition of Rob Chudzinski to this staff can only be seen as a plus for him.
— Steve Andress (@ColtsReporter) July 11, 2014
He Who Shall Not Be Named
We had to reach this point eventually. The Colts traded their 2014 first round draft pick for Trent Richardson two weeks into the season and were left thoroughly disappointed with the results as he was completely outplayed by the guy they were seemingly try to cast aside in Donald Brown. Richardson ranked 37th in non-touchdown points per touch and the touchdowns he scored only came on 1.8 percent of his touches. He also finished 45th in rushing points per attempt, as only Willis McGahee and Bernard Pierce were worse.
The Colts offensive line wasn’t top notch, but this wasn’t a situation like Baltimore in which the entire running game struggled, because Brown was one of the most efficient backs in the league. A lot falls on the play of Richardson himself. All of that is seemingly water under the bridge now as he’s being drafted as the 25th running back so far this summer.
Dan Schneier has laid out a compelling case for Richardson being a value this season as well as Mr. RotoViz Staff himself. The opportunity presents itself to gain a three down back with elite pedigree in only the third year of his career and off of a full offseason with his new team. I could argue that his situation is better than that of Toby Gerhart, Bishop Sankey, and Chris Johnson, all of whom are currently being selected ahead of him. The elephant in the room is of course that everything we’ve seen from him thus far has shown that he just might not be that good of a runner.
Anticipated volume could carry his current market value naturally if he just holds the lead running back job. I’ve already noted in a few of these team outlooks that I love buying in on players for fair value that have an opportunity to trump their market cost. Richardson fits that mold, so he has my attention to a degree. But as with Luck, his final ADP in snake drafts make it hard for me to pull the trigger but I will be kicking the tires in auctions guaranteed.
I’ll also very much be nibbling on Ahmad Bradshaw at the tail end of drafts because he’s done nothing but produce with any opportunity he’s ever been given. Knowing what we do about Richardson and Brown’s performance a year ago, that’s a role Bradshaw could absolutely be effective in at this stage of his career. With Vick Ballard now lost for the season with a torn Achilles, Bradshaw has an opportunity to make an impact and is available late in drafts. Never a beacon of health, a deep name to keep in mind is rookie Zurlon Tipton in case Bradshaw goes down as well at some point.
2014 Fantasy Relevant Projections
Best Option to Crash through their projection without injury: Richardson – Going as a late RB2, volume alone could make that a fair price point with room to trump that cost if he delivers on some of the promise.
Biggest Risk to fall through their projection: Hilton – he’s very costly for what could be a niche role in the offense. A lot of lows could possibly come with only a few highs.
Best Waiver Wire Option: Bradshaw – there’s still some ambiguity in the way of either Moncrief or Rogers if they see meaningful snaps, but Bradshaw could return RB2 value if Richardson is the player we seen last season.
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