The Indianapolis Colts are in a “win-now” mode. In 2012, the team lost on Wild Card weekend to the Baltimore Ravens. In 2013, the team made a miraculous comeback against Kansas City, but lost in New England in the divisional round. Now in 2014, the team has high expectations. They traded their 2014 first round pick (high cost) to Cleveland for running back Trent Richardson last season, but he underperformed. The team has multiple offseason additions and injured players returning that should help surround quarterback Andrew Luck with weapons to excel. Indianapolis is also in a weak division, as Houston, Tennessee, and Jacksonville offer six games of potentially great fantasy stats. This team should take off this year, so expect great things from the Colts.
2014 Indianapolis Colts Fantasy Outlook
The Colts are fortunate to have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Andrew Luck. Luck is entering his third year in 2014 and he is already one of the league’s elite signal callers. Luck improved drastically last year. Luck’s total touchdown-to-turnover ratio went from 28:23 as a rookie to 27:11 in his sophomore campaign. His completion percentage also went up 5%, so although he threw for less yards (3,822 in 2013), he was more efficient. A big reason for the smaller yardage total was that Luck was missing weapons: wide receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen were both out for the season. This resulted in an offense that was in the middle of the pack statistically in both points per game (24.4 ppg, 14th best) and yardage per game (341.8 ypg, 15th best). With both guys healthy and new options from free agency, the Colts offense will be one of the best in the NFL. Luck was also under heavy pressure all of last season. He may have only been sacked 32 times, but he was under pressure and had to scramble all the time. The Colts used their second-round pick on offensive lineman Jack Mewhort in hopes of protecting their franchise quarterback. Staying on his feet should help produce better numbers. Luck is going to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league this year. I expect him to have a monster year with all of his weapons to use. Be happy if you draft him.
Indianapolis shocked the world when they sent a 2014 first-rounder to Cleveland for former 3rd overall pick Trent Richardson. This move indicated that the Colts wanted to win badly, and traded the first-round draft pick in an attempt to fill their big hole at running back. Well, Richardson struggled to say the least. He averaged a horrendous 2.9 yards per carry, and ended up sharing time with running back Donald Brown, who was the leading rusher with 537 yards. Brown is no longer with the Colts, so that leaves Richardson primed for plenty of carries. Richardson ran for 458 yards last year and 3 touchdowns (only 1 with the Colts), so there is plenty of room for improvement. I expect about 900 yards and 8 touchdowns from Richardson this year, and he should be a top 20 back. He claims he didn’t know the playbook last season, so there are no excuses for the upcoming season.
There shouldn’t be much competition for Richardson. Brown is gone, and running back Vick Ballard tore his Achilles for the second consecutive year. That leaves injury-prone running back Ahmad Bradshaw for the backup job. Although he is effective when he is healthy, that doesn’t happen often. Look for Richardson to improve from last year, but he shouldn’t crack the top 10 for fantasy running backs. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wants to emphasize the running game; can Richardson answer the call?
Last season, the Colts struggled to provide Andrew Luck with talented options at times. Reggie Wayne was lost for the year with a torn ACL, and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey never panned out as expected. As a result, the Colts had under 4,000 yards receiving last season. This year, the Colts have a very strong receiving corps led by breakout star T.Y. Hilton. In Wayne’s absence, Hilton improved in his second year with 82 receptions for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns. In the playoffs, Hilton progressed further, as he had 17 receptions for 327 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 2 games. Hilton was often focused on by defenses, so with Wayne’s return, Hilton should have an even better season this year.
Surrounding Hilton are other receivers such as Reggie Wayne, newly-signed Hakeem Nicks and rookie Donte Moncrief. Wayne had a great 2012 campaign with 1,355 and 5 touchdowns before being sidelined after 7 games in 2013. He had a solid start to 2013, and should be in for another good year with Luck throwing the ball. Wayne may be old, but he can still play. 1,000 yards may be a reach, but he should get to 900 and 6 touchdowns due to his great hands.
Hakeem Nicks will play a good role in this offense. He will take the pressure off of Hilton and Wayne, and he is still an effective wide receiver when healthy. Nicks may not be capable of starting at wide receiver in fantasy, but I could see him being a low-end flex. The Colts tend to throw in the red zone (13th in attempts last year), so look for Nicks to find pay dirt more often this year.
Lastly, rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief has plenty of potential, as he had a great career in the SEC at Ole Miss. If an injury were to occur, or if Wayne never fully recovers, look for Moncrief to step up and have an impact. Overall, Hilton is the best option here, but Wayne is not far behind. Nicks is a late-round pick, while Moncrief could be a waiver addition in the early weeks.
The Colts have two prominent tight ends on their roster: Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. In 2013, Allen had a season-ending injury in week 1, so Fleener took over the starting role. Fleener had 608 yards on 52 receptions with four touchdowns, but he was a disappointment. He dropped many passes, and the Colts offense wasn’t as productive as it had been with Allen in it. I expect Fleener to regress in catches, as the Colts will often use both on the field at the same time. Fleener may score more touchdowns this year, but his yardage will be down with so many options for Luck. On the other hand, Dwayne Allen is a sleeper in my opinion. He has shown great chemistry with Luck, and he is a better blocker than Fleener. He should see a good amount of playing time, and I like Allen more than Fleener. However, both will share targets, so it is hard to draft one and expect TE1 numbers. If you need a backup tight end, draft Allen.
The Colts offense will be much better this year, and Luck should produce quality numbers with so many options. The team has an easier schedule, so expect results. Drafting Luck and Hilton are strong picks, while Wayne and Richardson should rebound for solid years. The tight end situation is a little messy, but both could prove to be solid fill-in tight ends. Overall, look for great things from the Colts in 2014.
For the latest sports injury news, check out our friends at Sports Injury Alert.
Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to follow me on Twitter – @jayhamm26 and the fantasy department Twitter – @lwosfantasy. Make sure you support LWOS by following the site on Twitter – @LastWordOnSport – and by “liking” the Facebook page.
Football fans… check out our two partnered NFL podcasts – Thursday Night Tailgate Radio and Overtime Ireland. Both shows bring you interesting commentary, critical analysis and fantastic guests including former and current NFL players, coaches and personalities.