What does new head coach Frank Reich mean for the Colts from a fantasy perspective?
It looks like Andrew Luck should be ready to roll this fall after missing the entire 2017 season following shoulder surgery, and it will be a welcome sight to see one of the league’s true superstars finally get back on the field. However, I’m a bit skeptical about Luck immediately returning to his QB1 ways because a) the team will have a new offensive system, b) he will likely have a ton of rust to knock off early in the year, and c) Indy doesn’t have great skill-position talent behind T.Y. Hilton.
Plus, as I’ve said and will continue to say, quarterback is loaded in 2018, so I’m just not sure it’s worth spending a mid-round pick on Luck, who won’t have thrown an NFL pass for over 600 days when he hits the field in the season opener. The former No. 1 overall pick is currently being drafted as a borderline QB1 with an ADP of Round 9, and that’s only expected to rise if/when he begins throwing on a consistent basis. Personally, I’m treating Luck as a late-round option that I know won’t be there, but he could be a prime buy-low target if he struggles early.
It’s probably worth talking about Jacoby Brissett in case Indy’s franchise quarterback suffers a setback over the next couple months, but the Colts are surely hoping he’s just a top-end backup in 2018. Acquired via a post-preseason trade with the Patriots last September, Brissett completed 58.8% of his passes for 3,098 yards and a 13:7 touchdown-interception ratio in 15 starts; and the 24-year-old also rushed for 260 yards and four scores on the ground. Overall, Brissett blew away expectations on team that lacked talent, and he could be a streaming option if forced to make starts again this year.
The Colts are expected to have a full-blown running-back-by-committee under head coach Frank Reich, but there could still be fantasy contributors that emerge. Marlon Mack rushed 93 times for 358 yards (3.8 YPC) and three touchdowns as a 21-year-old rookie, also adding 21 receptions for 225 yards and another score. He carries Round 8 ADP at the moment, but I think that’s a steep price without seeing how the backfield shakes out in the preseason, especially because the new coaching staff could favor the two rookies that Indy drafted in April.
Fourth-round pick Nyheim Hines is a former college track star with 4.3 speed and great versatility, which he displayed at NC State as a runner, receiver, and returner. The team recently compared the rookie to Darren Sproles and Dexter McCluster—the former obviously being a potential Hall of Famer—and my comparison for him in the pre-draft process was Tyreek Hill if he were a full-time running back. I think Hines has the ability and size at a compact five-foot-eight to lead the backfield, and he should be drafted in all leagues.
The Colts doubled up at running back earlier this year when they selected Jordan Wilkins at the end of the fifth round in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he could easily find himself as leader of a RBBC this season. The Ole Miss product is a smooth runner at six-foot-one, but he missed the 2016 season due to poor grades before finally earning extended action as a redshirt senior with 155 attempts for 1,011 yards (6.5 YPC) and nine scores. He isn’t currently worth taking in fantasy drafts, but Wilkins could be a hot name on the waiver wire if he pushes Mack for early-down snaps.
As we saw in Philadelphia last year, Frank Reich will use as many as four different running backs, so Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, and Josh Ferguson could all become potential factors if they make they team, especially because Mack, Hines, and Wilkins aren’t necessarily short-yardage options. Despite a four-game suspension, it sounds like Turbin is the early favorite for a roster spot, but we’ll see what happens in the preseason.
He was disappointed with his play last year, but T.Y. Hilton is coming off an impressive 57/966/4 line without Andrew Luck, and the all-around deep threat has been extremely consistent since entering the league with at least 50 receptions and 861 yards in each of his six seasons while missing just two games. From 2013-2016, Hilton averaged an 81/1,250/5.75 line, including 91 receptions for an NFL-high 1,448 yards in 2016. I think T.Y. is a great value at his current early Round 4 ADP, as he has a great combination of weekly upside and season-long floor.
The depth chart is about as open possible behind Hilton, and third-year receiver Chester Rogers is one of the top options to start alongside the Pro Bowler. A former undrafted free agent, Rogers has caught 42 passes for 557 yards and one touchdown over the past two seasons with Indy, and he has an edge over others thanks to his built-in chemistry with Andrew Luck. Still, he’s not a fantasy option to begin the 2018 season.
Last year, Ryan Grant caught 45 passes for 573 yards and four scores in Washington as a trusted target for Kirk Cousins and the coaching staff, and he is hoping that he earns a bigger role in Indianapolis. However, the 27-year-old projects to be a better real-life target than fantasy option, so Grant is unlikely to become anything more than a deep-league FLEX or bye-week fill-in.
The starting trio for the Colts is expected to be Hilton-Rogers-Grant, but I wouldn’t sleep on sixth-round pick Deon Cain, who was a Day 2 talent that slipped due to some character concerns. Cain never quite lived up to the legacy of guys like Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins at Clemson as dominant No. 1 receivers, but he averaged 19.1 yards per reception with nine scores in a standout 2016 season. I think the 22-year-old (next month) could turn into a really good secondary option at the next level, and fantasy owners should keep taps on him, even in redraft leagues.
Jack Doyle enjoyed a mini breakout in 2016 before he really emerged as a bright spot for the Colts last year with 80 receptions for 690 yards and four touchdowns. The 28-year-old should be happy about the hire of Frank Reich to orchestrate the offense, as the tight ends will be a big part of it in a variety of formations and personnel groupings. That said, I would rather wait as long as possible to take a higher-upside option at tight end instead of spending an early Round 12 pick on Doyle, particularly in non-PPR leagues.
Also, the Colts signed former first-round pick Eric Ebron this offseason, and the starting combination could frustrate fantasy owners more than anything else. I currently have Ebron outside my top 20 at the position because he’s struggled with drops in his career, and I don’t see how splitting time will lead to more production than being the clear starter with Matthew Stafford throwing passes in Detroit.
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