Indianapolis Colts - 2014 Preseason #FF Preview
Last year nine teams had three or more fantasy starters in the top 60 and it is likely that it’ll continue to be that way in 2014. This series: Dressed for Success, will look at NFL teams going into 2014 that have assembled the right players to be a treasure trove of fantasy studs.
We have to talk about the team with the easiest strength of schedule going into the 2014 season, the Indianapolis Colts. The whole AFC South received the top 4 easiest strength of schedule for 2014; drawing the NFC East and AFC South. Undoubtedly this schedule is deflated by the 2-14 Texans, 3-13 Redskins, 4-12 Browns, and 4-12 Jaguars (they don’t even have 16 wins combined!). Fortunately for the Colts, they appear to the only team in a position to take advantage of this schedule as the only team in the division that has a settled QB.
If history is any indicator, the team with the easiest SOS has almost always produced bountiful amounts of fantasy points; unless you’re the 2011 Arizona Cardinals and started Kevin Kolb as your QB. In 2012, the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady finished as the 3rd best QB in standard fantasy scoring, Stevan Ridley finished 10th at RB, Wes Welker finished 12th at WR, and Rob Gronkowski finished 2nd at TE. The 2013 Broncos, needlessly to say, also ran away with the lead. But can the 2014 Colts make the cups of fantasy owners everywhere overflowth with fantasy points?
Andrew Luck hasn’t produced a great number of high passing games. Luck in 2013 had 3 games of 300 or more passing yards. By comparison, Carson Palmer had 5 games of 300 or more, Tom Brady had 6 such games, Drew Brees had 11, and Peyton had 12. Despite the low production, Luck still finished 7th at QB in standard fantasy scoring (345.2 FF Points), with a stat line of 3830 passing yards, 23 passing TDs, 9 INTs, 377 rushing yards and 4 rushing TDs.
Andrew Luck underachieved in 2013 compared to 2012, when he scored 368.2 FF Points. That would have been good for 4th in 2013. In his last year at Stanford, Luck threw for only 313 less yards than he did in 2013. Some of that might be attributed to the lack of talent without Reggie Wayne.
Without Reggie, Luck still produced near similar Fantasy stats. With that kind of consistency, a full complement of WRs and TEs going into 2014, plus the easiest schedule in the league, one has to believe that he has a fighter’s chance to break into the top three of QBs. This season is Luck’s chance to break into NFL’s elite echelon of QBs. As a fantasy owner, you should probably jump on this gravy train. The ranks of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning should best prepare itself for its uncouth compatriot.
Luck is already the champion of GIF-able moments.
Behind Andrew Luck, the skill positions for the Colts are quite a conundrum. Not for lack of talent, but because there is more talent on the team than in the past two years. All of the top three receivers have 1000 yard seasons.
With WRs, the initial question to ask is who will step into the number one, two, or three receiver positions on the team? The positioning of these receivers have played huge part in targets received. In 2013 TY Hilton received 138 targets, Coby Fleener received 88 targets, DHB received 62 targets. In 2012, Reggie Wayne received 194 Targets, Donnie Avery received 125, and TY Hilton received 91 targets. In years past the highest receiving target received about twice as many targets as the third best receiver, and the second receiver got about 30% more targets than the third best receiver. With a crowded WR group in 2014, TY Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks and back-ups LaVon Brazill, Da’Rick Rogers, it’s hard to tell who will fall into what roles.
Adding to the complexity is Pagano’s stated preference to run a two TE scheme, which typically would only field two WRs at a time. The statistics show that Pagano in 2013 only ran two TEs about 158 times compared to one TE 499 times. Whether these stats hold water in 2014 is up in the air since starting TE Dwayne Allen was injured for most of the season.
TY Hilton is undoubtedly the future of the Colts at WR. Hilton did a good job stepping in as a second year receiver, but didn’t tremendously exceed his rookie year campaign. While TY had 33 more receptions in 2013, he produced a number of duds – 7 games of 6 points or less in standard. He also produced a similar amount of explosive games in 2012 as in 2013. He already h ad five 100+ yard receiving games in 2012 and only matched that number in 2013. In a worst case scenario, Hilton could stay at this level of production; in 2012 he was still second fiddle to Wayne and as a starter he maintained this level of production. But he has developmental upside and a better repertoire with Luck than either Nicks or Wayne now. The best case scenario is that he takes over as WR and with the plethora of offensive weapons, has more space to make big plays.
It is rare to see a 5’10” receiver be the number one receiver (ask Julian Edelman) and still be fantasy relevant in standard scoring, but Hilton showed flashes of success on the outside and between the numbers. As the number-two receiver in a two TE system, Hilton could shine, especially in a PPR league. If I draft a WR out of the three it would be TY.
His name is pretty much Thank You Hilton now right?
When to pick up Wayne or Nicks is a tough question because a variety of reasons. Wayne is old and coming off an ACL tear meanwhile Nicks has never played a full regular season and is coming off a year where he failed to score any touchdowns. Am I convinced that the Colts offense can score enough points to support all three of them? Last year the Colts finished 14th in scoring, with 15 rushing TDs and 23 receiving TDs. Those numbers aren’t exactly bountiful amounts of TDs; if somehow all receiving TDs were split evenly by three people that would be about 8 TDs a person. Undoubtedly however, those TDs will be split amongst RBs and TEs as well, further diminishing the amount of fantasy points that Wayne and Nicks can score.
Going into next season, I think Nicks has significantly more upside than Wayne; he is playing for a contract, is playing against a weak division, is playing in a whole new conference, and is actually better than his stats have made him out to be. Former head coach Coughlin even suggested that Nicks needed a change. If you are feeling bold, pick him up to be a WR2 in the fifth round. I can’t say Wayne is done for, but I would’t pick him up.
I would avoid drafting any of the TEs on Indianapolis out of concern that there are too many receiving options. Coby Fleener, being the second best option on the team in 2013, mustered only 52 catches, ranking only 14th. Given a chance to shine, Fleener just didn’t seem to impress. While Dwayne Allen could emerge to be a good tight end, with this many receiving options, it’s hard to imagine Dwayne Allen emerging into a consistent fantasy starter.
Finally, there’s the curious case of Trent Richardson, who was atrocious last year. Running backs Rashad Jennings and Joique Bell both got 20 less carries than Trent, but both ran for nearly 200 more yards than Trent. Even with Donald Brown gone, Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard (That diving football player on the NFL mobile app loading screen) still remain and could easily out compete Trent for the starting job. Sure Trent might be the Colt’s 2014 first round pick, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a bust. If you end up drafting Trent let’s hope that Pagano does actually run the ball more and that Trent can take advantage of the soft schedule. Last year, even against favorable matchups, Trent failed to produce, perhaps an indicator that he is missing the natural talent to succeed at the next level. He’s not the greatest catcher and doesn’t have tremendous breakaway speed, but is really elevated by being the biggest name back in the Indy backfield. All Indy running backs also run a risk of having TDs vultured by Luck.
The snap counts certainly suggest that the team was trying hard with Trent. Since being acquired by the Colts, he only rushed 20 times once, averaging about 11 carries a game. In his rookie season, Trent was nearly averaging 20 carries a game. This suggests that a lot of his 2013 draft stock could have been driven by volume. But if you consider that he can play all the downs, his potential for more attempts is higher than a lot of the two down backs in the league.
Trent is certainly no sure-fire back, so don’t overpay for Trent; the earliest I would pick him up is in the fourth round, but if I see some promise with the offensive line during the off-season, I would pick Trent in the third.
Andrew is ready for the 2014 Season. Get Lucky!
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