- Donte Moncrief is poised for his biggest year yet if he has a healthy quarterback in Andrew Luck there to throw to him.
The SI Rank: Beller: No. 31 WR, No. 68 overall | Fitz: No. 29 WR, No. 58 overall
The consensus rank: No. 30 WR, No. 67 overall
You won’t have to look too hard to find a column touting Moncrief as this year’s breakout wide receiver. The logic behind it is simple enough. Moncrief played sparingly as a rookie, but looked good in flashes. He was off to a good start last year, but, like everyone in the Indianapolis passing game, was undone by all of Andrew Luck’s injuries. Luck is now healthy, Moncrief is maturing as he prepares for his third season, and the Colts are likely to be one of the pass-heaviest teams in the league. It’s a perfect storm for Moncrief to jump into a new tier of receiver.
There’s a convincing case to be made for Moncrief to follow that script, but for the purposes of this profile we should start with what we know about the third-year player out of Ole Miss. Despite already having 32 games under his belt, Moncrief will be just 23 years old this season. He had 32 receptions on 49 targets for 444 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie, and then caught 64 of his 105 targets for 733 yards and six scores last year. After jockeying for time with Andre Johnson last season, Moncrief enters this year as an unquestioned starter alongside T.Y. Hilton.
Moncrief brings something to the table Hilton doesn’t, and that’s a big frame. At 6’ 2” and 222 pounds, Moncrief can be a real weapon for Luck in the red zone. Hilton’s calling card is his speed and cutting ability, the latter of which can make him a tough cover once the Colts are in prime scoring range, too, but sometimes a quarterback just wants a receiver who can go up and high point the ball. Moncrief is the guy who will do that for Luck.
The Colts did nothing to address a run game that ranked 29th in yards per game and 31st in yards per carry last season, beyond the offensive line upgrades, most notably center Ryan Kelly, their first-round pick out of Alabama. Back in 2014 when Luck was healthy all year and the Colts won 11 games, the run game was still little more than a footnote in the offense, ranking 22nd in yards per game and 25th in yards per carry. Frank Gore is remarkably durable for a modern-day running back, but he’s nowhere near the threat he used to be with the 49ers. The Colts will rely on their aerial attack as much as, if not more than, any team in the league.
Phillip Dorsett looms as a threat to the Moncrief breakout case, but the Miami product is similar to fellow Floridian Hilton in both size and skill set. Dorsett is going to have a role in the offense, without question. Remember, the Colts selected him with the 29th overall pick in the 2015 draft even though they didn’t have a need at receiver. Clearly, there’s something about him that this front office and coaching staff liked enough to previously ignore the holes elsewhere on their roster. They’re not going to abandon him, but Moncrief’s unique skills relative to the rest of the Colts roster should make his standing on the depth chart unimpeachable.
Now that we’ve set enough of the scene around Moncrief, let’s get back to the player in question. Had Luck been healthy all of last year, we might have already seen the receiver’s breakout. Luck played seven games before succumbing to a ruptured spleen that he suffered in a win over the Broncos. In those seven games, Moncrief had 32 catches, 54 targets, 351 yards and five touchdowns. That translates to 9.3 points per game in standard-scoring leagues and a 16-game pace of 73 catches, 123 targets, 802 yards, 11 touchdowns and 148.8 fantasy points, which would have made him the 18th-ranked receiver last year, sandwiched between Jeremy Maclin and Emmanuel Sanders.
On-pace stats are always a bit squishy, and there’s one obvious knock against Moncrief’s seven-game stats extrapolated over a full season. It’s not often that a receiver has fewer than 900 yards while scoring 10 or more touchdowns, especially in today’s NFL. It has happened 70 times in NFL history, but just 13 of those seasons have come in the last 20 years. If Moncrief is going to maintain last year’s touchdown pace with Luck, he’s going to have to be more of a consistent presence in the offense. With Johnson and Coby Fleener gone, there’s reason to believe the Colts will have no choice but to expand his role and bet on him being up to the task.
Moncrief’s average draft position slots him late in the sixth round of 12-team drafts, placing him in the same neighborhood as fellow receivers Eric Decker, Sanders, Larry Fitzgerald, Jordan Matthews, DeVante Parker and John Brown. That’s a fair price, and no one, even those must bullish on his prospects, should really be calling him a steal at that ADP. At the same time, it’s easy to see why so many drafters are jumping at the chance to select him there. The Jets have Fitzpatrick, but he may not repeat his numbers from last season, and the Broncos’ situation could be a mess. Fitzgerald and Brown have to compete with each other, as well as Michael Floyd, and Philadelphia could have trouble scoring points this season (you’re not going to see any negative press about Parker if I have anything to do with it). Moncrief is in a cushy environment, and appears to have the skills to take full advantage.
Moncrief doesn’t experience an Allen Robinson style of breakout, but none of his owners regret selecting him come December. You’ll be more than happy with him as your WR3, but he would be miscast as the second-best receiver on a fantasy roster.