2020 Indianapolis Colts Fantasy Team Preview: New QB, New Expectations - Sports Illustrated

2020 Indianapolis Colts Fantasy Team Preview: New QB, New Expectations

SI Fantasy's Team Preview series from high-stakes legend Shawn Childs aims to break down the Indianapolis Colts to evaluate the offense, defense, coaches and everyone in between with a fantasy-slanted analysis.
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Coaching Staff

Over his first two seasons as a head coach, Reich went 17-15 with a playoff appearance in 2018. The loss of QB Andrew Luck before last season left the Indianapolis Colts in a weaker position offensively.

His path to Indy came after a successful 2017 as the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles (Super Bowl win).

Reich started his NFL coaching career with the Colts in 2008 while having 12 seasons of coaching experience with four years coming as an offensive coordinator.

Nick Sirianni returns for his third season as the offensive coordinator for Indy after spending the four years as the quarterbacks and wide receivers coach for the Chargers. Sirianni has 11 years of experience coaching in the NFL. He is a fast riser in the NFL at age 37, and he was up to the task in his rookie season running Indy’s offense.

In 2019, the Colts fell to 25th in offensive yards (7th in 2018) and 16th in points scored (361). They scored 72 fewer points than in 2018 (433 – 5th).

Sirianni has direct ties to Philip Rivers due to his coaching for the Chargers.

Matt Eberflus did an excellent job running the defense in 2018 after spending the previous seven seasons with the Cowboys as the linebackers coach. Indianapolis slipped to 16th in yards allowed and 18th in points allowed (373). Eberflus has 11 seasons of NFL coaching experience.

Quarterbacks

Philip Rivers (RANK - ADP)

Over the last nine seasons, Rivers ranked poorly in interceptions in four different years (20, 18, 21, and 20). He passed for over 4,000 yards in 11 of his previous 12 seasons. Rivers finished with his lowest TD production (23) since 2007 (21).

The move to Indy leaves him with a decline in the receiving game at RB, WR, and TE while trying to improve on the empty QB stats (3,279 passing yards and 22 TDs).

T.Y. Hilton is a top wide receiving option, and he should be rewarded with a few more chances downfield this year. The Colts invested a second-round pick in WR Parris Campbell in 2019 and WR Michael Pittman this year.

It is tough to believe in Rivers offering starting fantasy value based on his team’s expected game plan and the overall receiving structure.

Rivers has an ADP of 126 in the early draft season as the 23rd quarterback drafted. I have him projected for 3,583 yards with 25 TDs and 13 Ints. Possible matchup value with his success tied to the growth of his two young wide receivers.

Jacoby Brissett & Jacob Eason

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Running Backs

Jonathan Taylor (RANK - ADP)

Over three seasons at Wisconsin, he gained 6,174 rushing yards with 555 touchdowns and 42 catches on 968 touches. Taylor had success each year on the ground (2017 – 299/1,977/13, 2018 – 307/2,194/16, and 2019 – 320/2,003/21) while flashing at times in the passing game (26/252/5) last season.

His speed also allows him to make plays on the outside. I was surprised to see the Colts add Taylor, who has a similar skill set as Marlon Mack. Indy looks on a path to rotate three RBs in 2020. For Taylor to gain momentum, he needs to work his way into more chances in the passing game. His ceiling is higher than Mack.

In my initial set of projections, I have Taylor on a path for 1,264 combined yards with ten TDs and 22 catches. He ranks as the 24th running back based on my outlook. Fantasy owners set his bar as the 18th RB in the early drafts with an ADP of 32.

Torn here, but some positive coach-speak over the summer could push me more in his camp.

Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines & Jordan Wilkins

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Wide Receivers

T.Y. Hilton (RANK - ADP)

Over the first three games in 2019, Hilton caught 20 passes for 195 yards and four TDs on 25 targets. He missed Week 4 with a quad issue, and then another five contests with a calf injury. Hilton caught only 15 balls for 195 yards on 28 targets over his final five games.

He gained over 1,000 yards in his last five seasons with QB Andrew Luck behind center.

Last year the Colts’ WRs only caught 155 passes for 1,891 yards and 15 TDs over 258 targets. The change to QB Philip Rivers should create more long play-action passes while being an excellent player over the short areas of the field. Trending toward a WR2 in PPR leagues with a floor of 78 catches for 1,062 yards and about eight TDs while being a value in the early draft season (ADP of 69).

Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell & Zach Pascal

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Tight Ends

Jack Doyle (RANK - ADP)

The Colts want to have success on the ground with a ball-control offense. A move to Philip Rivers at QB should create more chances in the short passing game for both the RB and TE. After an excellent season throwing the ball to the TE in 2018 (108/1216/21 on 165 targets) with Andrew Luck behind center, Indy slipped to 82 catches for 903 yards and five TDs. Doyle worked well in 2017 as a short-area target, but his play regressed last year. More steady than explosive with some growth in his chances with Eric Ebron now earning his keep in Pittsburgh.

Trey Burton (RANK - ADP)

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Defense

Indy improved to seventh in rushing yards allowed (1,567). They gave up 4.1 yards per carry with ball carriers scoring eight touchdowns.Defense

The Colts need growth in their pass defense after falling to 23rd in pass yards allowed (3,982). Their defense finished with 41 sacks while giving up 29 passing TDs with 15 interceptions.

In the premium outlook, on defense you'll find write-ups for DE Justin Houston, DT DeForest Buckner, DT Denico Autry, DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, LB Darius Leonard, LB Anthony Walker, LB Bobby Okereke, CB Rock Ya-Sin, CB Xavier Rhodes, CB Kenny Moore, S Malik Hooker & S Khari Willis.

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Team Defense Outlook

This defense has three star players with enough talent at the second and third levels. They should show improvement in 2020 in all areas. Their schedule is favorable against the pass, which also gives the Colts’ defense some fantasy value. I’d prefer to play them at home and roster Indy as a backup defense if your league size allows that opportunity.

Free Agency, Draft, Offensive Line, Offensive Schedule & Defensive Schedule

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