2021 Indianapolis Colts Fantasy Team Outlook: Carson Wentz Resurrection I a Team Effort

A fantasy football breakdown of the Indianapolis Colts by high-stakes legend Shawn Childs
Author:
Publish date:

Summary

The Colts' most exciting fantasy option isn't on offense; it's LB Darius Leonard. He's consistently been a top scorer at his position for years now. That doesn't mean much unless you're in an IDP league, yet, it should tell you a lot about this team's style of play. 

With one of the league's better offensive lines, fantasy fans have renewed interest in the Colts' offense. Philip Rivers excelled in the short passing game last year, but with Carson Wentz now under center, we should be expecting a transition to a power rushing, ball-control offense led by Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and Marlon Mack. A healthy Parris Campbell could prove to be the difference maker given his speed & game-breaking ability. TY Hilton has lost a half-step and Michael Pittman Jr. needs to step forward to grow into his eventual WR1 role.

Wentz is the wild card in this fantasy equation. Indy needs him to take advantage of the play-action pass and minimize unforced errors in a game manager role. He is going from one of the best TE duos (Zach Ertz & Dallas Goedert) to a team looking for somebody to step up. His rising tide would lift all boats.

Coaching

Over his first three seasons as a head coach, Frank Reich went 28-20 with two playoff appearances. Indy’s offense survived after losing Andrew Luck to a career-ending injury in 2019, thanks to the Philip Rivers signing. To replace Rivers following his retirement, the Colts traded Carson Wentz in February after the former Eagles QB struggled in 2020. He played under Reich (offensive coordinator) in Philly while being a big part of their Super Bowl title in 2017.

Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich

Reich started his NFL coaching career with the Colts in 2008 while having 13 seasons of coaching experience, with four years coming as an offensive coordinator.

Marcus Brady gets a bump from quarterback’s coach to offensive coordinator. He’s been with the Colts since 2018 after spending eight seasons in the Canadian Football League, where Brady was part of three Grey Cups.

In 2020, the Colts climbed to 10th in offensive yards and ninth in points scored (451). They scored 90 more points than last season (361 – 16th).

Matt Eberflus helped Indianapolis’ defense improve to eighth in yards allowed and 10th in points allowed (362), which was their best showing since 2008. He took over the Colts’ defense in 2018. Eberflus worked over the previous seven seasons with the Cowboys as the linebackers coach, upping his coaching experience in the NFL to 12 seasons.

Free Agency

The Colts addressed their weakness at left tackle by signing Eric Fisher, who suffered a torn Achilles last January. He never developed into an impact player after Kansas City drafted him first overall in 2013. Over the previous seasons, he was about the league average in pass blocking despite allowing a few sacks and pressure at times. His run blocking has been up and down over the past four years.

More Indianapolis Colts Coverage from SI

QB Jacoby Brissett signed with the Dolphins, and DE Justin Houston remains a free agent after regressing in 2020. He has 37.5 sacks over his last 59 games.

Draft

Indianapolis Colts Kwity Paye

DE Kwity Paye

Paye brings an explosive skillset led by fight, quickness, and speed. He works hard with a short resume of experience, leading to him being a watcher rather than an attacker on some plays. His ceiling is extremely high once Paye develops better vision and feel for play development.

DE Dayo Odeyingbo

Odeyingbo comes off a torn Achilles, leading to him sliding in the draft. He has a disrupter feel with more upside when adding more strength. Odeyingbo packs a winning punch with the foundation skill set to attack the quarterback. His next step is improving his base to handle the battles in the trenches against the run.

TE Kylen Granson

His best asset early in his career will be his speed over the long field. Granson needs work on his route running while also failing short as a block. Defenders in tight quarters will challenge his hands. He’ll test safeties at the third level of the defense with the wheels to score if Granson finds a seam.

S Shawn Davis 

With improved technique and success against the run, his game will be fun to watch when attacking the line of scrimmage. Davis offers speed, quickness, and power, but his eyes lead to mistakes in timing and decision-making at times. He does have some risk in coverage and some work to do in his tackling.

QB Sam Ehlinger

He projects to be more of a game manager with the ability to make plays on the ground. Ehlinger has a good feel for the pocket while struggling to read defenses. His willingness to stand tall in the passing game can lead to some sacks and fumbles.

WR Mike Strachan 

Strachan offers elite size (6’5” and 225 lbs.) to the wide receiver position. He comes to the Colts via a smaller school where his game had an edge. Strachan creates wins on jump balls and fades at the goal line, but his speed and route running won’t separate him from his peers.

G Will Fries

Fries lacks an impact first step and the power to dominate his blocks. He makes up for his shortfalls with a good foundation in his base skill set, along with the hands to maintain spacing to finish his blocks on time. He can get bullied, and speed will challenge him outside his zone.


Want even more fantasy and betting analysis? Become an SI Fantasy PRO member today and start beating the books and winning your leagues with us!

SI-BUTTON-JOIN-THE-CLUB

Offensive Line

The Colts dipped to 11th in rushing yards (1,996) with 20 touchdowns and 12 runs over 20 yards. Their ball carriers gained 4.3 yards per rush.

Indy climbed to 14th in passing yards (4,186) with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with Philip Rivers behind center. Their offensive line allowed only 21 sacks.

LT Eric Fisher

After losing Anthony Castonzo to retirement, the Colts went for the quick fix by adding Eric Fisher. He will give up pressure in the pass rush, but Fisher continues to be an above-average player in pass blocking. His play tends to be neutral in the run game. Overall, Fisher played his best in 2020 thanks to the ultra-talented Patrick Mahomes extending the passing window.

LG Quenton Nelson

Nelson dominated his blocking assignments in pass protection last year while already having an impact edge in his first two years in the league after getting drafted in the first round in 2018. His running blocking has been top shelf in back-to-back seasons. Last season, Nelson shined late in the year when Jonathan Taylor emerged as a big-time running back.

C Ryan Kelly

Kelly ended up being a great find in the 2016 draft after the Colts drafted him in the first round. Last year he regressed to a slightly above league-average player in run blocking and pass protection. Kelly rarely allows sacks and minimal pressure.

RG Mark Glowinski

Over the last five seasons, Glowinski made all 16 starts in two seasons (2016, 2019, and 2020). He has job loss risk due to his failure in pass protection. Glowinski has a chance to be a league-average blocker in the run game.

RT Braden Smith

His growth in pass protection pushes him into an elite area. He's played very well in back-to-back seasons in run blocking.

OL Snapshot

Indianapolis has one of the better offensive lines. Four players grade at or above the league average. Nelson and Smith continue to push toward the top of the league at their positions. The Colts will run the ball with success up the middle while forcing teams to rush the quarterback on the outside.

Offense

image1

The Colts ran the ball 45.4% last year while getting nothing in the run game from their quarterback (35/15/3). They finished with close to the league average in passing attempts and passing yards. Indy wants to improve their defense, pointing to a ball-control offense.

Quarterbacks

Carson Wentz

In his fifth season with the Eagles, Wentz struggled to make plays in the passing game (6.0 yards per pass attempt) with regression in his completion rate (57.4). He threw 15 passes to the other team with only 27 completions over 20 yards. The only area of growth came as a runner (52/276/5).

Wentz lost his job in Week 13 while failing to see the field over the final five weeks. He passed for over 300 yards in one game (359/2). Wentz didn’t have one contest with more than two passing touchdowns.

Wentz has a 35-32-1 record in his career, highlighted by his 2017 season (11-2).

Fantasy Outlook: The Colts have developing wideouts, plus T.Y. Hilton has the talent to move the chains or test a defense deep. The power running game will allow Wentz to limit risk and he'll need to stay in game manager mode. He should average over 250 passing yards per game with a chance at 30 combined touchdowns. He projects as a QB2 in the fantasy market with some matchup value.

Jacob Eason

After a mediocre rookie campaign at Georgia (2,430 passing yards and 16 touchdowns over 13 games), Eason missed 2017 with a left injury in Week 1. He transferred to Washington in 2018, leading to a lost season.

In his first and only year behind center for Washington, he passed for 3,132 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Fantasy Outlook: The Colts won’t need him with Wentz on the roster, which makes Eason a developmental player.

Sam Ehlinger

Over four seasons at Texas, Ehlinger passed for 11,436 yards with 94 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. Part of his intrigue is his value as a runner (554/1,903/33). His best season came in 2018 when he gained 3,764 combined yards and 41 touchdowns while doing plenty of damage on the ground (164/482/16). This season he’ll be holding a clipboard.

Other Options: Jalen Morton

Running Backs

image3

As expected, the Colts’ running backs had a jump in production helped by the change to Philip Rivers at quarterback. They gained 2,897 combined yards with 22 touchdowns and 11 catches. Their backs gained 4.7 yards per rush. The most significant area of improvement came in the passing game (115/916/5 on 137 targets – 72/483/0 on 88 targets in 2019).

Jonathan Taylor

Taylor finished his rookie season with 1,468 combined yards with 12 touchdowns and 36 catches. He gained over 20 yards on 12 plays, with three of those touches reaching the 40-yard mark. His catch rate (92.3) came in better than expected. Taylor gained 5.0 yards per rush, with 17.9 touches per game.

The Colts gave him the keys to the run game over the final six games (118/729/8), highlighted by dominating performance in Week 17 (30/253/2). Over his hot streak, Taylor averaged 21.7 touches per game. He missed Week 12 with a Covid issue.

Fantasy Outlook: Indy rotated Taylor with Nyheim Hines on most passing downs. Marlon Mack will be back in the mix in 2021, but the Colts must ride their new franchise back. At a minimum, Taylor should receive 300 touches with a run at 1,700-pus yards, 16 touchdowns, and 50 catches. In the early draft season, he has an ADP of 5.7 as the sixth running back drafted.

Nyheim Hines

Rivers helped Hines having the best year of his career (882 combined yards with seven touchdowns and 63 catches). He finished as the 16th highest scoring running back in PPR leagues (193.20 fantasy points).

His season started with an impact game (73 combined yards with two touchdowns and eight catches – 27.30 FPPG). Over the first 10 weeks, he scored fewer than 9.00 fantasy points in six matchups. His other two games of value came Week 8 (21.20 fantasy points) and Week 10 (28.50 fantasy points).

The rise of Jonathan Taylor down the stretch led to 375 combined yards with one touchdown and 20 catches while averaging 10.8 fantasy points per game.

Fantasy Outlook: Hines will make plays, but he isn’t explosive. The Colts should give many of his carries (89/380/3) to Marlon Mack, pushing him to only a passing-down back. His ADP (115) ranks him as the 40th running back drafted. I only see 500 combined yards with short touchdowns and closer to 50 catches.

Marlon Mack

Mack improves every year, but he still hasn’t played an entire season. In 2019, he set career highs in rushing attempts (247) and rushing yards (1,091) while regressing in the passing game (14/82).

His season ended last year after four touches due to a torn Achilles.

Over 26 games between 2018 and 2019, Mack scored 18 touchdowns while 84 yards and about one catch per game.

Fantasy Outlook: Mack will be the top handcuff to Taylor on early downs with a minimal chance to see any passing action. Indy will ease him into action, leading to Mack going undrafted in many 12-team leagues.

Other Options: Jordan Wilkins, Darius Anderson, Ben LeMay

Wide Receivers

image2

Wide receivers only had 47% of the target share for the Colts in 2020. They saw a bump to 13.6 yards per catch, leading to an improvement of 484 receiver yards on 20 more catches.

T.Y. Hilton

The timing between Hilton and Philip Rivers only clicked over three games (4/81/1, 8/110/1, and 5/86/2). Over his first nine games, he only had 29 catches on 50 targets (58 percent) for 327 yards with on scores. From Week 12 to Week 17, Hilton was a much better player (27/435/5) while averaging 16.75 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues.

Hilton gained over 1,000 yards in five different seasons, with his peak season in 2016 (91/1,448/6). He has 50 career touchdowns in 133 games.

Fantasy Outlook: Three times over the past four seasons, Hilton has underachieved his draft value. His days of receiving at least eight targets per game look to be over. He works well over the short areas of the field with the wheels to make big plays. His ADP (155) works for his career resume and expected opportunity. With 17 games of action, Hilton should catch 70 balls for a minimum of 900 yards and a handful of touchdowns.

Michael Pittman

In his rookie season, Pittman flashed in one game (7/101) with success the following week (3/66/1). He gained fewer than 50 yards in nine games while averaging 4.7 targets per game. His catch rate (65.5) played well while gaining over 20 yards on five plays. He missed three games with a leg injury.

Fantasy Outlook: In the early draft season in the 12-team high-stakes market, fantasy owners have Pittman ranked as the Colts’ top wide receiver. Growth should be expected with a reasonable ADP (113). Trending toward 65 catches with a run at 1,000 yards and a team-high in receiving touchdowns.

Parris Campbell

Injuries led to only nine games played over his first two seasons in the league. His 2020 season started with six catches for 71 yards, pointing to a successful year. A left knee injury that required surgery led to him missing the final 15 games.

Fantasy Outlook: Only a player to follow this summer to make sure his knee is healthy enough to compete for a WR3 role for Indy. Campbell may emerge as an in-season starting option in the fantasy market.

Zach Pascal

At times over the last two seasons, Pascal had the look of an upside WR2 for the Colts. His play was steady in 2019 (41/607/5) and 2020 (44/629/5) while delivering five productive games (6/106/2, 5/76/1, 7/109, 5/74/1, and 5/79/2).

Fantasy Outlook: Pascal should open up the season as the third wide receiver for Indy until Parris Campbell returns to full strength.

Mike Strachan

In his junior season at Charleston, Strachan had 78 catches for 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns. His college team didn’t play last year, leading to no momentum in this year’s draft. He is a high point catcher who will need time to develop.

Other Options: Ashton Dulin, DeMichael Harris, Dezmon Patmon

Tight Ends

image4

The tight end opportunity for the Colts was similar over the past two seasons (82/903/5 and 82/895/8). The decline in the talent on the roster led to regression from the impact success in 2018 (108/1,216/21).

Jake Doyle

The days of Doyle being a relevant starting fantasy option ended in 2017 (80/690/4). Over his last 30 games, he has 66 catches for 699 yards and seven touchdowns. His only game of value came in the postseason (7/70/1), which came after not gaining over 50 yards in any other contest.

Fantasy Outlook: Doyle is undraftable, and the Colts will look to improve on this position in 2021.

Kylen Granson

Over his last two seasons at SMU, Granson caught 78 passes for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns on 120 targets. He has a big wide receiver feel, which may lead to him leading Indy in tight end production in his rookie season.

Other Options: Mo Alie-Cox, Noah Togiai, Jordan Thomas, Andrew Vollert

Kicker

Rodrigo Blankenship

Blankenship made 32 of his 37 field goal chances in his rookie season while missing two of his three tries from 50 yards or more. His year ended with three missed field goals in six kicks. He missed two of his 45 extra points.

Indy will run the ball well in the red zone, which may lead to fewer field goals unless the overall offense is improved, with Carson Wentz starting at quarterback.

Fantasy Outlook: The Colts’ kicker comes off the board as the fifth option in the early draft season. Indianapolis created 87 scoring chances last year, and I expect better in 2021.

Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

Defense

Indy improved to second in rushing yards allowed (1,448). They gave up 3.7 yards per carry, with ball carriers scoring 16 touchdowns and only four runs over 20 yards.

The Colts inched up to 20th in pass yards allowed (3,866). Their defense finished with 40 sacks while giving up 24 passing touchdowns with 15 interceptions.

DE Kwity Paye

The Colts hope Paye hits the ground running in his rookie season. He will cause problems for offensive lines while having some growing pains in his development. Ideally, Indy would love him to fire in the pass rush out of the gate.

DE Al-Quadin Muhammad

Indy didn’t give Muhammad one start in 2020, but he finished with the most playing time in his four-year career. His run defense was the best of his career while continuing to be a liability in the pass rush.

DT Grover Stewart

Stewart offers minimal value in the pass rush while working as a rotational run stopper. The Colts saw enough in his game to sign him to a three-year $30 million contract last November.

Indianapolis Colts DeForest Buckner

DT DeForest Buckner

The Colts traded their first-round draft pick in 2020 to acquire Buckner from the 49ers. Over the last three seasons covering 47 games, he delivered 29 sacks with 187 tackles while scoring a touchdown and recovering six fumbles. Buckner has consistently ranked above the league average against the run.

LB Darius Leonard

Over his first three years, Leonard has 416 tackles, 15 sacks, seven interceptions, 22 defended passes, and one touchdown over 42 games. His play in run support is improving thanks to his edge in tacking. Leonard is one of the best linebackers in the game.

LB Jordan Glasgow

Glasgow plays hard with fight and vision but lacks the speed to overcome his below-par size (6'1" and 226 lbs.). His best hope comes against the run on early downs while trending toward a special teams player. Glasgow saw minimal snaps in his rookie season.

LB Bobby Okereke

He played well in limited snaps in limited stats in his rookie season. Last year over eight starts and 14 games, Okereke made 72 tackles but regressed in all areas.

CB Rock Ya-Sin

Over his first two seasons, Ya-Sin allowed too many big plays while minimizing the damage in touchdowns. His run defense also regressed.

CB Xavier Rhodes

Rhodes tends to allow short yards per catch in his career, but he will give up some touchdowns and the occasional big play. He finished 2020 with the lowest completion rate against in his career while fading slightly in run support.

CB Kenny Moore

Moore set a career-high in tackles (80), interceptions (4), and defended passes (13) while scoring his first NFL touchdown. His tackling regressed, with receivers gaining short yards per catch.

S Julian Blackmon

Blackmon made 15 starts in his rookie season. He played well vs. the run, with some big plays allowed in the passing game.

S Khari Willis

In his first two seasons in the league, Willis made 156 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, and six defended passes. He held receivers to short yards per catch with growth in run support.

Fantasy Defense Snapshot

Indianapolis has some questions at linebacker and defensive end. They need their young players to develop in the pass rush outside while finding a balance in run support at the second level of the defense. The Colts have one impact player (Darius Leonard) with strength in the secondary. Their defense should offer matchup fantasy value while ranking sixth in the early draft season. The pass rush sets the tone for their ceiling and success.

More Fantasy Team Outlooks: