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Indianapolis Colts 2022 Fantasy Outlook: Jonathan Taylor Great to Generational

The addition of Matt Ryan pushes the Colts to the forefront as AFC South contenders.

The Indianapolis Colts have the tools to have the best team in the AFC South. They have an electric emerging young stud running back with Jonathan Taylor, which is something Matt Ryan rarely had in his time with the Falcons. With a top offensive line and excellent run game, Ryan should excel with play-action passes while upgrading the Colts' overall offense. In addition, Michael Pittman Jr. should be a big winner with the change at quarterback. There is a winning fantasy opportunity for the second wideout in this offense, with the early favorites being Alec Pierce and Parris Campbell.

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OFFENSE

Indy ran the ball 49.4% of the time last year with an impressive number of runs of 20 yards (19) and 40 yards (5). However, poor quarterback play and questionable receiving depth behind Michael Pittman led to weaker than expected passing results.

QUARTERBACKS

Matt Ryan -- click here for fantasy projection

Other options: Nick Foles, Sam Ehlinger, Jack Coan

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RUNNING BACKS

The growth and explosiveness of Jonathan Taylor led to Indy gaining 5.2 yards per rush with a further rise in running touchdowns (23). Overall, the Colts’ backs had 12 fewer touches than in 2020 (539) while gaining 2,999 combined yards. The drop-off in catches (82) from 2020 (115) was a change in playstyle from Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz. Last season, Matt Ryan looked more to his running backs in the passing game (110/896/6 on 145 targets) than his previous three years.

Jonathan Taylor -- click here for fantasy projection

Nyheim Hines

Hines went from early-season thorn to Jonathan Taylor to fantasy bench warmer over his final eight weeks. He played well in Week 1 (82 combined yards with six catches), Week 3 (79 combined yards with one touchdown and five catches), and Week 9 (108 combined yards with one score and four catches), but Hines scored fewer than 5.0 fantasy points in PPR leagues in nine other matchups. As a result, he finished the year as the 48th ranked running back (114.80 fantasy points), 32 slots lower than 2020 (193.20 fantasy points).

Fantasy outlook: Hines brings handcuff value to Taylor, but he will be challenging to time again in 2022, given his inconsistent usage. His best value comes in a chaser game or possibly when Indy blows out an opponent, and Hines gets the bulk of the closing touches. His early ADP (139) ranked him as the 47th running back drafted. I view him as necessary to a Taylor team, but I won’t look to snipe Hines before his draft value this season. With a floor of 40 catches, he does have a chance at 800 combined yards and a handful of scores with better overall play by the Colts’ offense.

Phillip Lindsay

After two productive years (192/1,037/9 and 224/1,011/7 with 79 combined catches for 437 yards and one score) for the Broncos, Lindsay struggled to make plays and stay healthy over the past two seasons. Between the Texans and the Dolphins in 2021, he gained only 249 yards on 88 rushes (2.8 per carry) with a minimal opportunity in the passing game (4/45/1).

Fantasy outlook: There won't be many fights for Lindsay in fantasy drafts this year, but I could see him working as an early-down option if Jonathan Taylor had any issue. For now, he is a player to follow just in case his stock spikes due to an injury to a Colts’ back.

Other options: Deon Jackson, Ty’Son Williams, D’Vonte Price

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WIDE RECEIVERS

Wide receiver production in Indy has been an issue for the past three seasons. On the positive side, their catches (183), targets (287), and touchdowns (17) were three-year high. The Colts’ wideouts caught 55.5% of their completions in 2021 while gaining 62% of their receiving yards. I expect all of these stats to be higher with Matt Ryan starting.

Michael Pittman Jr. -- click here for fantasy projection

Parris Campbell

Injuries led to only 13 games played over his first three seasons in the league. A left knee injury in 2020 that required surgery led to him missing the final 15 games. Last year a broken foot cost Campbell another 11 games. He has 34 catches for 360 yards and two touchdowns so far in his short career.

At first glance, Campbell gives me the feel of a great player once he adds more upper body strength to help him in the NFL vs. press coverage. His speed (4.31 40-yard dash at the NFL combine) was electric while also offering vision and open field ability. Ohio State used him on many plays close to the line of scrimmage as a pass-catcher in 2018, leading to a breakout season (90/1063/12).

Campbell showed explosiveness as a runner in his first two years in college (14/186/2). His short-area quickness brings an edge in the slot while working best when having a free release vs. zone coverage. Campbell needs to improve his route running plus show growth in his hands in tight coverage. I like his movements with the ball in his hands, and I expect him to fit well in the Colts’ offense that wants to make defenses defend the whole field.

Fantasy outlook: Parris will go undrafted in early leagues with his injury-prone tag and empty stats on his career resume. If the summer reports are positive, his natural progression will be a WR2 or WR3 for the Colts. I will keep an open mind on his fantasy value if he earns a starting job on opening day. Parris could be a four-catch-a-week guy in 2022.

Alec Pierce

Over 32 games in college over the past three seasons, Pierce caught 106 of his 173 targets (61.3%) for 1,851 yards and 13 touchdowns. His best season came in 2021 (52/884/8). He comes to the NFL with an edge in size (6’3” and 210 lbs.) and speed (4.41 in the 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL combine), but Pierce does have some limitations in his short-area quickness and release. He plays with a tight-end mentality that projects well in run blocking and winning tight coverage. Pierce won't win with his route running over the first 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, but his build-up speed will create separation downfield. Pierce should shine in the red zone while scoring on many fade-type passes.

Fantasy outlook: His college resume is relatively short, and I don’t see Pierce getting a bunch of easy catches close to the line of scrimmage, so he projects more as their WR3 in his rookie season. A successful year would be 50 catches for 750 yards with about five scores.

Other options: Mike Strachan, Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon, Keke Coutee

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TIGHT ENDS

The tight end opportunity for the Colts faded over the past two seasons, mainly because they lacked a dependable star option. Indy will look for the tight ends in the red zone (eight touchdowns in 2020 and 2021).

Mo Alie-Cox

Last season, Indy gave Alie-Cox the second-most wide receiver snaps, but he only caught 24 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns on 45 targets. He never had more than three catches in a game or more than 50 yards receiving. His stats look better after his 2020 season (31/394/2 on 39 targets).

Fantasy outlook: The Colts signed Alie-Cox to a three-year $18 million contract last March. He projects as their starter, but Indianapolis will still rotate in a couple of other options. Alie-Cox has no starting fantasy value other than an occasional injury cover if he starts the year with success.

Jelani Woods

After a quiet first three seasons at Oklahoma State (31/361/4) over 22 games, Woods played much better in 2021 (44/598/8) after transferring to Virginia. His overall blocking isn’t where it needs to be, but he has yet to fill into his body. In the passing game, Woods offers questionable hands and route running. His success last year in receiving doesn’t look repeatable early in his NFL career.

Other options: Kylen Granson, Andrew Ogletree, Michael Jacobson, Nikola Kalinic

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 failed on two of his 45 extra points. In 2021, Blankenship saw his season end after five games with a right hip injury. He finished the year with 11-for-14 in his field goals while missing his only kick from 50 yards.

Fantasy outlook: The Colts scored 52 touchdowns, and 35 field goal attempts last year. Blankenship doesn’t have an impact leg from long range, and Indianapolis will often score in the red zone with their plus run game. He projects as a top 10 kicker with upside if Blankenship can improve from long range.

COACHING

Over his four seasons as a head coach, Frank Reich went 37-28 with two playoff appearances. He 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 returns for his second year as the offensive coordinator for Indianapolis after working with their quarterbacks over the previous three seasons. 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.

Indy dropped to 16th in offensive yards with the same results in points scored (451 – 9th).

Gus Bradley takes over as the Colts’ defensive coordinator after holding the same position over the previous four seasons with the Chargers and Raiders. He went 14-48 over four years as the head coach of the Jaguars. Bradley has been in the NFL since 2006, with most of his experience coming as a defensive coordinator.

The Colts ranked 16th in yards allowed with a slight bump to ninth in points allowed (365).

FREE AGENCY

Indianapolis’s top splash in free agency was the addition of CB Stephon Gilmore. He has a long history of being a top coverage player, but injuries led to missed games over the past two seasons. The Colts moved on from T Eric Fisher, WR T.Y. Hilton, G Mark Glowinski, CB Xavier Rhodes, and RB Marlon Mack. They added T Dennis Kelly and S Rodney McLeod.

DRAFT

The Colts didn’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft. Indy invested their first three selections to their offense – WR Alec Pierce (2.21), TE Jelani Woods (3.9), and Bernhard Raimann (3.13) plus TE Andrew Ogletree in the sixth round. Their remaining additions came on the defensive side of the ball (S Nick Cross, DT Eric Johnson, DT Curtis Brooks, and CB Rodney Thomas).

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Colts climbed to second in rushing yards (2,540) with 20 touchdowns and 19 runs over 20 yards. Their ball carriers gained 5.1 yards per rush.

Indy fell to 28th in passing yards (3,588) with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions while gaining only 6.9 yards per pass attempt. Their offensive line allowed only 32 sacks.

Their offensive line has a significant question at left tackle, with the hopes that Bernhard Raiman can emerge as their starter. The Colts have three top players (Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, and Braden Smith) with a below-par option at right guard. The success of this line is helped in running blocking the explosiveness of Jonathan Taylor. Overall, this group should continue to be an edge in the run game while expecting to grade above the league average in pass protection.

DEFENSE

Indy slipped to 10th in rushing yards allowed (1,854). They gave up 4.4 yards per carry, with ball carriers scoring 10 touchdowns and 10 runs over 20 yards.

The Colts bumped up to 19th in pass yards allowed (3,980). Their defense finished with 43 sacks while allowing 32 passing touchdowns with 19 interceptions.

LB Darius Leonard remains Indy’s top defender against the run, but he failed to record a sack for the first time in his four-year career. LB Bobby Okereke made tons of tackles (132), although his run defense was a liability. The key to their defense is the development of DE Kwity Paye. Indy has one potential edge in the secondary (Stephon Gilmore), and DE Yannick Ngakoue should help this pass rush.

This defense has a risk/reward feel, with their best success coming when they play from the lead. The Colts rank 4th in the early drafts season in the NFFC, but I don’t respect their overall defensive roster. More of a matchup in the fantasy market.

2022 FANTASY OUTLOOKS
AFC East: Bills | Dolphins | Patriots | Jets
AFC North: Ravens | Bengals | Browns | Steelers
AFC South: Texans | Colts | Jaguars | Titans
AFC West: Broncos | Chiefs | Raiders | Chargers
NFC East: Cowboys | Giants | Eagles | Commanders
NFC North: Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South: Falcons | Panthers | Saints | Buccaneers
NFC West: Cardinals | Rams | 49ers | Seahawks