There’s a lot to unpack here. The truth is there’s
almost more riding on HC Frank Reich, Wentz’ former OC in
Philadelphia, than there is on the QB himself.
Hope is a big word in conversations surrounding Wentz. There’s
hope that a change of scenery and a new offense with an upgraded
offensive line, a powerful rushing attack led by Jonathan Taylor,
a three-pronged receiving trio in T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman
Jr., and Parris Campbell, and a viable TE duo of veteran Jack
Doyle and up and comer Mo Alie-Cox, can help Wentz find his old
form. There’s hope that Reich can correct the mechanical flaws
that Wentz developed over the last couple seasons. And there’s
hope that if none of that happens, that Wentz at least doesn’t
self-destruct to the point that a Colts team otherwise positioned
for a serious playoff run, falls short of expectations.
Of course, that’s exactly what Wentz did in 2020. He self-destructed.
In addition to just flat-out poor play that resulted in his benching
after Week 12 and the technical flaws that have taken the air
out of his game, he actually led the NFL in interceptions, fumbles,
and sacks taken. Then there are the issues he reportedly had in
the locker room, with the coaching staff, and with the front office
in Philadelphia. It’s a lot to ask of Reich, but if he can
somehow reach Wentz, the rest of the pieces are in place for a
potent, if not explosive offense. However, until he proves the
transition is officially underway, he’s a borderline QB2.
HC Frank Reich has made it clear that Taylor will be the lead
back in Indy this season, and rightly so. He’s earned it. He finished
his rookie season ranked 3rd in rushing yards (1169), 8th in attempts
(232) and 6th in rushing TD’s (11). He also caught 36 of 39 targets
for 299 yards and another score. From Week 11 on, he averaged
over 22 touches per game, and all those numbers only figure to
go up as Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack don’t figure to grab a large
share of snaps on a consistent basis.
Frank Reich likes the checkdown game, and will look to create
easy throws for Carson Wentz and get the ball out of his quarterback’s
hands this season. The Colts targeted their backs in the passing
game nearly 150 times in 2020, which bodes well for Taylor as
a legitimate dual threat and a surefire top 10 fantasy RB.
Hines’ 2020 season was a statistical oddity. Despite being
on the field for just 36% of the Colts’ offensive snaps,
he collected 77 targets, 2nd on the team to T.Y. Hilton, and 3rd
amongst all NFL RB’s. He caught 63 of them for 462 yards
and four scores, but he averaged just 7.7 yards per catch and
10 touches per game, and those touches actually went down as the
season went on and Jonathan Taylor emerged.
Hines is clearly slated for a limited receiving-focused role.
He’s the next man in line should something happen to Taylor,
depending on how Marlon Mack progresses in his return from injury,
making him a worthy handcuff or possible a Flex consideration
in PPR leagues.
Mack missed all but one game of 2020 with a torn Achilles. The
Colts signed him to a one-year deal, but it looks like he will
struggle to find a considerable role on this team even if he is
back to full strength. He could be worth a waiver wire pickup
if Taylor should go down during the season.
Hilton, even at 31 years of age, is still quick and explosive
in and out of his breaks and has the speed to stretch the field.
In Carson Wentz, he has a strong-armed QB which may signal a return
back to the days of 15-16 average yards per catch (he’s
been at 11.1 and 13.6 the last two seasons). Admittedly, Wentz’
accuracy on those deep shots was highly erratic in 2020, but Hilton
has always been known as a guy who can go make a play on a bad
The problem with Hilton is he has combined for just 1200 yards
and 10 TD over the last two years (25 games). Those used to be
single-season numbers. Lack of yards and scoring isn’t a
good fantasy combo, so like everyone else involved with this Colts’
passing game, it’s hard to offer much more than measured
optimism for Hilton as anything more than a WR3 until we see which
Carson Wentz shows up Week 1 against the Seahawks.
Pittman is big (6-4, 223), fast (4.5 40), athletic and tough.
He’s also a precise route runner with excellent hands who
isn’t afraid to make the tough catch or compete in traffic.
He’s a smart football player who can attack from the slot
or the boundary and has shown an ability to contribute in the
run game as well.
He flashed as a rookie and even looked like the Colts WR1 early
on in 2020 but T.Y. Hilton took on that mantle, which limited
Pittman’s opportunities. Jonathan Taylor’s role as
the workhorse of this offense, and HC Frank Reich’s tendency
to rotate receivers is going to cap Pittman’s upside. While
Pittman could make a big jump in Year Two, he is only a borderline
WR3 option early in the season as long as Hilton remains healthy
and in the lineup.
A speedy receiver with big play ability, Campbell plays fast.
Unfortunately, he has struggled to stay on the field during his
first two seasons in the league. His 2020 campaign ended in Week
2 with a serious knee injury after he exploded out of the gate
with six catches on nine targets in Week 1.
He is reportedly back to full health and ready to take over in
the slot for a Colts team that will need reliable playmakers to
help Carson Wentz make the transition in Indy. He doesn’t
figure to be more than the third receiving option on this team
over the long term, but I have a hunch he could be a key early
target for Wentz to start 2021 and it’s worth watching how
he develops within the offense… IF he can stay on the field.
Once a reliable receiving option in the Colts passing game, Doyle’s
role has diminished significantly, at least from a fantasy perspective.
His targets were cut in half in 2020 (just 33 compared to 72 in
2019), which seems now like it was a sign of things to come. Reports
out of the Colts workouts this Spring are that Doyle will be on
the field a lot, but his primary role could be more as a blocker
in the run game. It looks like Doyle’s day as a fantasy
impact player are behind him.
Cox is coming off a career year in 2020 with 31 catches for 394
yards and two scores. Those are not “wow” numbers
by any stretch, but in a Frank Reich offense, which always seems
to feature the TE’s, it could be a sign of a larger role
on the horizon. While most prognosticators will tell you that
Cox will be the TE2 behind Jack Doyle, I’m hearing that
Doyle’s role may be changing to predominantly feature as
a blocker in the run game, and it may be important to note that
Cox had more targets than Doyle in 2020. With Cox emerging along
with 4th-round pick Kylen Granson, a dangerous receiving threat
turning heads this Spring, it looks like Reich may be looking
to add some athleticism and big play ability at the position,
which could make Cox worth watching.
Until we find out I’m right, though, Cox and Granson are
simply watchlist guys early in the season, and may cancel each
other out of fantasy relevance if they start sharing too many
of the reps.
The bespectacled former Georgia Bulldog finished 5th among NFL
kickers with 139 total points as a rookie in 2020. He only missed
five of 37 field goal attempts on the season, two of them from
beyond 50 yards. He certainly showed consistency out of the gate,
and he will be stronger in year two. The Colts will hope to score
more TD’s than FG’s in 2021, but at the end of the
day this offense is going to score points if Carson Wentz can
be efficient, which means fantasy owners will see this young man
jogging out onto the field on a regular basis, and that’s
a good thing. He’s a legitimate PK1 option.